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With Wizards and Bulls squaring off, what are the early returns on the Otto Porter Jr. trade?

With Wizards and Bulls squaring off, what are the early returns on the Otto Porter Jr. trade?

Forty two days have passed since the Feb. 6 trade between the Wizards and the Bulls, a deal that started a new era of sorts in Washington with the departure of Otto Porter Jr., a former third overall pick who had stuck with the franchise for a second contract. 

Though the confusion of that first night, as the Wizards informed Porter just before a game against the Bucks, has passed, both teams are still sorting things out and evaluating what they have as the end of the season nears.

Porter won't play on Wednesday night due to a shoulder injury as the Wizards battle the Bulls in Chicago at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. But as these teams square off now over a month later, it seems like a good time to look at how the deal has gone for them so far.

Basically, neither team has really taken off. The Wizards are 8-9 since the trade and the Bulls are 8-10. Porter has put up strong numbers, but has missed time due to various injuries. Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis, the two players the Wizards acquired from Chicago, have also improved from their season stats while ostensibly benefiting from a change in scenery.

Porter averaged 12.6 points and shot 45.7 from the field and 36.9 percent from three with the Wizards this season. With the Bulls, he has put up 17.5 points while shooting 48.3 percent overall and 48.8 percent from long range. 

Perhaps most notable is the fact he's taking 13.4 total shots and 5.3 per game from three. Both would be career-highs if held for an entire season. For years, the narrative about him in D.C. was that he either wasn't aggressive enough to create his own shots or the Wizards failed him by not running plays with him in mind.

Parker has simply been much more efficient with the Wizards than he was in Chicago. He's averaging about the same amount of points - 14.8 compared to 14.3 with the Bulls - but his effective field goal percentage has raised from 51.4 to 60.7. The latter would rank seventh in the NBA if it qualified for leaderboards.

Portis is putting up 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, both of which would be career-highs if carried for a full season. And he's shooting 45.6 percent from three, well above the 37.5 percent clip he posted in Chicago this year.

Both teams, interestingly enough, have seen a surge on offense. The Bulls are 23rd on the season in points scored (105.3), but since adding Porter are ninth, averaging nearly 10 more points per game (115). The Wizards are seventh on the season points (114.4), but since the deal top the entire league with 117.5 per game. 

Defensively, it has been a different story. Both the Wizards and Bulls rank in the bottom third of the NBA in defensive rating. Both teams were bad at defending before the deals and haven't shown improvement.

This trade, of course, will ultimately be judged for what happens well beyond this season. The Wizards gave up a valuable asset in Porter, who is only 25 and is under contract for two more years, albeit at arguably a steep price for his production. His contract loomed large in Washington, but can be viewed differently in Chicago because of their otherwise cheap roster of young talent.

Parker and Portis are both likely to hit free agency this offseason, Portis as a restricted free agent. Parker has a team option, but at $20 million it is unlikely to be picked up.

The Wizards could keep both of them, one or neither of them this offseason. And whichever way they go will significantly affect the way the trade is evaluated. If they part with either, the financial flexibility they will then get will have bearing on how the deal is graded.

But for now, both teams seem to be doing well with the pieces they got. All three have improved their numbers in the short period of time they have played with their new teams.

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How to watch Wizards vs. Jazz 'Predict the Game' broadcast

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How to watch Wizards vs. Jazz 'Predict the Game' broadcast

After a huge win against the Memphis Grizzlies behind Bradley Beal's career night, the Wizards close off their homestand at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Additionally, on NBC Sports Washington Plus you'll be able to watch an interactive, alternate live-game experience, including a free-to-play predictive gaming contest with a $500 prize, along with real-time sports-betting data and statistics. 

If the Washington Wizards (30-40) want to make the playoffs, now is the time to start winning.

The Wizards are 3.5 games back of the 8th seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, and they have just 12 games left in the regular season. Washington has won six of their last 10 games, including three of their last four games -- which have all been at home. Monday's game hosting the Utah Jazz (40-29) are on a three-game win streak and sitting in 7th place in the Western Conference.

Whether Wizards star Bradley Beal will have another 40-point game in the tank will be interesting to see, as if the Wizards will be able to contain Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

Wizards-Jazz takes place on Monday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports Washington Plus. 

PREDICT THE GAME HOW TO WATCH

What is this broadcast? Predict the Game is an easy-to-enter, free contest that allows fans to predict various game and player performance outcomes through a series of approximately 30 questions that will appear on screen during the alternate telecast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Predict the Game leaderboards will be displayed at select times, and the winner of the contest will be revealed during NBC Sports Washington’s postgame coverage.

Where can I find it? Contest questions and leaderboards will be displayed on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

Additionally, the broadcast can be streamed on desktopiOS and Android devices. 

How do I win? Fans will earn points for correct predictions, with the top eligible scorer at the end of the game earning or splitting the $500 prize. 

Fans must enter Predict the Game, which is open to join throughout the entire game, and submit their predictions at www.nbcsportswashington.com/predict

WIZARDS vs. JAZZ HOW TO WATCH:

What: Washington Wizards vs. Utah Jazz
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Jazz game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link).
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Jazz on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. JAZZ TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Jazz at Wizards
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

WIZARDS vs. JAZZ INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Wizards: John Wall (Out, Heel), Dwight Howard (Out, Back) J

Jazz: Thabo Sefolosha (Day-to-Day, Hamstring), Dante Exum (Day-to-Day, Knee)

WIZARDS vs. JAZZ PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Wizards, Bradley Beal: In his last two games, Beal has gone off for 40 points, and is averaging 31.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game since the All-Star break.

Wizards, Jabari Parker: In the month of March, Parker is averaging 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

Jazz, Donovan Mitchell: Mitchell leads the Jazz with 23.6 games per season, and he is also averaging 28 points per game in March.

Jazz, Rudy Gobert: The Jazz's second-leading scorer (15.4 points per game) is averaging a team-high 12.9 rebounds per game.

WIZARDS vs. JAZZ SERIES HISTORY: 

Number of all-time Meetings: 102 (no playoffs)
Regular Season Record: Jazz lead, 54-48 

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Don't dare ask Bradley Beal if he deserves All-NBA or suggest the Wizards won't make the playoffs

Don't dare ask Bradley Beal if he deserves All-NBA or suggest the Wizards won't make the playoffs

WASHINGTON -- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis relayed details of a conversation with soon-to-be two-time All-Star Bradley Beal shortly after the struggling Washington Wizards learned John Wall would miss the remainder of the season.

“Bradley Beal told me, ‘We got enough. We’re going to make the playoffs. We’re not going to let you down,’” Leonsis said in January.

Consider that position from Beal completely serious and one that remains despite the Wizards’ uphill climb with only 12 regular season games.

That’s just not the only reason Beal pleaded to the team owner for more time.

He wanted a reprieve from last season’s finish. He desired a chance to lead the Wizards.

Largely on the back of his stellar work over the last 35 games, the point at which Washington knew its cupboard wouldn’t be full the remainder of the regular season, Beal is delivering a campaign worthy of All-NBA status.

He scored 40 points in Saturday’s 135-128 win over the Memphis Grizzlies one night after dropping 40 against the Hornets.

"The way he's playing, the way he's improved, the way he's led, my very biased opinion he's all-NBA the way he's playing,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said.

There might be too many guards for the available six ballot slots, but it’s frankly preposterous to consider Beal unworthy. Seriously, don’t. Most of all, don’t you dare ask Beal directly if he’s a credible candidate.

“What do you think?” he shot back when a reporter posed that question after Saturday’s win.

There have been other times when Beal was asked effectively to justify his status among the league’s best, notably with the All-Star voting.

“I have to go through this again?” said the irritated guard.

Surrounded by the usual media horde inside the Wizards locker room, Beal passed on answering in words because his season-long performance made the response obvious.

There are numerous stats worth touting. Among them:

  • He leads the league in minutes played
  • Ranks third in scoring since the All-Star break with 31.2 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers.
  • He set a career-high with five 40-point games this season. That's the most by a Wizards player in a season since Gilbert Arenas in 2006-07
  • Saturday Beal set a career with nine 3-pointers on 12 attempts

Beal ended the media session using those in his vicinity as mouthpieces for the All-NBA question. 

“All in favor say aye.”

Those that spoke repeated as instructed two months after Leonsis and the Wizards’ front office heard Beal’s plea for a continuance.

Washington did trade away two key pieces in Otto Porter and Markieff Morris before the Feb. 7 trade deadline but didn’t tear down the roster to the foundation.

Maybe there isn’t enough overall talent to contend with the Eastern Conference heavyweights or even finish among the top eight. Sufficient help existed for Beal to push forward. Not for personal glory, but to lead the way, to see what is possible in that main man role.

Though Beal had that status for a chunk of last season when Wall missed 41 games with injuries, the point guard’s eventual return hovered over the scene. Beal and the team flourished for long stretches, but faded late, entering the playoffs as the eighth seed.

“[Brad] stepped up and delivered night in and night out, but it takes a lot to do that,” Brooks said Friday of Beal's 2017-18 work. “He wasn’t used to that. …You try to manage the physical part of it, but the mental part wears you down.”

Beal learned lessons from that experience. Despite the heavy workload, he remains stunningly productive.

Despite the personal growth, Beal’s focus remains team-oriented and win-centric.

After Friday’s 116-110 loss to Charlotte, he left the locker room before speaking with reporters and then woke up at 6 a.m. frustrated.

“I didn’t sleep well. I was mad all night,” Beal said. “Have been up all day just thinking the game from last night just thinking about how it important it was to get one tonight. No matter what it took.”

The obvious note is the starry stats. That’s not the key with Beal and this version of the Wizards. For the most part, they’ve remained competitive nightly despite the obvious rotation losses. Though 30-40 on the season, Washington is 17-18 over those last 35 games.

Beal’s focused team-first approach fuels the effort. He only took 17 field goal attempts for those 40 points Saturday. Beal wanted the win but knew this wasn’t just about his numbers.

“Every game matters at this point. I really wanted this game,” Beal said Saturday. “I just made sure I was locked in and led the team and the rest of the guys will follow.”

Despite Saturday’s win, the Wizards sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games back of the eighth-place Heat for the eighth and final playoff berth. Only 12 games remain in the regular season.

Should Washington fall short of the playoffs, only a certifiable loon or a basketball illiterate would lay blame with Beal. Then again, Beal likely puts the onus on himself if the goal isn’t reached. He keeps pushing for more from himself and teammates. That’s why he didn’t want Leonsis to sell.

 “We’re positive. I know I am,” Beal said Saturday of the team’s playoff hopes. “At the end of the day, I want to make the playoffs. I’m sure everybody else in here is to. We’re not out of it until the end of the year games. …We’re going to keep fighting and pushing because we’ve got a chance. It’s going to be tough… but I love the direction we’re headed in.”

There's a strong argument the Wizards are better off leaning into their current draft lottery status rather than aim for the playoffs. Just don't try selling that to Bradley Beal.

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