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5 storylines to watch in Wizards-Celtics second round series in NBA Playoffs

5 storylines to watch in Wizards-Celtics second round series in NBA Playoffs

Here are five storylines to watch for the Wizards vs. Celtics' second round playoff series, which starts on Sunday at 1 p.m.:

1. The Wizards and Celtics plain don't like each other

We will get into this more in a later post, but the Wizards and Celtics have developed a considerable rivalry over the last two seasons. It may not be the premier marquee battle of the Cavaliers and Warriors, and it doesn't have the history of Lakers-Celtics, but there is definitely some history between these teams. Last season, Marcus Smart broke Bradley Beal's nose and gave him a concussion. This season, John Wall was ejected from their first matchup on Nov. 9 for a flagrant foul on Smart. Then, there was the postgame confrontation between Wall and Jae Crowder on Jan. 11 in Boston, an incident that earned both of them fines. Then, of course, there was the funeral game where the Wizards wore all-black to their Jan. 24 matchup in Washington and proceeded to blow out the Celtics. There is some serious beef between these teams and it should be fun to watch them go at it.

2. Horford nearly signed with the Wizards over the summer

The Wizards entered last offseason with the goal of signing hometown superstar Kevin Durant, but like many teams couldn't make it happen. So, like many teams, they turned their attention towards Al Horford, the second-best option on the market. Horford was intrigued enough to meet with the Wizards, and according to some reports considered them as a finalist in his decision, but ended up choosing Boston instead. It has worked out fine for Horford, as the Celtics earned the No. 1 seed in the East this season, but the Wizards have also enjoyed a great year. What an ironic twist of fate that they will now play each other in the playoffs.

[RELATED: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series]

3. Matchup of top point guards

Wall will go up against one of his best counterparts at the point guard position in Isaiah Thomas, a 5-foot-9 force of nature who finished third in the NBA with 28.9 points per game. Thomas gets a lot of attention for scoring at his size and on the best team in the conference. That should provide an opportunity for Wall to prove himself on the national stage. If we know anything about John Wall, he will notice that dynamic and be motivated by it.

4. Wizards aim to make franchise history

The Wizards are in the second round of the playoffs, a place they have been three times in the last four years. But one more round would put them in a place they haven't been as a franchise since 1978-79 when the Bullets made it all the way to the NBA Finals. The Wizards won a division this season and had their highest win total (49) since that season, so why stop there?

5. D.C. sports history also on the line

The Wizards haven't been in the conference finals in a long time and neither have other D.C. sports teams. No D.C. major sports team (Wizards, Nationals, Redskins, Capitals) have made the semifinals of their league since 1998 when the Caps lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. That's the longest drought in North American sports for cities with at least three teams in the four major leagues. We at CSN have been harping on this fact for years and years at this point, yet no one has broken through. Will the Wizards?

[RELATED: Celtics' Thomas dealing with tough times, travel before Wizards series]

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

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