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Cartier Martin sparkles in Wizards latest loss


Cartier Martin sparkles in Wizards latest loss

Entering the Wizards' seventh game of the season Wednesday night in Dallas, Cartier Martin received fewer minutes than any player on the roster had. Actually the once undrafted and now the at times forgotten swingman with a knack for the deep ball stood at the bottom of many a category list including points, rebounds and field goals attempted.

Through three and a half quarters against the Mavericks, it was more of the same. One night after a 16-point drubbing in Charlotte, Washington trailed by that amount in Dallas with 10:17 left in the fourth quarter. While each of his 12 active teammates had their run and took their shots, Martin watched.

With the Wizards careening toward another loss and a 0-7 start for the second straight season, apparently the Wizards' coach had watched enough. Looking for an offensive spark, Randy Wittman looked down his bench and summoned in the 6-foot-7 Martin.

Spark received.

Actually, a yet to be realized 15-0 run had just begun with Kevin Seraphin's jumper moments before Martin's entrance. Jordan Crawford celebrated Martin's arrival with a 3-pointer and Seraphin kept the party going with consecutive baskets, bringing Washington teasingly closer at 88-79.

To that point, the soon-to-be 28-year old Martin -- his birthday is Tuesday --missed his first attempt, a 22-footer. Based on the final seven plus minutes unfolded, perhaps it was simply to close a shot.

With 7:46 left in the quarter, Seraphin one-timed a pass out to the left wing where a wide-open Martin stood beyond the arc. Splash, the deficit was six.

An empty Dallas possession followed, the missed shot grabbed by Martin. He handed the ball off to Crawford, the Wizards de facto point guard, who proceeded to work the ball up the court while seeking the proper move. Martin made it abundantly clear where he felt the pass should go.

Trailing on the play, Martin waved for his down court teammates to push toward the rim. Even before crossing midcourt, he raised his still waving arm, the universal sign for "I'm open, I'm open." Crawford sent the pass right. With Dallas' Vince Carter caught up in the traffic, the ball arrived in Martin's hands three feet behind the 3-point line. What came next involved no hesitation, simply a catch on the move followed by a confident rise and fire.

Splash once again. Once down 22, the Wizards trailed by only three.

"Cartier sat there the first three to three-and-a-half quarters and comes in and played big for us," Wittman said.

We know what ultimately happened, no storybook ending, but rather a 107-101 Dallas win. Martin's fairytale quarter included three more field goals - two from beyond the arc - without a miss. In 16 previous minutes this season, Martin had 10 points. In 10 minutes against Dallas, he scored 14. That's efficient, that's professional.

“When I’m called on, I just need to step up and make plays for my team," Martin told the media. "I was mentally prepared for this game and ready to go. I have confidence in all our guys and whenever me or my teammates shoot the ball I feel like it’s going in. Unfortunately the game didn’t go our way.”

The question now becomes whether Saturday against Utah whether Wittman will turn to his sharpshooter as part of a plan, out of desperation or at all. Will Martin join the rotation or follow the path of Earl Barron, another back of the bencher whose shining moment came in the season opener, but has received little time since.

Maybe putting Martin's perimeter talents on the court with Bradley Beal opens the court for the suddenly misfiring rookie. Maybe the group that rallied late should receive another spin together against the Jazz. Maybe it's simply time to try a different starting lineup, a new first off the bench rotation.

Of course, maybe Martin's not the answer at all, his performance simply a Dallas night mirage. There is a reason why his minutes are inconsistent despite a knockdown jumper, why he's basketball resume is something out of a travelogue. For every heroic stretch, a lapse in on-court judgment period tends to follow, be it shot selection or some other reason that has a coach looking elsewhere.

At 0-7, Wittman needs to be looking elsewhere and everywhere for a solution. Following Detroit's win on Wednesday, it's all too real that the Wizards are the NBA's only winless team.

That's why there is perhaps another reason to insert Martin somewhere in the lineup. He obviously knows how to respond when located at the bottom of a list.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.


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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did


Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.


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