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Crawford's 6th man award reminds us Wizards didn't have one


Crawford's 6th man award reminds us Wizards didn't have one

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is the winner of the NBAs 2015-16 Sixth Man award, the league announced Tuesday. The veteran guard topped Golden State's Andre Iguodala, Oklahoma City' Enes Kanter and 16 others receiving votes to become the first player in league history to win the award three times.  

The 19 players to garner at least one vote represented 16 different teams. Nobody from the Washington Wizards made the list. 

That's not to suggest there was a massive oversight by the voters or that the lack of a viable sixth man for award consideration is further proof of a wasted season. The suggestion is that this element is something for the Wizards to strongly consider when they start spending money this summer.

Crawford and Kanter are offensive forces capable of carrying a team for stretches. Igoadala's two-way approach alters games on both ends of the court. Washington had helpful pieces, but none with such impact.

The lack of votes for any Wizard also serves as a reminder that, especially before the All-Star break, the relentless run of injuries prevented Washington from having any truly defined rotations.

The Wizards led the NBA in games missed due to injury for much of the season. Some will say this note is overblown because many of those missed games were not by the true stars on the team. There's some truth there, but it wasn't until February or March that players not named John Wall and Marcin Gortat knew what their roles would be on a regular basis or sometimes in back-to-back games. Considering the shift in schemes this season, there is also plenty of truth in suggesting the lack of a steady rotation hurt the adjustment.

Ramon Sessions probably filled the sixth man role above all. Truth is for the most of the season, the backup point guard was Washington's most consistent player and that goes beyond the fact that he was the only Wizard to play in all 82 games this season. Sessions didn't just serve as John Wall's primary backup, but often played alongside Wall especially when Bradley Beal missed games. Even when the overall offense struggled at times, Sessions' driving ability always gave the Wizards a bailout plan.

However, the limitations in his game are why the "sixth man" role isn't really for him. Despite his point guard label, Washington's assist percentage was lower with Sessions on the court than any other Wizard to appear in over 40 games this season. His defensive presence lacked punch. If the free agent returns, the Wizards must add a true facilitator on the second unit to counter Sessions' shoot-first approach and perhaps a defensive gnat capable of slowing down quick guards.

Garrett Temple once again exceeded production and minutes expectations after the Wizards added other guard options last summer. Showing far more confidence in his offensive game to go with his quality defense, the lengthy Temple showed he belongs in an NBA rotation. But sixth man, no.

Jared Dudley might have been the ideal candidate, but the Wizards needed him to start far more often than all involved imagined. Shifted to the bench soon after the trade for Markieff Morris, Dudley lost his perimeter touch playing with a second unit that ran far less pick-and-roll sets than the starters.

Nene's power and passing makes him the ideal sixth man option. His game-to-game uncertainty because of injuries and desire do not. 

Assuming restricted free agent Bradley Beal stays, the Wizards will have their starting lineup back plus rising second-year forward Kelly Oubre. Wish for enough improvement so Oubre plays more than he did as a rookie, but don't expect him as the team's sixth-man, a role often filled by offensive forces or defensive game-changers. There's a good bet that role next season is filled by someone who didn't play for the Wizards this season. 

MORE WIZARDS: Morning tip: Does new coach for Wizards mean new offense?

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.


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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.