Quick Links

Film study: With Morris engaged, Wizards look like different defense vs. Nets

Film study: With Morris engaged, Wizards look like different defense vs. Nets

A 66-51 halftime deficit to the Brooklyn Nets was stunning to the Wizards, who were 6-12 at the time and desperate for a win. They turned it on in the second half with better defense, quickly erasing the disadvantage out of the locker room to pull out a 118-113 victory.

John Wall led eight players in double figures with 25 points and 13 assists. But a major key to the comeback was Markieff Morris. 

The power forward had 16 points, five rebounds and four steals but his help defense was a key component as he held his man, Trevor Booker, in check and disrupted the Nets' half-court offense with Bogan Bogdanovic. 

The Wizards have won seven of 10 games and a large part of the reason is defense. This was the first real signs of it in the second half of this game and they've been on a roll ever since. 


The evidence, most of which is from the second half:

— Booker tries to isolate vs. Morris on the low block which is a mistake. His offensive game isn't strong enough as he's left-hand dominant, doesn't have the ball-handling, strength or the finesse in his game to draw Morris out of position. Morris can have difficulty defending bigger, stronger post players by relying too much on reach-ins which is why he gets into a lot of foul trouble. Booker can't exploit that tendency. Instead of a bucket it's a turnover for Brooklyn. 

— Morris plays off this screen-and-roll because Booker isn't a threat to pop to the three-point arc. It allows him to sag to help on any dribble penetration by Randy Foye, who goes to Lopez's side of the double screen and makes the errant pass. It leads to a transition dunk for Morris. 

— Bogdanovic curls around Booker's screen from the other side of the floor. Porter goes over the top for the deflection and misses, but Morris is there. He's bigger, stronger and longer than Porter and creates the miss that would be a layup for Bogdanovic. 

— Another example of Morris leaving Booker away from the rim where he's not a threat to close down Bogdanovic catching and finishing at the rim. 

— Morris goes at Booker to finish at the rim. Then he gets back to create a turnover. This is a staple of the Nets' offense with Bogdanovic curling around screens from the weakside to get the ball running full speed into the lane. If he catches it cleanly it's difficult to stop without help. Porter has had trouble with blowing up this action but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doesn't acccount for Morris, who correctly reads the biggest threat isn't his man. It's Bogdanovic. He gets the steal and forces a foul. 

— This is how Wall routinely picks apart the defense from the slot. Brook Lopez is playing what his coach, Kenny Atkinson, calls the MIG position -- Most Important Guy. That's because that post player, which is loading up on Wall to stop dribble penetration (also called the 2.9 position because of the defensive three-second rule), also has to keep the man he's defending (Gortat) from scoring. Gortat isn't a threat at that distance from the rim but the moment Lopez takes one more step in his direction behind Booker who has no prayer in stopping Wall from getting into the paint, the dive happens. Lopez can't recover in time and it's a dunk. 

— This is basically the same type of read from a different spot on the floor by Wall. If you're in crunch time, who commands the most attention on a set? Beal. The entire defense is loading up on him. Gortat is setting a backscreen and his man, Lopez, is facing away from the strong side to provide containment. Thanks to all of this activity -- and Booker zooming in on Wall to back up Joe Harris who has no prayer of keeping the point guard out of the paint -- Morris backdoor cuts for the slip pass to make it a two-possession game with less than a minute left.  



Quick Links

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

On Thursday the NBA revealed the All-NBA teams for the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, Bradley Beal and John Wall did not make it to one of the three five-player teams. Of the two superstars, only Wall has been recognized once in his career.

What is surprising is that neither Beal nor Wall received a single vote in the whole process, especially Beal.

The 2017-18 season was without question the best in Beal’s career. He played in all 82 games, coming right off of the heals of his All-Star recognition. Beal seems to agree in his snubbing, tweeting this minutes after the teams were announced:

Looking at the list of players who made the top three teams, it shouldn’t be an issue, but these three guys got more votes than the Wizards' duo combined: Steven Adams, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard. It is not surprising that Beal and Wall did not make an All-NBA team. It is odd that Beal didn’t receive a vote.

Here is a list of the full All-NBA Teams:


LeBron James (Cavaliers), James Harden (Rockets), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kevin Durant (Warriors)


Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Joel Embiid (76ers), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors)


Stephen Curry (Warriors), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Paul George (Thunder)