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Grading Marcin Gortat's play for 2014-15 season

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Grading Marcin Gortat's play for 2014-15 season

Marcin Gortat began like a bolt of lightning and was having the best season of his career but by mid-January he was in a funk. He was being benched in fourth quarters when the Wizards faced small lineups, complained out his team’s individual defense which drew the ire of Paul Pierce and admitted that he wasn’t giving 100% every game. Then there were the frequent spats with John Wall over pick-and-roll concepts. It all led to a lot of criticism and Gortat responding by going into a shell and having his overall numbers slip from a year ago. His play skyrocketed after the All-Star break when he averaged a double-double but it ended with a whimper when he had food poisoning as he was a non-factor in the Game 6 elimination to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round.

The stats: 12.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 56.9% shooting (3rd in NBA).

The accolades: Gortat came within about 70,000 popular votes of being selected as a starter for the All-Star Game.

The improvements: His help defense was a major factor in the Wizards being a top 10 scoring defense for the third year in a row. Gortat has a soft touch and can score away from the basket but when he’s at his best he’s running pick-and-rolls with Wall. Gortat with a full head of steam going to the basket is a tough cover. 

The ranking: Centers are a dying breed and the pickings are slim in the East with an aging Al Jefferson and Roy Hibbert’s disappearing act. Gortat can easily ascend to the No. 1 player at his position but it has everything to do with how he syncs with Wall. Jefferson usually gets the better of him head –to-head and his stats across the board are significantly better.

The next step: As efficient was Gortat was with his shooting, he could be much better if he finished stronger (more dunks, less finger rolls). He’s a physical player but relies a lot of soft touches which can backfire. Like a lot of bigs, he can become disengaged if he’s not getting the ball or having so split touches with Nene in the low post. Gortat can impact a game just by playing solid position defense, making Wall and Bradley Beal better just by his help.  He has to do it even when he’s not getting the shots or the touches on offense.

2014-15 grade: B-.

2015-16 outlook: If coach Randy Wittman stays true to his word and can find a competent stretch four to play next to Gortat instead of Nene, it’ll open up more pick-and-rolls for him with Wall which will result in more production.

RELATED: By the numbers: Bradley Beal, LeBron James, James Harden

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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:

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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:

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM: 

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

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM:

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

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM:

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

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