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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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5 must-see moments from Wizards' last-second loss to Heat

5 must-see moments from Wizards' last-second loss to Heat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Miami Heat 113-112 on Thursday night in their 2018-19 regular-season opener. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

Five Must-See Moments from Wizards vs. Heat

1. BooooOubre

Someone was in the Halloween spirit. Two weeks before the holiday arrives, Kelly Oubre Jr. is already wearing costumes.

He showed up to the game wearing chains and holding a skull. Perhaps this was intended to send a message to his arch-rival, Kelly Olynyk, who now plays for the Heat:

More on Oynyk later...

2.  Flashes of brilliance from Wizards bench

Though the Wizards' bench produced mixed results, there were many moments where they flashed the potential to be much-improved year-over-year. The guard combination of Tomas Satoransky and Austin Rivers, in particular, is enticing. 

On this play, they were on the same page as Rivers caught the defense sleeping and Satoransky found him with a well-timed bounce pass:

3. Jason Smith makes the most of opportunity

With Dwight Howard out, head coach Scott Brooks had to turn to Ian Mahinmi as the starter and that meant Jason Smith as his backup. Smith had an uneven night battling Hassan Whiteside, but made some nice plays on the offensive end. 

On this one, he finished an alley-oop assisted by Wall:

Smith also had this dunk just a few minutes earlier:

Smith had four points and six rebounds.

4. Wall-Star Mode

This was the best play of the night. Wall, who had been getting into the lane with ease for much of the first half, exploded to the rim and threw down one of his signature left-handed hooks:

Wall had 26 points, nine assists, three blocks, and a steal.

5. Olynyk sinks Wizards ... again

Okay, back to Olynyk. He was booed all night by Wizards fans, who remember his incident with Oubre in the 2017 playoffs, but the Heat center had the last laugh. He was in perfect position to grab an offensive rebound and lay it in for the go-ahead points in the final seconds:

That was Miami's 22nd offensive rebound of the night. What a tough way for the Wizards to lose their opener, on a complete lapse in focus right when it counted most.

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Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

The initiative to get Otto Porter Jr. more attempts from three this season is not off to a great start.

That right there is called an understatement. Because it would be one thing if Porter only took a couple of them, but he literally took zero against the Heat on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

Yes, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters didn't even get off a single attempt from long range. That is simply hard to justify, especially after a preseason in which the team had a stated goal to shoot more threes than ever before.

It wasn't just threes. The often deferential Porter was even more gun shy than normal. He only took seven total shots in the 113-112 loss and topped out at just nine points.

Porter, in fact, had just one field goal attempt until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he got two of them on the same play thanks to a rebound on his own miss.

Porter still affected the game in other ways, per usual. He had 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks and finished +1 in +/- rating.

But for Porter to reach the next level as a player, he has to add volume to his efficient scoring numbers.

"We will look at the film and figure it out," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's not like we go into the game wanting to only shoot 26 threes [as a team] and Otto shoot zero."

Brooks continued to say the problem is a combination of several things. More plays could be called for Porter and his teammates could look for him more often.

But ultimately, it's up to Porter to assert himself and take initiative. Granted, that may have been easier said than done against the Heat, who boast one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball in Josh Richardson. They are a scrappy team with athletic and hard-nosed defenders on the wing.

For Porter, though, that shouldn't matter. Ultimately, his share of the offense is up to him. The ball is going to swing around often enough for him to create his own opportunities.

Porter only taking seven shots is a bad sign considering Thursday was a better opportunity to get shots than he may receive in most games. The Wizards added Dwight Howard this summer and last season he averaged 11.2 shots per game, 3.4 more than Marcin Gortat, whom he replaced in the starting lineup.

It won't be easy, but the Wizards need Porter to take matters into his own hands.

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