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Hawks squandering opportunity against James, Cavaliers

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Hawks squandering opportunity against James, Cavaliers

The Wizards collectively walked into the offseason with a gnawing feeling of opportunity lost after dropping the Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Atlanta Hawks. Swingman Rasual Butler's take summed up the series loss, which turned immediately from joy to heartbreak after replay revealed Paul Pierce's improbable game-tying 3-pointer came after the clock expired.

"It's really difficult. That's something you deal with the entire offseason, knowing that we had a really good opportunity to move on to the conference finals. It's really tough especially with Paul (Pierce) hitting the shot in the last game," Butler said.

That frustration must be growing exponentially watching the Hawks break down in numerous ways during the conference finals.

With a chance to even the best-of-seven series at home and do so against a Cleveland squad playing without injured All-Star Kyrie Irving, Atlanta fell 94-82 on Friday night. The Cavaliers dominated the third quarter and cruised to the finish for a 2-0 lead despite playing the first two games on road.

The series now shifts to Ohio. What isn't making the trip north? Hope that Atlanta could rally despite after squandering home court advantage and against LeBron James.

With Irving (left knee) resting for a second straight game, James played like a four-team NBA MVP with 30 points, 11 assists and nine turnovers. From the Associated Press:

"How much does it help to have LeBron on your team?" Cavaliers coach David Blatt said, repeating a question incredulously. "Do I really have to answer that?"

No, not really.

What does need an answer is why the Hawks lost their way. Granted, Atlanta didn't always look the part of a top seed against the Wizards even when Washington played three games without John Wall.

Their own aches and pains is part of the issue. Forward DeMarre Carroll gutted out 34 minutes in Game 2 at much less than 100 percent after suffering a knee injury in the series opener that required help leaving the court.  Kyle Korver left in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle going for a loose ball. The sharpshooter didn't return. Al Horford missed a few minutes after banging his knee.

Their ineffective play isn't helping either. One of the top 3-point shooting teams in the league, the Hawks are 10 of 49 (20.4 percent) through two games. That's with Korver actually being a factor from deep after the Wizards kept him quiet.

Paul Millsap was a nightmare matchup for Washington. The All-Star forward is averaging 8.5 points on 5 of 19 shooting from the field through two games.

The Wizards and Hawks played even on the boards, which was bad news for Washington considering its superior rebounding numbers during the regular season. The Cavaliers haven't had any issues on the glass. Tristan Thompson has nearly as many offensive rebounds (10) as Atlanta's roster (14) through two games.

Then of course, that James fellow. Atlanta's odd decision to continually double-team one of the league's elite passers on the perimeter has led to James finding open teammates and controlling the game. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, acquired in the in-season deal with the New York Knicks that turned Cleveland's season around, are 13 of 24 on 3-pointers.

"In the playoffs, it takes more," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP following Game 2. "It takes better execution, better screening. You've got to do things harder."

Watching the Hawks seemingly squander this opportunity against a beat up Cavaliers squad must get harder by the minute for the "What if" Wizards.

[MORE WIZARDS: Butler sees good things in Wizards future]

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Wizards bringing in UNC teammates Coby White and Nassir Little for pre-draft workout

Wizards bringing in UNC teammates Coby White and Nassir Little for pre-draft workout

The Wizards are holding their highest-profile pre-draft workout yet on Monday, hosting UNC teammates and projected lottery picks Coby White and Nassir Little. 

White earned All-ACC and All-Freshman honors during his lone season in Chapel Hill, averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. Little's season with the Tar Heels did not go as smoothly as White's, but he is an NBA-ready athlete with tons of upside. 

Both White and Little could be options for the Wizards at No. 9 and would provide solutions to some of Washington's major needs. White would give the Wizards a primary play-maker while John Wall recovers from his Achilles injury, while Little would fill Washington's hole at small forward and bring some much-needed defense and rebounding to the team.

Before White and Little, the Wizards had brought in very few projected lottery picks during their pre-draft process, outside of Kentucky forward Keldon Johnson and French prospect Sekou Doumbouya. But with the 2019 NBA Draft looming on Thursday, the Wizards are ramping up their search for the player they'll pick at No. 9. 

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Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

The Anthony Davis trade will have ripple effects across the NBA, not only on teams, but also on the players involved.

Josh Hart, who was traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans as part of the package for Davis on Saturday, could stand to benefit from the move.

First, here's a look at all of the assets reportedly swapped in the deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Now, where does the Silver Spring, Md., native figure in the proceedings?

Hart spent his first two NBA seasons with the Lakers. He averaged 7.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game in his two years in Los Angeles. 

Still, Hart was often the Lakers' third or fourth option at shooting guard behind starter Brandon Ingram and shared minutes with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock and Lance Stephenson. 

LeBron James and the Lakers' win-now strategy left little room to develop Hart last season.

Now in New Orleans, he is part of a franchise rebuilding around presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. The trade gave the Pelicans both a younger roster and a long enough timeline for success to develop players.

That can only be good news for Hart, giving him the chance to start fresh and impress Pelicans general manager David Griffin and head coach Alvin Gentry with his potential. 

Where the Sidwell Friends alum fits into the lineup depends on several factors.

At first glance, the new-look Pelicans could start Lonzo Ball at point guard, move Jrue Holiday to shooting guard, then complete the lineup with Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and Julius Randle at center. 

If both Ingram and Holiday remain healthy, Hart would compete with Stanley Johnson to be the first wing off the bench for New Orleans.

But if Ingram does suffer recurring issues related to blood clots, Hart could press his case to start. 

The only issue complicating his place in New Orleans' plans is the No. 4 pick that was traded from the Lakers.

If the Pelicans keep that pick and draft a wing player like Jarrett Culver, Hart could find himself on the outside looking in again. 

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