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Hawks' Tim Hardaway, Jr. will be a big focus of Wizards after breakout season

Hawks' Tim Hardaway, Jr. will be a big focus of Wizards after breakout season

On draft night of 2015, the Wizards pulled off a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks to move up to take forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. with the 15th overall selection. Also part of that trade was guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. who left New York for Atlanta. Beginning Sunday with Game 1 against the Hawks, the Wizards will get a good look at Hardaway who has enjoyed a breakout season.

The son of five-time All-NBA selection Tim Hardaway, Hardaway, Jr. is set to start at shooting guard for the Hawks this series after scoring 14.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting during the regular season. A castoff of the Knicks two years after they made him a first round pick, the 25-year-old is now a focus of the Wizards' scouting report entering the playoffs.

"They've done a good job developing him," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "He's definitely had a breakout season. He's had a breakout last couple of months on top of that. He's averaged [17.5] points a game after the All-Star break."

"After the All-Star [Game], he's been lighting it up," guard Bradley Beal said. "He's been playing really well. He has a lot of confidence. He's been starting. Everything is flowing. Great for him. That's my job, to contain him as much as possible."

[RELATED: How does trash talking in the NBA compare to other sports?]

Hardaway, Jr. has indeed reached a new level since the All-Star break. He shot 47.1 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three. Brooks sees a player adding new weapons to his arsenal.

"He's done a great job working on his ability to get to the basket. He's not just a spot-up shooter. He puts the ball on the floor," he said.

Wizards point guard John Wall thinks the improvement is coming with experience. That, and something else.

"Well, definitely a contract year. That helps a lot," Wall said. "But also I think being comfortable. He's in a situation where they really use him a lot and to the best of his abilities. He shoots threes and can attack off the dribble. He's their go-to guy off the bench. When you get on a roll, you can get a lot of shots and a lot of minutes and you feel comfortable. A lot of this league is about is having confidence."

Brooks remembers playing against the elder Hardaway. Now, he is coaching against his son.

"His dad took it to me pretty easily. His dad was one of the best point guards in the game during that time. He's one of the best all time. He was just a monster at that spot. He could do it all. He was tough. He had obviously the 'Killer Crossover' and the three-point [shot]. He was a winner. He made winning basketball plays. His dad was one of the best players during the 90s," Brooks said.

Brooks shouldn't sell himself short. He was actually on the opposing team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Dec. 27, 1991 when Hardaway set an NBA record for the worst shooting performance of all time. Hardaway, then with the Golden State Warriors, missed all 17 of his shots. Brooks played 12 minutes in that game and at point guard, Hardaway's position. Pooh Richardson started at point and played the majority of the minutes vs. Hardaway that night.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 8 - Gortat 1-on-1, playoff preview]

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s season...

Player: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Position: Small forward

Age: 22

2017-18 salary: $2.1 million

2017-18 stats: 81 G, 27.5 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 40.3 FG%, 34.1 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 48.2 eFG%, 106 ORtg, 109 DRtg

Best game: 3/21 at Spurs - 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 9-for-17 FG, 3-for-6 3PT

Season review: The first half of Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s 2017-18 season went very differently than the second half. Through 46 games to begin the year, Oubre shot 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the perimeter. Oubre then shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three in his last 35 games to close the regular season. That included a stretch from March 25 through April 5 in which he shot 2-for-35 from long range and 23-for-77 (29.9%) overall in seven games.

As his head coach described, Oubre had a tale of two seasons. By mid-January it appeared to be a breakout year, as he was scoring consistently and shooting at a high percentage. He was even limiting his mistakes on defense. Then, his shot went away and Oubre could never quite regain it.

All in all, Oubre's season represented a step forward. He proved he could be a top-six player in a playoff rotation and had extended stretches of success he can draw confidence from in the future.

Now Oubre enters his biggest offseason yet as a basketball player. He has just one year left on his rookie scale contract and will be in line for a considerable raise if he keeps developing. If Oubre takes even a slight step forward, he will make big money in his next contract. If he takes a major leap forward, like Otto Porter did when he was in the same position in 2016-17, he could earn way more money than the Wizards can afford as currently constructed.

That dynamic gives the Wizards a decision to make this summer on Oubre's future. He has significant trade value at this point, given his upside and his contract. He is due to make just $3.2 million next season and will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. If they don't see a long-term future for him in Washington, trading him this offseason should not be ruled out.

It figures to be a busy summer for the Wizards and when it comes to Oubre there are a lot of factors in play. If they want financial flexibility, another option would be to deal Porter or another frontcourt starter and roll with Oubre as a less expensive option. Though his season was inconsistent, Oubre has shown enough to warrant consideration as a starter.

Regardless of what the Wizards decide, Oubre himself is in good shape. If he keeps getting better, he will earn a nice deal whether it's in Washington or somewhere else. He just needs to find consistency on both ends of the floor. 

He can do that on offense by tightening up his ball-handling and improving his ability to get to the rim. That would allow him to circumnavigate the type of shooting struggles that held him back late in the year.

Defensively, he has all the natural ability needed to be an elite player. He just needs to limit the gambles he takes that turn into blown assignments or unnecessary fouls.

Potential to improve: Consistency, efficiency, ball-handling


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