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Hollins likely starter at center, Dudley could sub when Wizards go small

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Hollins likely starter at center, Dudley could sub when Wizards go small

Because of the opponent and out of necessity, the Wizards likely will resort to more small lineups than usual tonight against the Phoenix Suns though 7-footer Ryan Hollins, who joined them earlier in the week, expects to get his first start (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m.).

Hollins was signed Monday after the Wizards (7-9) waived Martell Webster. Nene (left calf) is out, Drew Gooden (left calf) didn't shoot around with them this morning and starting center Marcin Gortat (personal leave) returned to Poland to be with his hospitalized mother after Wednesday's loss to the L.A. Lakers. Kris Humphries (ankle) didn't shoot around this morning and is questionable to play. 

"I've been everywhere in this league from a starter to a guy off the bench to first man, last man, five minutes, two minutes," said Hollins, who played 11 minutes but didn't score against the Lakers. "That last game was good because I've been working my butt off. There's no way you can simulate game minutes."

Hollins is familiar with John Wall, who spends offseasons in the Los Angeles area. That's where Hollins is from.

"In the NBA we all essentially run the same sets and it's just learning the concepts," Hollins said. "Once you learn your concepts, you learn your teammates you get chemistry. It's easy. Me and John, we play together just about every summer in the offseason. I'm really familiar with his game already. ... Ten years in, you can pick up plays pretty quick."

The Wizards, however, will be facing a team in Phoenix (8-11) that has been problematic in the past because of guard play and their high volume of pick-and-rolls. Starting center Tyson Chandler (hamstring) is out and Alex Len is expected to get the start. Markieff Morris (knee) went through shootaround but is questionable. 

That's where Jared Dudley, who played the five spot in a 97-85 win on Tuesday at the Cleveland Cavaliers, comes in. The Suns could go small even more often.

"I expect to play everything," said Dudley, who has played a season-high 32 minutes in the last two games. "To be able to play 40-plus (minutes), we only got three bigs so for me, a lot of guards, a lot of pick-and-rolls, my value being up in the picks. ... We're all going to play depending on how well you play you can play more. If those guys get into foul trouble I might not have no choice. It could be one of those games where you play 45. You just don't know. The good thing is they're small, too."

The Wizards successfully went to a lineup of Wall, Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter and Dudley twice in that game. The first time, it was for 2:34 of the second quarter when they expanded a three-point lead to 10. The next time came in the fourth quarter, with LeBron James on the floor, and coach Randy Wittman stuck with it for nine minutes because of foul trouble to Gortat. The Wizards stretched a 14-point lead to 19.

Porter is the tallest of the bunch at 6-8, but they have a lot of length with Temple at 6-6 and Dudley 6-7. They also can call on rookie Kelly Oubre, who is 6-7 and has a 7-2 wingspan. When they swallowed up Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson in Cleveland, they fronted the post and doubled from the weak side on the entry pass. If the ball went back out to the perimeter, they're athletic and long enough to recover to the shooters. It caused havoc, missed shots and allowed them to get out in transition.

"This is a perfect game if you're going to be hurt," Dudley said.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards scramble to plug gaps to challenge Suns

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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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