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How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

The calls about Otto Porter came early and often during the trade deadline that passed earlier today, but they went unanswered by Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. He plans on keeping the soon-to-be restricted free agent now that he has blossomed into an elite shooter who is a perfect fit for one the NBA’s best starting fives.

“We love Otto,” Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com, before the Wizards departed for Fridays' game at the Philadelphia 76ers. “We love the way that he’s developed and how he’s come along. I think Otto fits in very well with what we’re trying to do. I said he’s part of our core and we want to keep him here.”

Porter didn’t enter his fourth NBA season as this hot of a commodity. But in his first season under coach Scott Brooks he has elevated every aspect of his game, averaging career-highs of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 53.4% overall shooting and an NBA-high 46.5% three-point shooting.

With John Wall and Bradley Beal having All-Star-caliber seasons, and Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat playing their best basketball since coming to D.C., Porter has stepped right in. He’s no longer the shy, shoulder-shrugging Mr. Nice Guy that he was when the Wizards drafted him No. 3 overall in 2013.

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Though he’s still a nice guy, he has more edge to his game and certainly a confidence that was absent in most of his first two seasons. Last season, Porter’s first as the starting small forward, he came on strong late after lingering in the low 30s on his shot from three.

Now it’s a well-oiled machine. When defense overcommit to Wall and Beal, Porter makes them pay. As a result of his explosion, so will the Wizards to keep him. Porter's emergence created an unexpected expense.

The move made by the Wizards to trade Andrew Nicholson’s $26 million salary, in addition to sacrificing a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic, was to create more cap room. They anticipate needing it to retain Porter, who earns $5.9 million this season.

The Wizards must make him a qualifying offer of 125% of that salary to retain the first right of refusal by making Porter restricted. Not making a qualifying offer would allow him to become unrestricted.

“He and John, Bradley, Keef and Marcin and all the rest of our players complement each other very well,” Grunfeld said. “We hope to have him here for a long time.”

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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