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Morning tip: Bradley Beal doesn't have to take last shot because he creates for Wizards, too

Morning tip: Bradley Beal doesn't have to take last shot because he creates for Wizards, too

The last time Markieff Morris had a chance to win the game at the end for the Wizards, he had a wide-open three that hit the back of the rim in a loss at the Orlando Magic.

He has redeeemed himself. plenty of times since then, including clutch free throws in to hold off the Golden State Warriors and then what he did vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

That miss in Orlando came in just the fifth game of the season, when the Wizards were a very different team (and without John Wall). Saturday, it was their 65th when Morris buried a pull-up jumper with 0.4 of a second left for a 125-124 overtime win.

Their weapons are multiplying with Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic also capable in similar situations.

Morris' shot was all net. There was more time (6.8 seconds) to set up the final shot compared to Orlando when Morris missed (0.8 of a second).


"It was a redeemer for him," said Bradley Beal, who caught the inbound pass off a curl and found Morris spotting up in the corner for thie assist.

"It was a great play drawn up. I knew they were keying on me."

The execution went perfectly, unlike in early-season losses at the Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs when the Wizards had chances to clinch road games but didn't. 

They either didn't make the shot or were forced to take a more difficult look because the play broke down on a poor route run by Beal or a poor screen set by Morris to free him to catch the ball. 

Porter, who was the inbounder and almost always is, found Beal with a crisp pass and they got the play underway without a hitch. That allowed Beal to survey all of his options as he got away from Allen Crabbe who trailed him but faced Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic helping to stop his drive to the rim. When Mo Harkless converged as well as he left Morris in the corner, that opened the door for the pass and the finish.

The Wizards (41-24) have jumped the Boston Celtics in the East standings and have drawn even closer to the Cleveland Cavaliers who lost Sunday. They're now just two games back of the No. 1 seed. 

"It's almost like we won a championship," Beal said of the atmosphere at Moda Center following the lastest win. "We were throwing water around the locker room, beating down lockers, it was electrifying. It was exciting."

While that might sound extreme, it's a steppingstone in the evolution under a young backcourt of Wall and Beal.

They didn't have a good track record of closing out games like this. But Wall hit a game-winner to beat the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 10.

It's not about Beal or Wall forcing the shot for the sake of saying they took the shot. It's about getting the best shot available provided the play execution is sound. Otherwise it becomes a broken play such as the off-balance heave from Porter vs. the Thunder that went awry.


It wasn't that the Wizards weren't trying to get the ball to Beal because he's likely to draw the most defenders, he's good enough off the dribble to beat the coverage, he can finish through contact and has the play-making ability to set up a teammate if all else fails. But coach Scott Brooks cleared the strong side of the floor for Beal to exploit Portland's defense that was destined to suck in and help on the drive. Morris was the beneficiary.

"That just shows our will to not quit," said Morris, who was short on words after the 21-point comeback that ended in controversy because replays showed his left foot stepped out of bounds. "That's what we did."

Even if the Wizards were to lose tonight's game at the Minnesota Timberwolves to end a five-game road swing, they will have set a new standard. They haven't gone 4-1 on such a trip since 1973, but if they do win it will be the first time they went undefeated in five consecutive road games, according to the team's PR staff. 


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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.


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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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