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Morning tip: Bradley Beal is still headed toward max deal


Morning tip: Bradley Beal is still headed toward max deal

Now that Bradley Beal is back in the starting lineup, playing starter's minutes and playing in back-to-backs, it's worth revisiting whether or not his status as a max player going into restricted free agency has changed.

So far, it hasn't. In 13 games he has played with the Wizards going into the All-Star break, after returning from a stress reaction in his lower right leg for the fourth year in a row, Beal is shooting 83 of 153, 54.2%, from the field. 

He played 32 minutes in two of three games earlier in the week before logging 37 -- two above what was projected to be his maximum by some close to the situation -- in Thursday's 99-92 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Hopefully we can keep these extended minutes where they are," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman after Tuesday's game in New York. "It's hard. You play 32 minutes one game, 16 the next, 22 the next. I told the doctor to go on vacation and let’s hope he does that after the All-Star break.”

He was joking, but the Wizards have to be careful. Before the onset of Beal's injury Dec. 9, he played 40-plus minutes in five of seven games. In the other two, he logged 38 minutes. A stress reaction, a dark spot on the bone, is a precursor to a season-ending fracture that heals with rest. 

The Wizards are using a different method of tracking Beal's movements, which is now possible with the SVU cameras used in each NBA arena, such as the distance he's running and how much he's cutting.

After the data is received, they huddle to determine what his minutes should be. Going into a week off because of the All-Star break might've factored into the sharp minutes increase Thursday.

Even though Beal said when he returned that he could be facing a minutes cap for the rest of his career, there's an expectation that he will receive a max offer when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer and the Wizards will give it to him. 

Beal is finishing at almost 60% at the rim and has made a concerted effort to eliminate long two-point shots from his game. He's shooting a career-high 46.3% from the field and making almost 40% of his three-point looks. If Beal can stay off the injury list, he can take off like John Wall did when he signed a max offer based on his ceiling and potential rather than his accomplishment at that point of his career. 

"That's one of my goals for this whole year, increase my efficiency, my shot selection. I try to eliminate those long twos as much as possible," Beal said. "It’s awesome to be able to see my percentages go up."

The open market will ultimately set Beal's pricetag, and at least one team that's betting on his potential should make him a max offer. Then the ball is in the Wizards' court on whether or not to match it to retain Beal.

They'll have no choice because letting him walk for nothing as the salary cap grows from $70 million to almost $90 million isn't really an option for a franchise that'll be at a crossroads as it remakes the roster with or without Kevin Durant.

Scorers in today's NBA are more valuable than ever. Beal has a good reputation because of his character and attitude, too. A replacement player of that level, which they'd have to have in stow before allowing Beal to leave, aren't just waiting around in bunches. There's competition from 29 other NBA teams to land them which drives up the price automatically because of supply vs. demand. 

"If he was not injured, he would've been an All-Star this year," Mark Bartelstein, Beal's agent, told CSNmidatlantic.com on Thursday. "That's the way he was going."

There's a confidence now, unlike in past seasons when Beal had the stress reaction in his leg, that everything is under control because of the protocols in place. His minutes will be watched closely. And none of it is expected to interfere with his summer activity with USA Basketball to compete for a spot for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

This is Beal's make-or-break year in more ways than one. If he avoids any more setbacks with his leg, he's still in prime position to cash in. 

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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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