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Morning tip: Breaking down Bradley Beal's chances to sneak onto All-Star team

Morning tip: Breaking down Bradley Beal's chances to sneak onto All-Star team

The injury to Kevin Love has created an opening for the All-Star Game in the East, and Bradley Beal is likely on the short list that commissioner Adam Silver will choose from for a replacement for the Feb. 19 showcase in New Orleans.

Beal is on the third-place team in the conference that has only one All-Star in John Wall. He's averaging career highs in points (22.3), assists (3.7) and overall field-goal shooting (47.2%). A recent surge in three-point shooting has Beal at 40%, just one full point shy of another career-high. 

"He's well-deserving to be an All-Star," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "It's definitely going to happen soon. But how knows? ... I don't like to politick for him but I think his game basically  says he's right there and the way we've been playing the last two-and-a-half months says he's right  there. But if he's not he will be there soon."

Beal turned down an invitation to participate in the three-point shootout on Saturday because he didn't make the cut for the team, preferring to rest instead.

When the reserves were announced, the coaches selected four point guards: Wall, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker. The only shooting  guard on the team is DeMar DeRozan.

Love, however, is a post player and if Silver wants to balance the guard-heavy roster that would knock Beal out of the running. 

A case can be made for Boston Celtics center/forward Al Horford though his numbers don't compare (14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds). He's the second-best player on the second-best team in the East. Andre Drummond has the stats with 14.7 points and 13.9 rebounds as a center but the Detroit Pistons are four games under .500. Hassan Whiteside even has better digits for the Miami Heat (16.7 points, 14.7 rebounds) but the center's team is eight games under .500.

Although Carmelo Anthony hasn't had an All-Star season and is on the putrid New York Knicks, there's a respect factor that goes into the decision by a commissioner. Anthony, who is a nine-time All-Star, has 23.2 points and 6.1 rebounds on a team 10 games under .500.

Love's first All-Star selection came as a then-commisioner David Stern's pick in 2011 when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves to replace the injured Yao Ming in the West.

In 2012, Rajon Rondo was named as the replacement for an injured Joe Johnson while still a member of the Boston Celtics..

In 2013, Stern picked Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez to replace the injured Rondo.

In 2014, Anthony Davis, who plays for the host New Orleans Pelicans, made his first All-Star Game when Stern chose him to fill in for the injured Kobe Bryant. 

There were four replacement players in 2015 in Silver's first year at the helm: DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings replaced Bryant (injured) for his first selection; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard replaced the injured Blake Griffin; Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks made his only appearance in place of Dwyane Wade; and Davis couldn't play so Dirk Nowtizki of the Dallas Mavericks was chosen.

Last year, Al Horford, then of the Hawks, subbed in for Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol, then with the Chicago Bulls, was Jimmy Butler's replacement.

So what does all of this mean for Beal? Sometimes veterans get the nod out of respect (see Nowtizki in 2015) over a younger player who has had a better season. And just because a post player can't compete, it doesn't mean another post player will be selected instead (see Davis for Bryant, Cousisn for Bryant, Lillard for Griffin or Lopez for Rondo).

The Wizards (33-21) have one more game Thursday before the All-Star break and a decision should be made by, or before, then. 

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The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

Since acquiring Davis Bertans from the Spurs in exchange for the rights to Aaron White, the Wizards have unlocked the sharpshooter's full offensive potential. 

In San Antonio, Bertans was known more as a spot-up, floor-stretching power forward. Now? He's one of the most feared snipers in the NBA with his ability to come off screens, get his shot off quickly and drill threes from just about anywhere on the court. 

Bertans should without a doubt be invited to compete in the NBA's three-point contest at All-Star weekend. Jordan McRae is leading the campaign charge and the Wizards recently started a campaign to get him there as well. 

So as we await word on whether Bertans will be invited or not, let's lay out his claim as one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league and how he stacks up against everyone else. 

By the numbers

Bertans is shooting 42.4 percent on 8.7 three-point attempts per game, which is absurd efficiency at that volume. 

Of the 14 players that take at least eight threes per game, nobody is shooting at a higher clip than Bertans.

He's also second in the league in three-point makes per game (3.7), trailing only James Harden. For players who make at least three triples per game, Bertans has the third-highest shooting percentage on his looks. 

If that's not enough, Bertans leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot makes from deep this season (3.2). The three-point contest closer resembles catch-and-shoot opportunities rather than shooting threes off the dribble. If Bertans were to compete in such a setting, he'd feel right at home. 

Supreme confidence

Confidence is one of the most crucial traits of a great shooter, and Bertans has no shortage of self-assurance.

He could be 0-for-7 from three and 2-of-10 from the field, but that wouldn't stop Bertans from taking a 30-footer with the game on the line. 

Speaking of 30-footers, Bertans is more than comfortable launching shots from several feet beyond the three-point line. If he ends up shooting in the three-point contest, I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to move the ball racks back a few feet just for kicks. 

After a game in which he made six threes against the Hornets, Bertans was asked if there was a three he felt was too deep for him to take. His response?

"I haven't found that yet."

The competition

Last year there were 10 participants in the three-point contest at All-Star weekend. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant hurt this season, you have arguably the three best snipers in the NBA all sidelined with serious injuries. 

Without those three, I'm not sure there are five shooters in the league better than Bertans, let alone 10. 

As of now, there have been three reported invites to the contest. Luka Doncic (32.7 3P%), Trae Young (37.3) and Duncan Robinson (42.9), though it's not yet clear if those players will accept. 

Bertans is in line for a nice payday this summer based on his play so far this year, but his recognition around the league shouldn't stop there. 

All you need to do is watch a Wizards game when Bertans hits a few threes in a row and look at how the defense reacts to him. They abandon their entire gameplan to run Bertans off the three-point line. 

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Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

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