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Morning tip: The dilemma with Nene's changing role


Morning tip: The dilemma with Nene's changing role

Nene had three words about the possibility of being shifted to center next season, which could mean a role behind Marcin Gortat rather than being the starting power forward for the Wizards: "I hope not."

It was a deadpan remark. Nene attempted to smooth it over with a smile afterwards, but make no mistake that Nene despises the idea of playing too far under the basket entering the final year of a contract that will play him $13 million in 2015-16. His contract is fully guaranteed and releasing him would do nothing to alleviate the salary cap hit. 

When the Wizards were at their best in the postseason, however, they moved Nene to center, or kept Gortat there, while Paul Pierce shifted from small forward and Otto Porter occupied the three spot. 

"Obviously playing small is successful for us. Playing faster. Those are the things I want to try to improve this team moving forward," coach Randy Wittman said Monday during exit interviews at Verizon Center. "Being able to play smaller. Being able to play faster. ... We've got to be able to have the pieces to do that in the regular season."


Nene dealt with soreness in his knees and feet again this season, and he was a frequent target of criticism during the Wizards' six-game, Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

But for the Wizards to make it to the next level, they'll likely have to use a player to stretch the floor at Nene's preferred position. He's not a three-point shooter and is better at facilitating from the post. Drew Gooden also can stretch the floor to the three-point arc and Kris Humphries is working diligently to add this layer to his arsenal. 

Gortat gave a ringing endorsement of going to a smaller lineup -- meaning, not sharing the floor with Nene -- because it gives him more space to operate the pick-and-roll with John Wall. Wall, the franchise player, is fully on board with the plan to do it for 82 games.

"That's what the league is turning into -- a lot of stretch forwards. They've got one high line guy that goes and gets it at the rim and other guys are stretch forwards," Wall said. "That's what we see when we play like that, we're a pretty good team, spacing the court, attacking. That's how a lot of teams are playing so that's something you've got to look into for the near future."

Now the task is to get Nene, 32, there. But going back two seasons ago, when Gortat was acquired less than a week before 2013-14 began in a trade, it was Nene who started at center in the opener at the Detroit Pistons. It's the only time that Gortat has played for Washington when he didn't start. 

The Wizards were decimated in the paint and Nene, who sat out the next game with an injured left calf, lamented having to bang down low with Andre Drummond. He declared then that he wasn't a center. There are some things to figure out before training camp.

"How intense it is, that's the only concern," Nene said of his role next season possibly as a center. 

He would be open to coming off the bench would could allow Nene to maintain his spot at power forward. He appeared in 67 games this season, his most in four years. But Nene only averaged 25.3 minutes, his lowest output in a full season since 2004-05 with the Denver Nuggets when he mostly was used as a reserve.

"As we saw down the stretch, he played some 5, he and March in that situation. Him playing that position doesn't make it a lesser role," Wittman said. "We've got to look at what works best for who we have here. ... With what John does and the pace of play, we've got to play fast."

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Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

The University of Kentucky was well-represented at the Wizards' first pre-draft workout on Tuesday at Capital One Arena, as All-Star point guard John Wall sat courtside to watch a young player who could join him next season in Washington.

The Wizards hosted Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo just days after interviewing him at the NBA Combine in Chicago, Ill., another sign the 19-year-old is a legitimate option for their second round pick, set for 44th overall in next month's draft.

Diallo, who is originally from Queens, NY., said he is friends with Wall, as the two have crossed paths due to the Kentucky connection. 

"I feel like he knows what I'm capable of," Diallo said.

He now hopes the Wizards front office understands what he can do. Diallo is a defensive-minded wing who measured 6-foot-6 (with shoes) at the combine and with a 7-foot wingspan. He had the fifth-best max vertical leap at the combine, coming in at 40.5 inches. He was also the 12th-ranked player in the class of 2017 out of high school.

The measurables and pedigree are impressive, but Diallo's potential has yet to be realized. He didn't play a game despite attending Kentucky in the 2016-17 academic year. He tested the NBA Draft waters last summer before returning to Kentucky to average a modest 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Diallo has already worked out for the Chicago Bulls and will meet with plenty more teams, but is currently projected by most mock drafts to be a second round pick. This time he hired an agent and will definitely be making the leap.

"It feels good this year going through it with both feet in. It's been a great process," he said.

The Wizards like Diallo's defensive ability, his speed and awareness in the open floor and his potential to improve as a shooter. Diallo shot 33.8 percent from three on 2.1 attempts per game in the 2017-18 season.

"I hope to show my athleticism and how that plays a big part on the defensive end," Diallo said of his goals in pre-draft workouts.

"[The Wizards] are a team that wants to play fast and they have a fast point guard that needs players to keep up with him. That's what I tried to show in this workout, to show how fast I can play and show how composed I can play."

If the Wizards deem Diallo worth taking a chance on, he would provide a nice fit positionally. Though their second round pick could spend much of next season in the G-League, Diallo plays shooting guard and they have a need behind starter Bradley Beal. 

The Wizards see Tomas Satoransky as a possibility at backup shooting guard and Jodie Meeks is expected to return next season on a player option. But those guys were on the roster in 2017-18 and couldn't fill the void behind Beal, who logged more minutes than all but three players in the league. Meeks is also set to begin the 2018-19 season serving a suspension.

Diallo played at a big-time program and has the athleticism to compete at the NBA level early on. He could help a team improve long-term at guarding the perimeter, an area the Wizards have made strides in but still have a ways to go. That was seen in their playoff series against the Raptors when Toronto averaged 11.0 threes made per game and shot 41 percent.

Though it's early in the draft workout process, the Wizards have made it clear they are interested in Diallo.

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round pick, NCAA star

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round pick, NCAA star

The Wizards will have some recognizable names at their second pre-draft workout on Wednesday including potential first round pick Aaron Holiday of UCLA, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Here is the list with some notes on each player...

Aaron Holiday, guard, UCLA (6-1, 185)

The brother of two NBA players (Jrue and Justin), Holiday played three years at UCLA and averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals as a junior. He also shot 42.9 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game. He registered a 6-8 wingspan at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: possible first round pick, likely won't be there in second round; would solidify backup point guard position

Devonte' Graham, guard, Kansas (6-2, 175)

The Big 12 player of the year, Graham averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists as a senior. He posted a 6-6 wingspan at the combine. His uncle played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990s.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; would provide backup point guard depth

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, forward, Kansas (6-8, 195)

A big-time three-point shooter, Mykhailiuk shot 44.4 percent from three on 6.6 attempts per game as a senior. He averaged 14.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could be a three-point threat off the bench

Moritz Wagner, center, Michigan (6-11, 241)

Originally from Germany, Wagner was a standout in the NCAA Tournament as the Wolverines went all the way to the final. He averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals as a junior. He also shot 39.4 percent from three and measured at nearly 7-feet in shoes at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could develop into a capable stretch-five

Johnathan Williams, forward, Gonzaga (6-9, 225)

Williams began his career at Missouri before transferring. He averaged 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds as a senior. 

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League forward

Zach Thomas, SF, Bucknell (6-7, 228)

Thomas was the Patriot League player of the year with averages of 20.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior. He shot 40 percent from three for his college career.

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League forward

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