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Morning tip: Finally healthy, Wizards look to pounce

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Morning tip: Finally healthy, Wizards look to pounce

Two years ago, the Wizards sat two games under .500 after the All-Star break. They returned to win 19 of their next 30 to make the playoffs for the first time in six years and stormed into the conference semifinals. Starting Thursday, the task is more steep as they near maximum health with the possible return of Alan Anderson while key teams in the East above them are limping to the finish line.  

"It's very, very open. You go all the way up to Boston, then you have Atlanta. (Tiago) Splitter is out for the year," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of the Hawks' backup center. "There's been a lot of talk they'll do something between now and (Thursday). You got Chicago with some injury problems. Jimmy (Butler) is going to miss some time. There's some chatter there with them doing something. There's an opportunity there for us. We're getting to the point to where we're close to being as healthy as we've been all year. We're not there yet but we're close. Opportunity is there for us. What are we going to do with it? Dedicate for eight weeks and 31 games and see where we can take it."

As a 10th seed, the Wizards (23-28) are five in the loss column behind the No. 3 Boston Celtics and trailing the No. 4 Hawks by four in the loss column. They've also got the most games left to play (31) with three consecutive games starting tonight vs. the Utah Jazz (rescheduled because of a blizzard), Friday vs. the Detroit Pistons and Saturday at the Miami Heat. 

Anderson (left ankle) practiced for the first time Wednesday and said he could be available to play. Otto Porter (right hip) needed the week off to let the tear in the cartilage calm his discomfort and Gary Neal (right leg) had to benefit as well. Time off only could help Nene (left calf) and Drew Gooden (right calf), both of whom have been available recently but missed time because of flare-ups. Bradley Beal (right leg/broken nose) could replenish as well as the recently returned Kris Humphries (right knee).

Wittman is going to have to decided who to deactivate come tip-off, with the best guesses being DeJuan Blair and Jarell Eddie provided that all 15 players are physically able to play.

"It's a good problem if you look at it as a problem. I don't look at it as that," Wittman said. "If I can get 15 guys healthy, Jiminy Christmas. ... Usually you got to pick a couple of guys to sit out. I haven't had to do that one time this year. I'm looking forward for that day. I'm going to walk in (the locker room) and be happy. They might not be happy. I'm going to be happy to go in there and say, 'You can't play today.'"

Most of the adjustments have to come from the defensive end, where the Wizards are the worst in the NBA at rebounding and defending the perimeter. 

"Can we defend, get stops and rebound the ball? That's got to be our focus these last 31 games," Wittman said. "That's how this team wins when we win."

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards weigh options: Potential trade targets and soon-to-expire DPE

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Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

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Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

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Little information out there about Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon

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Little information out there about Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon

Wizards fans will know a lot more about 2018 second round pick Issuf Sanon once he takes the floor next month in the Las Vegas Summer League, but for now the 18-year-old point guard remains a bit of a mystery.

There are limited highlights on YouTube and stats available to evaluate him. Most who have an opinion on the player are operating on little information. 

For now, what we have are some video compilations and quotes from the team. Team president Ernie Grunfeld described Sanon on Thursday night and says he's a player who could someday play both guard positions at the NBA level.

"[He’s a] very talented point guard, combo guard who is very athletic and he has real good upside," Grunfeld said. "Very athletic [and] very talented. [He] makes plays, he has a nice shot and he’s playing very tough competition.”

Grunfeld mentioned Sanon's athleticism many times. The Wizards saw Sanon at the NBA's international combine and love his combination of size and speed. He is 6-foot-4 and 1/2 and noticeably faster than those he competes against in the Premier A Slovenian League. 

Grunfeld likened Sanon's size and speed to Tomas Satoransky, a point guard currently on the Wizards' roster.

"He's a good ball-hander, very competitive and a lot like Tomas. We drafted Tomas at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA.”," Grunfeld said.

The highlights available of Sanon show a guy who clearly stands out above his competition. He has a knack for getting to the rim and can finish in a variety of ways. There are also many clips of him blocking shots, sometimes in the post and often from behind on the fastbreak.

NBA.com has an interesting breakdown of Sanon's most recent season in the Slovenian league from an advanced stats perspective. They applauded his defense and the numbers suggest he puts that unique athleticism to use on the defensive end of the floor.

Had a remarkable year defensively for his age. Gets in a stance and competes to help make up for his lack of experience. Pressures the ball with quick hands, but lacks a degree of anticipation to stay in front of elite athletes. Still figuring out how to handle ball screens without overthinking things, but held his own anyways for the most part. Allowed only 0.471 points per Isolation possession [92nd percentile]. A bit foul prone, but forces turnovers at an impressive rate. Has a good work ethic defensively which should serve him well as he gains experience.

Sports Illustrated raved about Sanon's motor on the court and his hard-nosed approach, two things that would seem to bode well combined with his explosive athleticism:

Rangy, athletic combo guard who plays both ends of the floor. Puts pressure on the rim. Likes to get downhill and attack the basket. Shows flashes in transition. Lots of natural talent.

Sanon spoke with Wizards reporters soon after he was drafted on Thursday night and said Russell Westbrook is a guy he models his game after. He plays at a much lower level of professional basketball, but there are similarities with Westbrook in Sanon's size and knack for scoring at the rim.

The stats only tell so much of the story, as he was going up against lower competition. It is worth noting, however, that his shooting percentage was low pretty much across the board. In 22 games during the 2017-18 season, Sanon shot 29.3 percent from three and 40 percent from the free throw line.

The Wizards have realistic expectations for Sanon, knowing it could take years before he even plays in the NBA. Many second round picks never make it at all.

Grunfeld pointed to Satoransky's career path as a possible timeline for Sanon, meaning the Wizards may not bring him over until he's in his 20s. He won't be able to help at backup point guard right away, but someday perhaps he can put his athleticism to use and actually help the Wizards.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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