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Morning tip: A free-agent bargain for Wizards, Jason Smith turns into game-changer, too

Morning tip: A free-agent bargain for Wizards, Jason Smith turns into game-changer, too

The answer to the Wizards prayers came in Jason Smith, perhaps the most unlikliest of their offseason moves. They allowed Jared Dudley to leave in free agency without an offer, Drew Gooden was not longer able to proved the start he had previously and eventually retired and Kris Humphries had to be shipped in a trade after a failed "stretch 4" experiment.

Smith, who'd set a career-best with four made three-pointers in a game at the L.A. Clippers during a five-game road trip, set a new marker for himself Tuesday by going 5-for-9 from deep en route to 17 points in leading a comeback for a 118-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets. 

"I told him take his mask off. He's really Ryan Anderson," said Markieff Morris of Smith, who signed a three-year, $15 million deal last summer. "It just gives another dimension to our team, a guy coming off the bench shooting threes like that."

That Morris mentions Anderson is appopriate. CSNmidatlantic.com reported after the Wizards whiffed on recruting Kevin Durant in free agency that Anderson was among their top targets as long as his pricetag didn't rise above $15 million-$16 million range. Anderson, who was confident that he was going to be in Washington, was shocked that an offer never came and he accepted $20 million per year for the next four from the Houston Rockets.

When Smith was signed, the face-up 7-footer had averaged just 7.2 points and 25% from three last season in 76 appearances with the Orlando Magic. This season, he's only averaging 5.6 but shooting 49.2% from three in 69 games. His overall shooting is 53.1% as he is automatic on elbow jumpers.

On the surface, it doesn't add up. But it does. Coach Scott Brooks has dropped Smith from the rotation completely at times when Ian Mahinmi returned from knee injuries. To clear a spot for him to get minutes, Smith has been sacrificed. Even after shooting 6 of 7 for 17 points in win at the Phoenix Suns, Smith was a healthy scratch the next game. 

And before that, Smith was 4-for-4 during 10 minutes to spark a blowout victory at the Toronto Raptors but didn't play in the next game, either. 

That Smith handles these moments with such professionalism is part of his allure. Even as he explained what took place Tuesday, he deferred to his teammates such as John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre and Bojan Bogdanvoic for setting the table for his offense.

"It's not me," Smith, in his ninth season, said. "It's John, it's Brad, it's Kelly, it's Bojan. They're all attacking the rim. I just space out. It's a credit to them."

When the season began, Smith was out of sorts as were the Wizards in a 2-8 start. He was on the floor with Andrew Nicholson and Marcus Thornton. Neither complemented him. It's a classic of case of playing with better players now has allowed Smith to be better. 

During the 2016 calendar year, Smith attempted just two three-point shots. In 2017, he has taken 68. He's big enough to play at the five spot behind Marcin Gortat and versatile enough to play behind Morris at the four. 

But to reduce Smith's value to just shooting is not doing him justice, and what he does isn't always quantifiable by a number. The eye test is best. And he's correct in Beal and the like are forcing defenses into such chaos, all he has to do is find the soft spot for the high-percentage look.

The film:

This the NBA in 2017. Screens are everywhere. If the switches are done properly the opponent takes the least likely to be made shot. That happens with Kemba Walker. He makes the jumper but Smith gets close enough to deny him the open three (the ideal shot) because he's 7 feet tall and can close to contest because of his athleticism. And by not being too close Walker he doesn't give up the driving lane There's no middle which is where Walker would have the most options. Instead he takes the long two via stepback.

Smith makes repeated switches, the most important one is cutting off Walker to help John Wall on the sideline. Imagine if Smith is late to that spot. Walker has a clear path to turn the corner and get to the rim. But Smith makes the initial switch with Gortat (from Marvin Williams to Cody Zeller) to stopping the ball and then sliding back to Williams as he fades to the weak side. Proper rotations eveywhere. The ball ends up out of bounds.

In the middle of the frontline, that's the MIG -- Most Important Guy -- or the 2.9 which is how many seconds you can stay in the lane without being called for a violation. Smith has to decide when to slide to the ball and when to slide towards his man floating weakside in case of a reversal or skip pass. He has to have good enough reaction time to successfully do both and does, blocking Jeremy Lamb on help to stop the layup. It's a multi-tasking role. 

Smith knocks down the three. But look at everything he does to get Beal the look before settling into the soft spot as the defense forgets to account for him. Take away Beal. Take away Gortat. Oh, what about Smiths' three-ball?

This is just a snapshot of what Smith has done so effecitvely. His $5 million per year is a bargain compared to other fowards on the market at the time.

-- Mirza Teletovic (Bucks): 3 years, $30 million for 6.4 points, 34.3% three-point shooting and less than 40% shooting overall. And not able to play as a spread five or defend at anywhere near Smith's level. 

--Luol Deng (Lakers): 4 years, $72 million for 7.6 points, 31.1% three-point shooting and less than 40% shooting overall. Also, not able to play the spread five or defend that spot.

--Solomon Hill (Pelicans): 4 years, $52 million for 7.0 points, 35.8% three-point shooting and less than 40% overall shooting. Can be a solid defender away from the rim, but can't play or defend the low-post spots at 6-7. 

There are plenty of other examples of players who are less efficient but cost more than Smith, but as important as the film or the stats is how he fits on a roster led by young stars.

"Jason is one of the best, true professionals that I've played with," Wall said. "A guy that didn't get too many minutes on the road trip and comes back and have a big game for us today. He's just always ready. ... Couldn't ask for more from a guy like that."

With the playoffs near, expect Brooks to rely on Smith more rather than less. His veteran's attitude has allowed him to toy with certain combinations to figure out what to do in the future and chances are that'll be rewarded.

He knows what he has in Smith. There are no longer any questions. Smith has Dudley's three-point shooting ability, Humphries' strength and Gooden's likability rolled into one roster spot.

[RELATED: Kelly Oubre's role model: Russell Westbrook]

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Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

When Mike Scott left to join the L.A. Clippers, the Wizards replaced him as the backup power forward with Jeff Green and in doing so found a guy who is similar in many ways, albeit for a cheaper price. He is experienced, versatile offensively and even a local guy who roots for the Redskins.

Where they differ on the offensive end is the ways they like to score. Scott is more of a three-point threat, while Green is more comfortable operating in the post. 

Last season with the Wizards, Scott attempted only a third of his shots from less than 10 feet, while Green took 54.2 of his attempts from that range. Nearly a third of Green's shots (30.3) came within five feet of the rim.

Green's ability to score inside and with his back to the basket may end up complementing others in the Wizards' second unit quite well. Three-point shooting is more important than ever in today's NBA and his ability to draw the defense inside can open up the floor for others like Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

The Wizards did not have anyone on their bench last season with Green's level of skill in the post and Green showed in the preseason a willingness to pass from the paint.

Against the Knicks in the Wizards' fourth preseason game, Green had the ball in the post when he noticed Satoransky's defender was moving closer inside, perhaps anticipating a rebound. He fired the ball to Satoransky, who pump-faked a three and dribbled to his right before knocking down a jumper at the top of the key.

"It's just smart basketball. There are a lot of unselfish guys," Green said of the Wizards' bench. "I think we just work well together. We feed off each other. I think we know how to play the right way."

Satoransky led the Wizards with a 46.5 three-point percentage last season. He knocked down 51.2 percent off catch-and-shoot plays. Rivers shot 37.8 percent from three last year for the Clippers and 37.1 percent on catch-and-shoot looks.

Oubre shot only 34.1 percent overall from three, but that number dropped significantly towards the end of the year. He can get hot from three and is dangerous when cutting to the basket off the ball. Ian Mahinmi, though not highly skilled in the post, can make defenders pay for leaving him on double teams.

It's not only about threes for Rivers and Satoransky, as Satoransky showed on that one play in New York. Both are solid at catch-and-gos. Rivers is decisive and quick and Satoranksy has made noticeable strides since he entered the league and taking off once he gets a pass. 

Green, 32, is still learning their strengths.

"I try to use their attributes to our advantage and creating what I can create," Green said. "If they can shoot and I'm being doubled, I'm going to make the right play and get it to the shooter."

The Wizards made upgrading their bench a big priority this offseason and the net result may be the most versatile group they have had in years. They can shoot threes, run the floor and, with Green in the mix, work inside and out.


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Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

On Saturday, two days before the deadline to finalize Opening Day rosters, the Washington Wizards waived four players - LaVoy Allen, Chris Chiozza, Chasson Randle and Tiwian Kendley - and in doing so trimmed their roster down to 14 players. That's one fewer than the NBA roster maximum of 15 players, meaning they opted to leave one of their roster spots vacant.

This was not a big surprise, but it's worth going through the reasons why they chose to do so for those who may be wondering. 

For one, the Wizards have a lot of money committed to their roster and could use some savings. They are fourth in the NBA this season with a total cap of $134.9 million. That is $11.1 million more than the salary cap limit, which means they are due to pay $19.1 million in luxury tax next year, according to Spotrac.

The Wizards also don't absolutely need that 15th player. They have two two-way players in Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae who collectively give them depth at a wide variety of positions. 

Under two-way contracts, they can be activated for up to 45 days this season before the Wizards have to decide on a fully guaranteed NBA deal. The NBA adjusted the rules this season to exclude travel days from that 45-day clock. The NBA days limit for Robinson and McRae also does not begin until G-League training camps begin on Oct. 22.

Speaking of the G-League, the Wizards have their own team now. The Capital City Go-Go will begin their inaugural season in November and that will give the organization the deepest stable of prospects (and roster spots) is has ever had. They now have much more room than ever to stash young players that would otherwise be considered for the final spot.

Even if the Wizards didn't have that option, as they did not last year, it wouldn't necessarily convince them to fill the last roster spot. Last season, they went without a 15th player for much of the year and for extended stretches only carried 13, the league minimum. They even rolled with 12 after the NBA trade deadline, as the league allows two weeks for teams to reach the minimum.

That recent history alone was enough to suggest they wouldn't fill the 15th spot. And, truthfully, that 15th spot rarely came into play as an actual need. This isn't the NFL where injuries make every roster spot incredibly valuable, or MLB where extra innings can sometimes make it feel like their rosters aren't deep enough.

Perhaps the Wizards will fill the 15th spot at some point this season. They can do so in a variety of ways, including if they trade one player for two. Just don't count on it, for all the reasons listed above.