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Morning tip: Pierce says Wizards have put East on notice

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Morning tip: Pierce says Wizards have put East on notice

The earliest the Wizards will begin their second-round series is Sunday, with Game 1 at the Atlanta Hawks or at home vs. the Brooklyn Nets, but having the rest of this week off to get healthier and reform their game plan only can help. They'll have time to prepare while those two teams will be consumed with each other.

The Wizards destroyed the Toronto Raptors in four games, closing out their series over the weekend. They had Monday off and will resume practice today. 

"I think it does send a message that you can’t take Washington lightly," Paul Pierce said of how dominant his team was after a 125-94 in Game 4. "We lost 3-0 to Toronto (in the regular season). We also lost 3-1 to Atlanta. And we got blown out a couple times by Brooklyn. …They're going to see a different ballclub than they saw in the regular season."

Pierce wasn't with the Wizards last season when they advanced to the second round before losing in six games to the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers. This version is clearly better and more versatile in part because of his presence. 

Pierce rested a lot at the end of the regular season so his right knee, which had been bruised around midseason, could get better. Bradley Beal bumped his right knee in Game 3 with Toronto and played through the bruise to score a game-high 23 points Sunday. John Wall has had soreness in his right knee and both ankles and Garrett Temple was inactive for the first round because of a right hamstring strain.

Drew Gooden, in the playoffs for the sixth year of his 13-year career, has been to the NBA Finals. The wait can help but it also can backfire. 

"It's tough to say until Game 1," Gooden said of the East semis. "I could sit here and say the more rest we have the better for Game 1 but that's not actually true. I've seen guys sweep a series, sitting around for a week and lose Game 1 whether it's at home or away. We don't want to be too sluggish at the same time so it's a happy medium of having rest and being ready to play."

Wall shot about 38% but averaged 12.5 assists vs. Toronto. The pace he set with the offense and defensive ball pressure were too much to handle. It's a better start for him than he had last season when the Wizards upset the Chicago Bulls in five games in the first round.   

"We want to get to the Eastern Conference finals but we got to take it one game at a time, each round at a time. It’s great to get this out the way and get a bit of rest while other guys are playing," Wall said. "We didn't finish the season as well as we wanted to. A lot of people didn't have us favored in this series because we didn't beat them in the regular season. We've showed a different mind set during the playoffs."

[RELATED: By the numbers: Wizards defenders didn't leave Raptors alone]

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

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