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Morning tip: 'Playoff' Bradley Beal born in Wizards' last series vs. Hawks

Morning tip: 'Playoff' Bradley Beal born in Wizards' last series vs. Hawks

The genesis of Bradley Beal's $128 million max contract, signed last summer, was May 5, 2015. That was Game 1 of the  Wizards' semifinal series with the Atlanta Hawks, who'll be their first-round playoff opponent starting Sunday.

This time, the Wizards are the higher seed. Then, the Hawks were the top seed in the East and pushed to the brink as Beal filled the void when John Wall went out with five non-displaced fractures in his left hand and wrist.

Coach Scott Brooks rested Beal in the regular-season finale at the Miami Heat, so his last appearance came with 33 points in closing down The Palace of Auburn Hills. He displayed every weapon in his arsenal in beating the Detroit Pistons, from three-point shooting to breaking his man down off the dribble and finishing through traffic at the rim. Beal's havoc opened space for Markieff Morris to knock down clutch shots from three-point and mid-range too. 

It was playoff Beal, who also has been Washington's most consistent perimeter defender. 

“That’s what good players create ... helping our team score without scoring," Brooks said. "Brad has the ability to draw attention off his cuts, off his pindowns and I thought this season he’s really improved in that and it’s only going to get better.”

In those three games missed by Wall, before he returned for Games 5 and 6 vs the Hawks in that series, Beal averaged 23.6 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds. He also gave Kyle Korver, who was the engine that made the Hawks' motion offense go, absolute fits. 

MORE WIZ-HAWKS: Looking back at the last time the Wizards and Hawks meet in the NBA Playoffs

Marked mostly by Beal, Korver was held to 7.0 points per game and just 12-for-42 three-point shooting, or 28.5%. Korver had led the league by shooting 49.2% on the long ball in the regular season.

The Wizards were convinced that Beal was a max player and the only question was his ability to stay healthy after so many stops and starts in his first four seasons. This was the first time, however, that he didn't have a stress reaction in his lower right leg. 

The medical staff and methodolgy were revamped to better deal with injury issues for all of the players and other than an early-season thigh strain that cost Beal three games and a rolled ankle that kept him out for one game, he was able to stay on the court. Brooks made significant changes to cut the length of practices which helped prevent overuse injuries such as stress reactions, a precursor to a fracture in the bone.

The results: Beal set career-highs across the board with 77 of 82 games played, 23.1 points, 48.2% field-goal shooting, 3.5 assists and 82.5% free-throw shooting. And he did it while still shooting better than 40% from three-point range. 

Beal's overall shooting accuracy is 34th in the NBA, and just second-best among shooting guards. Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets, who attempted six fewer shots per game than Beal (11), is No. 1 at the position at 50.2%. 

Korver is long gone from Atlanta, but they have a host of three-point shooters who will command Beal's attention on the defensive end such as Tim Hardaway and Mike Dunleavy. 

If Beal could solve Korver, who played on a better team that also had Al Horford, he should be able to figure out this group. 

RELATED: What the Wizards will need to beat the Hawks

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Celtics' Al Horford reportedly will decline option, become unrestricted free agent

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Celtics' Al Horford reportedly will decline option, become unrestricted free agent

Boston big man Al Horford is reportedly not picking up his $30.1 million option with the Celtics for the 2019-20 season, qualifying him as an unrestricted free agent according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Horford is reportedly interested in working out a long-term deal with the Celtics with negotiations beginning after the start of free agency June 30.

The five-time All-Star could help free up some of the Celtics' cap space with a deal under his $30.1 million option.

Horford joined the Celtics in the 2016 offseason, leaving the Atlanta Hawks. At the time, the Wizards had been a contender to sign him before he ultimately chose Boston. 

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

After months of scouting games, watching game tape, conducting interviews and holding workouts, one should logically expect some semblance of order with a given year’s draft class.

That simply won’t occur in 2019. Get past the likely top three picks -- Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett -- and anything is possible.

Over and over that is the position of numerous NBA sources heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft in which the Wizards select ninth overall.

“This draft is pretty unique,” said a Western Conference scout in recent days. “There are a few outliers and then the draft could really, really go in any direction. It’s really an eye of the beholder draft.”

In other words, after those top three, consensus doesn’t exist. Teams will surely add help and some prospects will ultimately turn into viable starters and perhaps more, but in June of 2019, there isn’t much love for the 2019 group especially in the lottery range.

There’s a general agreement within public mock drafts in terms of the five players after Barrett, but the order comes out in a variety of ways. Some observers see little difference between picks 4-12 while others view 9-22 comparable.

That anything-is-possible vibe has some believing more than the usual amount of trades occurring. One already went down, though the Pelicans adding the fourth overall selection wasn’t exactly the main point of Saturday’s deal with the Lakers involving Anthony Davis.

Yet the main reason behind all the anything-is-possible talk stems from several teams simply not loving the options especially in the top half of the draft. Therefore, why trade up if the player available in teens is comparable to the candidates at nine?

The same logic applies for the team holding the ninth pick. For the Wizards, the general hope is one player they truly desire slides to them or some team that covets a prospect is willing to pay a premium for a trade up.

Stay put and even without a shocker ahead of them, the Wizards can help their cause. Not with an obvious slam dunk selection, but in specific areas, eventually, hopefully.

This year, anything seems possible.

As stated above, projecting who goes where and the preferences of each team, especially in this era of positionless basketball, is a true challenge. Before getting into some league-wide notes, here are some educated guesses for the Wizards.

The rebounder: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. There might not a better selection for addressing numerous areas than the athletic 6-foot-8 power forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Wizards currently lack a true forward on the roster. This one brings three years of collegiate experience.

The 21-year-old Hachimura led Gonzaga with 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season while shooting 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts.

The Japanese native lacks upside compared to some other candidates and there are concerns about his basic hoops instincts. There have also been long-running whispers of interest from Washington.

The defender: Sekou Doumbouya, France. The still maturing 6-foot-9 forward with good size and length showed off his freaky athleticism in France's top league. As the youngest player in the 2019 class, Doumbouya will need more than a minute to find his footing and develop his perimeter shot, but his physical traits and defensive versatility match the direction of the modern NBA.

The polarizing upside: Cam Reddish, Duke. Reddish goes third on this list even though the likelihood is, based on year-long player projections, he becomes the pick if available. While it seems doubtful he falls past eight, Reddish feels like the one heralded prospect who could take a tumble on draft night.

The 6-foot-8 forward turned into a clanky 3-point shooter around mid-February and often faded late in games. While his perimeter stroke is pretty, Reddish struggled significantly around the rim. Yet his athletic fluidity is ideal. Combined with strong measurables (7-foot-1 wingspan) there is plenty to like. Where he lands in terms of team culture feels like a huge key to unlocking the potential vs. bringing out the worst.

Considering all the variables, Reddish represents a big test for the league's talent evaluators -- All-Star level talent or underachiever?

The scorer: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky. The likely wing threats available in the 9-22 range epitomize the risk-reward aspect in this class. Despite specific concerns, Nassir Little (raw instincts), Romeo Langford (27 percent on 3’s), Kevin Porter (undisciplined) and Tyler Herro (short wingspan) could all hear their names called before Johnson and with good reason due to their intriguing potential.

Meanwhile, the UK product offers hope with impressive athletic traits and a 38.1 percent clip on 3-pointers during his freshman season. On the other side, Johnson lacks playmaking skills; he averaged 1.6 assists in 31 minutes per game.

Nine seems high based on perception, but Johnson might be the prospect who turns out more coveted by teams than public big boards. While his range is considered 10-20, sources feel Johnson goes somewhere 15 or higher. Potential target if the Wizards trade down.

The high floor: P.J. Washington, Kentucky. Washington’s profile lacks the wow factor compared to the names listed above. What the sophomore offers is a steadier baseline in numerous areas including rebounding, defending, 3-point shooting and maturity. All of that comes with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. If the Wizards go safe rather than star chasing, Washington makes sense especially if they move down in the first.

*The feeling around the league is a lottery-picking team has made a draft promise to Hachimura with Minnesota the likely spot. That’s assuming the 4-man gets past the Wizards.

*For those of you wanting Oregon’s Bol Bol at nine, I hear you based on the height (7-foot-3), length and impressive perimeter shooting. Some of Bol’s game tape is wildly mesmerizing. The downside, however, ranging from his weight (208 at the Combine) to the injury risk to an inconsistent motor to defensive concerns beyond shot blocking, seems a bit much for the Wizards’ situation. Also not hearing much about a landing spot in the lottery, but subterfuge is real this time of year.

*Interesting that North Carolina guard Coby White worked out for the Wizards Monday considering most projections have him off the board by seven. Say Reddish goes before White and the scoring threat remains available at eight. Do the Hawks, already loaded with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, go elsewhere? That’s one way White could fall to nine.

*Speaking of promises, University of Washington wing Matisse Thybulle received one in the first round according to multiple sources and... Arkansas center Daniel Gafford to a team in the 17-23 range?

That would be quite a jump for Gafford based on public projections; NBCSW ranks him 31, Sports Illustrated 36 and ESPN 40. If true, the best guess among those teams is...Atlanta at 17? The Hawks need a center. This approach would allow them to take the best available at 8 (Reddish?) and 10 (Doumbouya?).

*Georgia center Nic Claxton, slotted 21st on the NBCSW Big Board, is receiving interest from teams picking in teens.

On to the main event...

2019 NBA Draft Big Board (with tiers)

TIER 1

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

TIER 2

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

TIER 3

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

TIER 4

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

TIER 5

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, France

10. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

11. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

12. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

17. Goga Bitadze, C, International/Georgia

18. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

19. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

21. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

22. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.

25. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

28. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

29. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

32. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova      

35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA

36. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee   

37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

38. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

39. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA

40. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

41. Louis King, SF, Oregon

42. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

43. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

44. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU

45. Naz Reid, C, LSU

46. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi

47. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

48. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

49. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College

50. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga

51. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania

52. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest

53. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

54. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan

55. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel

56. Miye Oni, F, Yale

57. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

58. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan

59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa

60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State; Justin Robinson, PG, Virginia Tech

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