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Morning tip: What's Wizards' single biggest need?


Morning tip: What's Wizards' single biggest need?

To say there's one answer to what ails the Wizards, who are 10-14 entering Saturday's game with the Charlotte Hornets, is incorrect. It's never that simple.

Health is a major issue, but before they started down this path they Bradley Beal (leg) and Nene (calf) on the court.

The trade market will heat up and most names publicly linked with the Wizards will be misdirection. Who knows who will be available, so instead of specific names this is about the single greatest need. 

I've come up with three. Correcting them all by season's end will not happen. But a combination of getting some players back and making a move by the February trade deadline can possibly solve two of them.

Keep in mind that the Wizards only have 14 of the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts. Ryan Hollins is non-guaranteed until Jan. 10, so he can be released at any time between now and then without penalty under the cap to open a roster spot. Plus, they have a Traded Player Exception granted by the league for Martell Webster who was waived because of right hip surgery:

Perimeter defender: Just look at how opponents shoot from distance. The Wizards are last in field-goal accuracy allowed from 25-29 feet (42.4%). By comparison, the New York Knicks allow 24% which is best in the NBA. The Hornets are third at 28.3%. Two years ago, when the Wizards had Trevor Ariza as their best perimeter defender, they were third best allowing just 32.2%. Last year with Paul Pierce, they were middle of the pack at 33.7%.

Size inside: If center Marcin Gortat isn't on, or gets into foul trouble or has to leave for a personal matter like he did when he missed three games, who can be relied on? Hollins made a couple of starts in his absence but now is out of the rotation. DeJuan Blair is getting the call for the moment but he's undersized at 6-7 and his lateral movement isn't as good. Even when Nene returns, he'll probably miss time again based on his history.

Stretch four: This is a problem area because Kris Humphries, who has started most of the games as the power forward, isn't a three-point shooter though he can make one occasionally. And when he has to defend true stretch players like C.J. Miles of the Indiana Pacers he's even more out of sorts. Drew Gooden (calf) probably works best here but he hasn't been healthy all season so Jared Dudley, who is 6-7, gets the call. Dudley isn't athletic and recovering off of help defense to contest at the arc is problematic for him, too. So a player with Gooden's size and Dudley's IQ would work best but that's a tall order.

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For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Washington Wizards have breathed new life into their season, now with revitalized hopes of making the playoffs. On Monday, they will get a shot at one of the teams standing in their way.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington, the Wizards host the Detroit Pistons in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and the Pistons are ninth.

With a win over the Pistons, the Wizards would move into a tie for ninth, just one spot out of the playoff picture. Though more than two months remain in the regular season, the Wizards can gain some valuable ground.

Whether that is on their mind going into the match-up depends on whom you ask.

"It's definitely too early to talk about it," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"I think there are some very important games [coming up] where we go head-to-head against the guys who are around us in the standings," guard Tomas Satoransky said, singing a different tune.

Satoransky doesn't just see an opportunity against the Pistons on Monday, he mentioned Friday's game against the Magic as well. Orlando is one spot behind the Wizards in 11th.

The standings are one thing. Even more important for the big picture is head-to-head records, which determine tiebreakers for playoff seeding. The Wizards are 0-1 against the Pistons, having lost in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

A win on Monday would tie the season series with only one meeting left, on Feb. 11. If the Pistons win on Monday, they would lock up the tiebreaker.

The Wizards have reasons to be confident going into this meeting with the Pistons. While they are playing their best basketball of the season, Detroit has been in a tailspin. Going back to Dec. 3, they are 7-18. Only the Cavaliers have more losses during that stretch.

In those 25 games, the Pistons have been 28th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.6) and effective field goal percentage (49.6). They have committed the third-most turnovers per game (15.6).

Injuries haven't been the reason, but the Pistons have a few to report entering Monday's game. All-Star center Andre Drummond missed their last game on Saturday with a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Guard Ish Smith is also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury.

The Wizards have a chance to beat a reeling team and gain some control of their playoff hopes. We'll see if they take advantage.


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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

The Wizards are set to add guard Gary Payton II on a 10-day contract to fill their 14th roster spot. Here are five things to know about the Wizards' newest player...

1. Payton II is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton Sr. His father made nine All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams, won a title with the Heat on 2006 and is considered one of the best defensive players of all-time. Payton starred for the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990s, so naturally Payton II is originally from Seattle.

2. His father also had one of the best NBA nicknames of all-time. He was known as 'The Glove.' So, according to Basketball Reference, Payton II is sometimes referred to as 'The Mitten.' 

3. Payton II, a point guard, is listed at 6-foot-3 and shoots left-handed. He has appeared in 29 total NBA games split between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He was Thomas Bryant's teammate in L.A. 

Payton II also spent time with the Portland Trailblazers in 2018-19 training camp before getting released in October. Since then, he played with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the G-League where he averaged 19.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.4 steals in 13 games.

4. Just like his father, Payton II played his college ball at Oregon State. With the Beavers, Payton II became the first player to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year twice. He averaged 2.8 steals per game in college.

5. Payton goes by Payton II, not by Payton Jr. That's because his half-brother is Gary Payton Jr. Payton Sr. named two of his sons after himself. There is also a third Payton brother named Julian, according to Payton II's college bio.