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Morning tip: Why now? Wizards slowed down for Pierce


Morning tip: Why now? Wizards slowed down for Pierce

The logical question for the Wizards is if this smaller, fast-paced style is so much better, why didn't coach Randy Wittman start using it sooner? The answer is pretty simple, and he said it many times without actually saying it in previous seasons: They've lacked the personnel -- until now.

Now with rookie Kelly Oubre, Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson and Gary Neal, they're better-suited to quicken the pace. And if Otto Porter is ready to be the starter at small forward and Kris Humphries, who made 2 of 4 three-pointers in Tuesday's preseason opener, can make the long ball pushes them to yet another level.

The truth is, no pun intended, with Paul Pierce (and Porter still raw) this style wasn't doable even last season. John Wall, prompted by this exact question about Pierce, weighed in after practice this week (Note: Wall was asked specifically about Pierce. He did not voluntarily bring up his name but as usual answered honestly).

"No disrespect to Paul but we wanted to kind of be a half-court team. He couldn't get up and down the floor," Wall said of the the 37-year-old who left in free agency for the L.A. Clippers after one season. "He's not the young Paul anymore. He helped us out a lot in so many other ways in making big shots and being a leader. Now this is an opportunity to let Otto exhale, running the floor, being able to create off the dribble, slashing to the basket.

"Everybody can get it. Whoever gets it off the rebound just get it and go. Gives me the opportunity to run the lane and catch the ball on the wing and can attack right away instead of coming down and defenses setting up for me. ... At times (in the past), if Otto got the ball he really didn't want to put it on the floor. Now Otto is getting rebounds and pushing the pace. (Wittman) is believing in everybody and letting those guys know they can make plays just like I can."

And when Andre Miller was traded in February for Ramon Sessions, what was Wittman's chief concern? He wanted more pace (meaning possessions) with the second unit. With Sessions getting acclimated and Porter showing that he was able to live up to his No. 3 draft pick status, the Wizards went to the smaller lineups in the playoffs and the results spoke for themselves.

Aside from conditioning of his troops this season, he'll have to eventually figure out if Humphries or Drew Gooden can handle the responsibilities defensively of a stretch four. Or maybe he'll have to go even smaller. 

RELATED: Wall: No one close to being in shape for Wizards' up-tempo

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.