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Morning tip: Wizards could be running out of time to turn around season

Morning tip: Wizards could be running out of time to turn around season

After the Denver Nuggets left Verizon Center the last time, Jared Dudley slammed the door shut in the locker room to hold a players-only meeting for the Wizards. 

His message at that time, to paraphrase: We've got to help each other because they aren't going to do it.

By "they," Dudley was referring to the coaching staff led by Randy Wittman, who was fired after a 41-41 season that was contentious early and often as the Wizards struggled just to get to .500.

The Wizards were 20-24 and hemorraghing points. They hadn't acquired Markieff Morris in a trade, and Dudley was the starting stretch power forward logging more minutes than he anticipated and unable to defend starters at his position one-on-one. 

RELATED: Film study: Defensive collapse in Magic loss

Today, the Wizards are 7-13 and coming off a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, 124-116, after John Wall's career-high 52 points. A lot of the personnel has changed and problems are the same, but the attitudes towards the coaching staff appear to have shifted180 degrees.

Scott Brooks has his work cut out for him as he has mixed and matched his lineups repeatedly and has yet to find sustained success with a bench that's limited on both ends of the floor. His stars, Wall and Bradley Beal, are playing heavy minutes. So is his oldest player, Marcin Gortat, at 32. How much more bending can be done until something breaks?

“We have to be able to sustain the sense of urgency, possession by possession, we haven't been able to do that," Brooks said Monday. "Our guys need to come out better with the defensive disposition, of just being solid with understanding the principles of guarding your man, understanding the principles of contesting the shot, and also understanding the principles of blocking out. We've all learned that from the day we started playing, but we have to be able to do that consistently throughout the game to give us the best chance to win."

Offensively challenged teams such as the Magic have hurt them all season. The Philadelphia 76ers scored 109 in a win, minus Joel Embiid and with Jahlil Okafor playing on a minutes restriction. The five-win Brooklyn Nets dropped in 113 in a loss. The Miami Heat scored a season-high 114 in a victory. The New York Knicks scored 112, and 47 of those points were allowed in the fourth quarter alone. The Magic had 40 in the second quarter to blow Monday's game open. 

“The 40 points in the second quarter, it's unacceptable," Brooks said. "Offensively, 116 points on your home court, you should not lose that game, and we've done that a few times now.” 

After a stretch of games vs. the likes ot the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs twice, games like tonight's with the Nuggets should end up in the win colum if the Wizards hope to be in contention for a playoff seed.

That was everyone's feeling coming into the season, including Brooks. The quarter pole will be here with 21 games played following Thursday's game. 

MORE WIZARDS: Was John Wall right to call out his teammates?

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Former Wizards Mike Scott, Jared Dudley deliver the drama in Sixers-Nets Game 4

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Former Wizards Mike Scott, Jared Dudley deliver the drama in Sixers-Nets Game 4

The 76ers-Nets playoff series has been wild from the start, but the trash talk and physical play reached the next level in the Sixers' Game 4 victory Sunday. 

The contest featured two ejections as well as a game-deciding shot with 19.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the middle of it all? None other than Jared Dudley and Mike Scott, who played for the Wizards in 2015-16 and 2017-18, respectively. 

Tensions between Dudley and the Sixers had been simmering since he slammed Ben Simmons in the media after Game 1.

With 7:42 left in the third quarter Saturday, Joel Embiid committed a flagrant foul on Jarrett Allen under the basket. An incensed Dudley shoved Embiid, prompting Jimmy Butler to push Dudley away.

When Simmons to try to separate the two, he and Dudley got tangled up and tumbled into the front-row seats. Both Dudley and Butler were ejected on the spot. 

The Nets held a 67-61 advantage when Dudley and Butler were tossed, but that lead dwindled to one point with under a minute left to go. 

Brooklyn made the mistake of leaving Scott open in the corner, where Embiid set him up for a go-ahead three-pointer with 19.7 seconds remaining.

A pair of Tobias Harris free throws sealed the Sixers' 112-108 win, putting them up 3-1 in the series. Scott and company can finish off Dudley's squad in Game 5 on Tuesday. 

In the meantime, listen as Scott goes 1-on-1 with Chris Miller in the latest Wizards Talk Podcast. 

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Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 5: WILL THE WIZARDS GET LUCKY IN THE DRAFT LOTTERY ON MAY 14?

Though the Washington Wizards made some poor decisions to create the mess their next general manager will need to clean up, they have also been struck with a good deal of bad luck. John Wall falling in his home and rupturing his Achilles tendon certainly qualifies. Dwight Howard suffering a relapse with his back and requiring surgery to repair a herniated disc was out of their control. And if Bradley Beal makes All-NBA and qualifies for a supermax this summer, the timing would not be ideal as far as their finances are concerned.

The Wizards have long been one of the most snakebitten franchises in sports and even stand out in a city where curses are often blamed for sports misery. They could use some luck for a change and especially on the night of May 14.

That's when the 2019 NBA draft lottery will take place in Chicago, Ill. ESPN will broadcast the event live at 8:30 p.m. as the ping-pong balls fly through the air, determining the order for the June 20 draft and therefore the future of the league.

The Wizards will for the first time since 2013 have high stakes in the lottery. They had finished with at least a .500 record for five straight seasons before bottoming out in 2018-19. But their 32-50 record this past season gave them the sixth-best lottery odds and, in the first year under new lottery rules, that has left them in excellent shape ahead of May 14.

The Wizards lottery odds will break down pick-by-pick like this:

1st - 9.0%

2nd - 9.2%

3rd - 9.4%

4th - 9.6%

5th - N/A

6th - 8.6%

7th - 29.6%

8th - 20.6%

9th - 3.8%

10th - 0.2%

The two most important numbers to consider are nine and 37.2. They have a nine percent chance at the first overall pick and a 37.2 percent shot at selecting in the top four.

The Wizards' nine percent odds at No. 1 are only five ticks lower than the top teams in lottery odds, the Knicks, Cavs and Suns who are tied at 14 percent. Though their chances are still less than one-in-ten, that means they will be very much in the mix to land the ultimate prize, Duke forward Zion Williamson.

Williamson would change everything for the team that drafts him, but perhaps especially for the Wizards, considering the alternative direction their franchise could go. They already fired their general manager and have an uncertain future with their head coach Scott Brooks and arguably with their best player, Beal, as well. They appear to be teetering on the brink of a rebuild and Williamson could jumpstart them into the other direction.

No draft prospect, maybe with the exception of LeBron James in 2003, offers guarantees. Williamson could top out as a good, but not great player. But few who have dominated college basketball quite like he did have then failed to live up to the hype. Consider the fact he is only the third freshman ever to win the Naismith award for NCAA's best player. The other two were Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.

One NBA front office executive told NBC Sports Washington he believes Williamson will be an All-Star as a rookie and not just because of fan voting. He has superstar potential, both from a production and marketing standpoint. Williamson would likely step right in as at least the Wizards' second-best healthy player and as the face of their franchise, the player most associate them with.

Landing the top pick is not the only way May 14 can result in a success for the Wizards. Jumping into the top four would be a major victory, especially in this year's draft which appears to be top-heavy. That could mean a chance to draft Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett, Williamson's teammate at Duke. 

Barrett would be a nice fit alongside Beal and Wall when he returns from injury. He complements them positionally and has All-Star potential.

If Morant is the best player on the board, the Wizards should take him. But doing so would create a brand new storyline of how he would co-exist with Wall, who plays the same position. That dynamic would be hard to ignore for as long as they are together in the organization.

Though the Wizards have a better than one-in-three shot at the top four, their two most likely landing spots are No. 7 and 8 overall. If the Wizards did not make a major jump in the lottery, they may be wise to trade back and acquire more picks. They do not have a second round pick this year and not until 2023. They also have roster spots to fill and could use more young (and cheap) players.

The Wizards may not have to trade back very far to stock their cupboard with more picks. Last June, the Hawks got a lightly-protected first round pick from the Mavericks for going back from No. 3 to No. 5. The Sixers traded back from 10th to 16th with the Suns and scooped the Miami Heat's unprotected 2021 first round pick.

In a draft that most consider to not be deep outside of the top four or five picks, the Wizards may not see a huge difference in the eight pick and, say, selecting 12th. And that could be the key to getting another first or a collection of second round picks.

There are so many scenarios for the Wizards that all depend on their luck on May 14. Who they choose to send as their representative will be interesting. Will it be Beal, who right now is their biggest star? How about Wall, who was the first overall pick in 2010 and would be able to impact the franchise in an indirect way despite his long-term injury absence? It could also be whomever they hire as their new GM, or someone in the ownership group.

The Wizards, like the 13 other teams in the lottery, will be hoping for a blessing from the basketball gods.

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