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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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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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