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Morning tip: Wizards' dilemma vs. stretch 4s and spread 5s

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Morning tip: Wizards' dilemma vs. stretch 4s and spread 5s

Basketball isn't all about offense, though ultimately it comes down to a team's ability to get buckets. The Wizards scored 106 points in Tuesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers, but it boiled down to their inability to defend the perimeter against stretch fours and in previous losses spread fives.

In other words, power forwards and centers -- some traditionally big with their size and others not so much -- with three-point range:

  • C.J. Miles had his season high at halftime with 22 for the Pacers, and he finished with 32 on 8 of 9 on threes. That's more than double his season average (On paper, Paul George was the starting four but he was defended by Otto Porter and scored a season-high 40 on 7 of 8 threes).

  • Carmelo Anthony, a career small forward who plays his best at the four spot, put in a season-high 37 points with 4 of 5 shooting on threes, 15 above his season average.

  • Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics combined to make 6 of 9 threes. Sullinger scored his season high (21) as did Olynyk (19). That's more than double Sullinger's season average and almost triple for Olynyk. 

  • Serge Ibaka's 23 points is his season high for the Oklahoma City Thunder -- almost double his average, too, -- as he made all of his three three-point attempts. It's the most made threes he has in any game.

That the Wizards (6-5) had a three-game winning streak ended isn't of great concern because games like Tuesday's happen. They contested a lot of shots as the Pacers (9-5) made 19 of 26 threes overall for 73.1%, an NBA record for games in which at least 25 attempts were made, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

But Kris Humphries, the Wizards' starting power forward who has shown the ability to hit the long ball, can't defend stretch fours like Miles, George, Anthony or Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks. Neither can Drew Gooden who is out of the rotation. Jared Dudley is a smart defender and can hold his own pending matchups, but when he's undersized intelligent offenses will isolate him to take advantage like the Hawks did with Millsap.

Porter is a solid wing defender, but as Anthony showed when he took him into the mid-post, he's not strong enough for that challenge yet.

"Melo was in the mid-range posting up and we had to come double-team," said Wizards point guard John Wall, who had eight turnovers and just five assists. "On these, they were coming off ball screens, iso-ing at the top of the key one-on-one and they just made some tough, contested shots."

So where can the Wizards turn? Rookie Kelly Oubre didn't make an appearance until garbage time, and like Porter two years ago he's probably not ready. Their best one-on-one perimeter defender Garrett Temple was splendid -- see the Hail Mary three drained by Miles, after Temple poked the ball away from Rodney Stuckey, to beat the shot clock from 30 feet for an 81-74 lead -- and has length at 6-6. Still, he's undersized if talking defending stretch fours.

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Nene is the best low post defender on the team and has a great basketball IQ like Temple, but he's not built to chase fours and fives around the perimeter. 

One possible (and likely most popular) solution is making a move before the trade deadline in February or use the Disabled Player Exception that they'll eventually be granted for Martell Webster to locate one. Of course, there's no guarantee that such a need will be on the market and available at a price that can be afforded under the salary cap. There isn't an assembly line of Draymond Greens out there looking for a home.

The other possibility -- and more likely and sensible one -- doesn't require a transaction. There was a glimpse of it in the fourth quarter for the Wizards who can make teams that go so small pay by going big and sticking with it. The Pacers are severely undertalented in the post with Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Their next best option was Lavoy Allen. Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 21 points (on 13 shots), 16 rebounds and nine assists as they played less than 24 minutes each.

"You got to have a balance. We want to run. We want to shoot," Dudley said. "We try to go to Nene as much. We need to go to Gortat a little bit more. It's tough when you're getting good looks. For us, those two are so pivotal. They're setting screens, they're doing the dirty work. You got to reward the big fellas. They want some touches. I thought we did a good job with Nene. And Gortat, hopefully throughout the next five or six games we can look at him a little bit more and get him more involved."

Instead of starting Humphries, who only played five minutes in the first half because of the style mismatch with Miles, maybe this is where Nene makes a start. He can't guard Miles, either, but Nene has a back-to-the-basket game which Humphries does not. Or given how unspectacular the Pacers are in the middle, go small everywhere to be more fluid in mixing coverages on George and Miles and dare Mahinmi to beat you.

It's not an easy fix by any stretch as this has been an issue for coach Randy Wittman and his staff since last season. But it is fixable.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

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More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by Nick Ashooh and Stefon Marquis to talk NBA Draft. 

They broke down five prospects and their potential fit with the Wizards: Moe Wagner of Michigan, Michael Porter, Jr. of Missouri, Grayson Allen of Duke, Collin Sexton of Alabama and Omari Spellman of Villanova.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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