Quick Links

Morning tip: Wizards figure out 'death lineup' with Bojan Bogdanovic

Morning tip: Wizards figure out 'death lineup' with Bojan Bogdanovic

The area where the Wizards have struggled in the last few years to find an identity is with their lineups to close out games.

With the Golden State Warriors, for instance, when they won their NBA championship in 2015 and an NBA record 73 games in 2016, it was Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.

With the Wizards, it appears to be John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Bojan Bogdanovic and Markieff Morris following Sunday's 115-114 comeback win over the Orlando Magic

They flipped Bogdanovic as the "stretch" option at power forward rather than  Porter, a role he'd been filling earlier this season with Kelly Oubre as the small forward. But Porter and Bogdanovic are interchangeable. They can swap positions based on the matchups between the three and four spots.

Oubre's recent struggles, however, have kept him on limited minutes but in Bogdanovic they have a 6-8, physically stronger player than Porter. And they have a more consistent three-point shooter than Oubre.

If coach Scott Brooks wants to go to a more traditional big to stabilize them defensively vs. the opponent's small-ball lineup, he can still go with Ian Mahinmi.


While the backup center to Marcin Gortat isn't a threat to score from distance he provides them with the best pick-and-roll coverage and can switch out onto guards more effectively.  And they surround him with four shooters where he can post up smaller defenders (as he did successfully vs. Aaron Gordon) or have the rebounding edge to clean up the misses. 

The Wizards' plethora of shooters proved to be Orlando's undoing. Porter is the NBA's most accurate three-point shooter so when he got the ball Evan Fournier and Gordon ran to him. Coming off his shallow cut, Porter made the extra pass to the corner for Bogdanovic where he nailed what proved to be the winning shot with 46.8 seconds left. The scenario played itself out repeatedly down the stretch as the Wizards overcame a 17-point deficit.

"They put four three-point shooters out around one of the best point guards in the world," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "We got switches, which they're supposed to do and he still got points racing down the lane. We over-helped a little bit, not a lot and weren't able to get to the shooters.”

 That's what a "death" lineup does. It forces switches and rotations, putting the opponents in scramble mode and making them more prone to have a lapse or miscommunication.

Under previous coach Randy Wittman, the Wizards tried to make this system work. Instead of Bogdanovic, he used Kris Humphries in that role. He shot 31.5% from there last season. Drew Gooden dropped from 39% in 2014-15 to just 17% in an injury-plagued 2015-16. Jared Dudley became the best option but he was undersized, couldn't rebound or contest shots on the other end to create misses. Plus unlike Bogdanovic, Dudley couldn't beat closeouts off the dribble to finish at the rim.

Now Brooks has several viable options at the stretch four in Bogdanovic (38.2%), Porter (45.3%) or Morris (36%). Or he can play them all thre simultaneously with two guards with Morris as the spread five option. 

Either the perimeter opens for threes or the driving lanes open for Wall to get to the rim.

Or in Sunday's case, both.


Quick Links

Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

Getty Images

Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.


Quick Links

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.