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Morning tip: Wizards reach midway point of season on a high note

Morning tip: Wizards reach midway point of season on a high note

The halfway point for the Wizards isn't the All-Star break which comes before the Feb. 19 game in New Orleans. It's now, following Wednesday's 104-101 win against the Memphis Grizzlies to put them three games over .500.

After playing out of a hole under first-year coach Scott Brooks, they're 22-19 through 41 games. John Wall and Bradley Beal are playing at an All-Star level. Otto Porter is having a career season and will be a candidate for the league's Most Improved Player, Marcin Gortat is a rebounding machine who is having his best season since arriving in Washington in 2013 and Markieff Morris has put together his best stretch of play since arriving in a trade almost a year ago.

It’s time to look at the highlights and lowlights:

Starting 5: Beal and Wall are averaging career-highs -- and set career high points for a game (Wall, 52; Beal, 42) -- and the offense is potent. They've gone away from high pick-and-rolls to initate the offense which has added more diversity and made both more difficult to cover. It hasn't negatively impacted the numbers of the role players. In fact, it's involved them more. They are a major reason why the team is averaging 108.6 points per 100 possessions, their highest since 2007-08. 

The bench: A lot of the early-season losses can be parked at the feet of no production from the reserves, who have struggled because of point guard play (Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky), rim protection (Ian Mahinmi) and defensive inefficiencies (Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton). That has put a heavy burden on the starters to play more minutes than what's ideal, but Burke has shown signs of being effective in spots and Satoransky has rebounded after confidence issues with his shot. Mahinmi has been a non-factor due to injury, but Jason Smith's play has been remarkable at both ends. Kelly Oubre has had his spots, too, though not as consistently as Smith. Thornton is completely out of the rotation. 

[RELATED: Coach Brooks, Wizards take stock at midpoint of season]

The rookies: Sheldon McClellan has been in and out of the rotation. With every one step forward (see wins over Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks) he takes two steps back (see next game vs. Chicago Bulls). He made key reads and passes that led to big shots in the first two, getting his points off hustle plays and in transtion, only to muck it up with bad decision-making on defense against the Bulls. Still, McClellan is a better option than Thornton and likely will get more looks but Satoransky is monopolizing the time now. Daniel Ochefu would've already played in the D-League if it weren't for Mahinmi's injury. They need the big body, but the Wizards like Ochefu and feel he's worth developing. Danuel House (right wrist) still is in a brace but should be out of it soon.

Best win: Dec. 18 vs. L.A. Clippers. Beal came one point shy of tying his career-high with 41 points, Wall had a double-double and Morris put up 23 points and nine rebounds in a fierce fourth-quarter comeback against an elite team. And they were short-handed with Kelly Oubre out because of a concussion. 

Worst loss: Dec. 6 vs. Orlando Magic. Wall set a career-high with 52 points and it still wasn't enough to beat a team that has trouble scoring. But because of bad all-around defense, Orlando had seven players in double figures led by Elfrid Payton's career-high 25. And it occured at Verizon Center. That edges out the Dec. 23 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks who scored 73 in the first half and won by 27. 

Biggest surprise: Smith. The way he began the season, looking confused and frequently fumbling the ball in offensive sets, didn't give cause for optimism. But he's not just playing well offensively by knocking down the mid-range jumper and occasional three but rotating properly on defense to serve as a rim protector. High-flying dunker Zach LaVine found that out when Smith challenged him running full speed at the rim. Smith won out. 

Biggest hurdle: Bench scoring on the road. The Wizards are 4-13. Reserves, by definition, don't play as well away from home. That's why they come off the bench. Burke shoots 53.6% from three at home. That dips to 25% on the road.

Projected record at All-Star break: 30-25.

[RELATED: CMills asks why Wall, Beal don't get more national attention]

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Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

The Anthony Davis trade will have ripple effects across the NBA, not only on teams, but also on the players involved.

Josh Hart, who was traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans as part of the package for Davis on Saturday, could stand to benefit from the move.

First, here's a look at all of the assets reportedly swapped in the deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Now, where does the Silver Spring, Md., native figure in the proceedings?

Hart spent his first two NBA seasons with the Lakers. He averaged 7.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game in his two years in Los Angeles. 

Still, Hart was often the Lakers' third or fourth option at shooting guard behind starter Brandon Ingram and shared minutes with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock and Lance Stephenson. 

LeBron James and the Lakers' win-now strategy left little room to develop Hart last season.

Now in New Orleans, he is part of a franchise rebuilding around presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. The trade gave the Pelicans both a younger roster and a long enough timeline for success to develop players.

That can only be good news for Hart, giving him the chance to start fresh and impress Pelicans general manager David Griffin and head coach Alvin Gentry with his potential. 

Where the Sidwell Friends alum fits into the lineup depends on several factors.

At first glance, the new-look Pelicans could start Lonzo Ball at point guard, move Jrue Holiday to shooting guard, then complete the lineup with Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and Julius Randle at center. 

If both Ingram and Holiday remain healthy, Hart would compete with Stanley Johnson to be the first wing off the bench for New Orleans.

But if Ingram does suffer recurring issues related to blood clots, Hart could press his case to start. 

The only issue complicating his place in New Orleans' plans is the No. 4 pick that was traded from the Lakers.

If the Pelicans keep that pick and draft a wing player like Jarrett Culver, Hart could find himself on the outside looking in again. 


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Pelicans reportedly trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a huge haul including Lonzo Ball

Pelicans reportedly trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a huge haul including Lonzo Ball

According to a report from ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired Pelicans' forward Anthony Davis in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and multiple first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The announcement comes less than 48 hours into the NBA offseason, although the rumors and speculation of the deal has been a prominent storyline for months.

The much-anticipated deal gives the Lakers the star they've been trying to pair with LeBron James for some time and gives the Pelicans a young nucleus to build around the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson. 

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Boston Celtics refused to part ways with promising forward Jayson Tatum in a potential trade with New Orleans.

The Celtics had been in the mix for Davis, but with Kyrie Irving likely headed for the exits, Danny Ainge was unwilling to part with his young assets in exchange for the one year remaining on Davis' contract.

Before the Davis domino fell, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes wrote about how a Davis trade could impact Bradley Beal's value

The Lakers, Knicks and Celtics all appear to want Davis and only one can get him, if he is even traded at all.

If the quest for Davis comes down to those three teams, there will be at least two that lose out.

The Knicks or Celtics now must determine whether trading for Beal is their next-best option behind Davis.