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NBA Draft: Wittman desires pieces for new-look Wizards


NBA Draft: Wittman desires pieces for new-look Wizards

Do you like the modern, 3-point shooting Washington Wizards team that swept Toronto out of the playoffs and nearly took down Atlanta? Good bet the answer is a loud yes. If not, get on board. That look isn't going away.

That's the message Wizards coach Randy Wittman delivered following the heart-wrenching and series-ending Game 6 loss on Friday night. The next step is adding the proper players to the current mix headlined by guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. The process begins this offseason, starting with next month's NBA Draft.

"We know what we have to do, the pieces that were going to have to add, that I'd like to add moving forward," Wittman stated during his postgame press conference.

After lagging behind nearly the entire league with production from beyond the 3-point arc during the regular season, Washington fully embraced the long ball in the postseason. This wasn't simply about a change of schemes, but also personnel. Going with a smaller lineup, one that put more shooters on the court, which in turn helped open space for Wall, led the way. Beal thrived in these looks, playing the best basketball of his career against the Hawks.

"Brad (Beal) and John (Wall) are going to be here a long time," Wittman continued. "We have to utilize what their strengths are, and their capabilities and find the right people to put around them. Allows us to play the way that I think we're kind of playing in the series with Toronto and Atlanta."

After lagging behind nearly the entire league with production from beyond the 3-point arc during the regular season, Washington fully embraced the long ball in the postseason. This wasn't simply about a change of schemes, but also personnel. Going with a smaller lineup, one that put more shooters on the court which in turn helped open space for point guard John Wall, led the way.

The Wizards took 23.3 shots per game from distance during the playoffs -- nearly seven more than their regular season average. More minutes at power forward for Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden account for a chunk of that increase. Even if both veterans return -- Gooden is a free agent and Pierce hinted at retiring following the loss -- neither offers young legs. Center Kevin Seraphin's potential departure in free agency and Brazilian big man Nene entering the final year of his contract make adding more size a priority, along with a scoring threat on the perimeter.

Washington owns the 19th and 49th selections in the 2015 NBA Draft. Ed Isaacson, owner of NBADraftblog.com, spoke with CSNwashington.com about stretch-four options possibly available in the back-half of the first round. That group includes Bobby Portis (Arkansas) followed by Trey Lyles (Kentucky). Both could wind up in the lottery, along with Kevon Looney (UCLA). Christian Wood (UNLV) and Jarell Martin (LSU) are also first round candidates.

Injuries to Beal during his three seasons have left the Wizards light at times with offensive options on the wing. R.J. Hunter (Georgia State) and Justin Anderson (Virginia) offer shooting, perimeter size and savvy.

Assuming Pierce and Gooden return, then top-eight players in the postseason rotation remain intact, putting the Wizards position to take the best player available if needed. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville) is an athletic rebounding power forward who can run with Wall on the break. Small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offers defense and energy.

All of these players fit with a team looking to push the pace and spread the court. Sounds like the Wizards will remain one of those teams.

MORE WIZARDS: Those 'little things' that knocked the Wizards out of the playoffs

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.