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NBA trade deadline strategy: Wizards staying pat not laying down


NBA trade deadline strategy: Wizards staying pat not laying down

The Washington Wizards, broadly speaking, have three possible paths before Thursday's NBA trade deadline: Make a move, stand pat, punt away the season. It's time to examine each option. 

The two teams sandwiching the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings made a headline worthy deal Tuesday. Forget waiting for the deadline or staying with the cards in hand, Orlando and Detroit shuffled the deck.

That doesn't mean Washington should.

The franchise's decision makers put together a roster last offseason they felt could compete with the best of the best in the East. Through 51 games, those pieces haven't been together. Even if with put aside swingman Alan Anderson's season-long absence following ankle surgery, coach Randy Wittman has been dealing with a short stack of options more often than essentially every coach in the league.

With a little luck, that might change immediately.

Washington often played with 8-10 players in December and January. Wittman had 13 available in the final game before the All-Star break as Gary Neal (knee) joined Anderson in street clothes. Neal's injury seemed like a day-to-day scenario. When we last checked on Anderson, the veteran was progressing to the point he could be available before the month ends if not over the next week. The Wizards (23-28) return from the All-Star break with three games in three days starting with the Utah Jazz Thursday at Verizon Center.

Simply having all the pieces in place for the remaining games might be the missing piece for a playoff push. The Wizards are 10th in the East, three games behind the Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

If Bradley Beal plays the final 31 games, that's one more than he's played to date. Since returning from his latest leg stress injury on Jan. 13, he's played in 13 of 15 games with an evolving minutes limit. His stats in that stretch: 25.7 minutes, 17.2 points, 50.9 field goal percentage, 41.0 percent clip from 3.

If Beal keeps up the pace and plays around 36 minutes per game going forward -- he was on the court for 37 in Washington's previous game at Milwaukee-- his scoring jumps to 24.1 with 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Those are some useful numbers.

Other than a brief reunion with Nene and Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup, the Wizards are committed to small ball, to pace and space. Even though the overall personnel don't quite fit this plan, particularly at power forward, this still works seeing as it maximizes All-Star John Wall's talent. The primary issue with that approach to date, defense. Washington ranks 26th in points allowed (105.4). The primary culprit, 3-point defense. Opponents shoot a league-best 38.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Wizards. 

This brings us back to Anderson and brings up the question, why did the Wizards sign the 6-foot-6 wing? For his two-way perimeter game. Perhaps his presence changes the defensive flow while still giving Wall a viable 3-point shooter.

Now, don't confuse the return of Anderson, 33, as a splashy game-changer. Even if available, it could take a minute for the elimination of rust. That's why we're keeping the entire roster angle front of mind.

Ideally the Wizards would have a third go-to talent capable of scoring or creating for others when Wall and Beal rest. Perhaps simply having enough bodies so the likes of Wall, Beal, Jared Dudley, Gortat, Nene and Garrett Temple are not tasked with heavy minutes helps all become more effective when on the court. Trade deadline deals the previous two seasons fixed clear roster gaps. This group is two-deep everywhere when healthy.

Other considerations:

The Wizards have lost more games due to injury -- approximately 221 -- than any team in the league.

* Going forward, they have the second easiest schedule.

* It's not like the teams in the 4-8 playoff spots are running away from the Wizards. Washington is four games back in the loss column of Atlanta, the fourth seed. Rumors have the Hawks possibly breaking up their core. Who knows what happens with Miami, the fifth seed, if Chris Bosh's medical scare sidelines the big man. Charlotte reportedly lost forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a season-ending shoulder injury.

Lastly, let's talk cost and reality. Grabbing a stretch-four like New Orleans' Ryan Anderson would help, but the Pelicans might want a first round pick or rookie Kelly Oubre. That move could put Washington into the playoffs while hurting its future for a player on an expiring contract.

Perhaps the Wizards take on a multi-year contract like Detroit; Harris is in year one of a four-year, $64 million deal. If Kevin Durant dreams remain, adding payroll is tricky business.

Add it all up and staying pat has benefits, especially for those who believe the roster Washington put together last summer can contend when healthy. We might finally get the chance to see that scenario play out.

RELATED: Grading out: Where Kris Humphries stands at All-Star break

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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


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Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

When Mike Scott left to join the L.A. Clippers, the Wizards replaced him as the backup power forward with Jeff Green and in doing so found a guy who is similar in many ways, albeit for a cheaper price. He is experienced, versatile offensively and even a local guy who roots for the Redskins.

Where they differ on the offensive end is the ways they like to score. Scott is more of a three-point threat, while Green is more comfortable operating in the post. 

Last season with the Wizards, Scott attempted only a third of his shots from less than 10 feet, while Green took 54.2 of his attempts from that range. Nearly a third of Green's shots (30.3) came within five feet of the rim.

Green's ability to score inside and with his back to the basket may end up complementing others in the Wizards' second unit quite well. Three-point shooting is more important than ever in today's NBA and his ability to draw the defense inside can open up the floor for others like Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

The Wizards did not have anyone on their bench last season with Green's level of skill in the post and Green showed in the preseason a willingness to pass from the paint.

Against the Knicks in the Wizards' fourth preseason game, Green had the ball in the post when he noticed Satoransky's defender was moving closer inside, perhaps anticipating a rebound. He fired the ball to Satoransky, who pump-faked a three and dribbled to his right before knocking down a jumper at the top of the key.

"It's just smart basketball. There are a lot of unselfish guys," Green said of the Wizards' bench. "I think we just work well together. We feed off each other. I think we know how to play the right way."

Satoransky led the Wizards with a 46.5 three-point percentage last season. He knocked down 51.2 percent off catch-and-shoot plays. Rivers shot 37.8 percent from three last year for the Clippers and 37.1 percent on catch-and-shoot looks.

Oubre shot only 34.1 percent overall from three, but that number dropped significantly towards the end of the year. He can get hot from three and is dangerous when cutting to the basket off the ball. Ian Mahinmi, though not highly skilled in the post, can make defenders pay for leaving him on double teams.

It's not only about threes for Rivers and Satoransky, as Satoransky showed on that one play in New York. Both are solid at catch-and-gos. Rivers is decisive and quick and Satoranksy has made noticeable strides since he entered the league and taking off once he gets a pass. 

Green, 32, is still learning their strengths.

"I try to use their attributes to our advantage and creating what I can create," Green said. "If they can shoot and I'm being doubled, I'm going to make the right play and get it to the shooter."

The Wizards made upgrading their bench a big priority this offseason and the net result may be the most versatile group they have had in years. They can shoot threes, run the floor and, with Green in the mix, work inside and out.