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Ramon Sessions steps up with John Wall sidelined


Ramon Sessions steps up with John Wall sidelined

Ramon Sessions didn't have much time to react. Sure, everyone knew John Wall's swollen left wrist made him iffy for Game 2 against the Hawks. However, the stated belief from all involved had the starting point guard starting Tuesday night.

Everything changed during pre-game warm-ups. Wall was out. Sessions was in.

“It was a last minute thing, right before the game, probably 60 minutes on the clock," Sessions explained. "We decided John wasn’t going to play, so I knew right then I was going to step in."

Step up he did. Sessions attacked the basket off the dribble and drained shots from distance. He scored Washington's first 10 points of the third quarter and helped keep the Wizards in contention until the final minutes despite playing without their leading man.

In his fourth start with Washington since being acquired in February before the NBA's trading deadline, the veteran guard scored a team and season-high 21 points in the 106-90 loss.

"Just be aggressive, play my game, keep the pace going, as John (Wall) does well. Just trying to push the team like John does," Session said of his approach.

The Wizards played from behind most of the game, but tied the score at 73-73 late in the third quarter and trailed 88-83 with 6:01 remaining after Sessions split a pair of free throws. They would get no closer. Atlanta methodically pulled away as Washington went without field goal for the final the 3:15.

Many doubted whether the Wizards could keep it close that deep into the game without their All-Star guard. Instead they chugged along with contributions from all corners, including Sessions, who made his first three 3-point attempts and finished 8 of 14 from the field overall.

“[The Hawks] were keyed in on Brad (Beal) and Paul (Pierce) so much that it was giving me my shot. I was just shooting it and staying confident," said Sessions, who struggled shooting initially before finding a rhythm. "The first few didn’t go down, but I was just trying to stay aggressive."

His coach appreciated the performance, which included defending Jeff Teague. The Hawks point guard had 13 points and eight assists, but finished 3 of 12 from the field.

[MORE WIZARDS: 27 things that happened in the world since the last Wizards loss]

"Sessions came in and did great," Randy Wittman said. "I couldn’t ask for more from him."

Wittman couldn't ask Sessions to be Wall because 1) few can and 2) the point guards may play the same position but in very different ways.

Both have the ability to drive and create scoring opportunities for themselves, especially from the free throw line. However, Wall is a true floor general with the ability to see all the angles, feed his teammates with precision and purpose. He recorded 10 or more assists in four straight games, racking up 55 total in that span.

Though not a blur with the dribble like Wall, Sessions can play with pace. He's also wise enough to know what he's not. We're talking about a competent musician versus a jazz artist capable of elite improvisation. Sessions avoided throwing daring passes cross-court or burst down the lane knowing a plan will form in mid-flight like his injured teammate. Sessions finished with a competent four assists and two turnovers.

"I was just trying to pick up from where John left off," Sessions said. "It’s hard to fill a guy’s shoes that is as great as he is. I tried to just come in and play my game.”

Whether those need filling for Game 3 is the major question as the series shifts from Atlanta to Washington. 

In the interim, starters Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat also helped pick up the slack, as did reserve forward Otto Porter. Guard Garrett Temple contributed in his first appearance since missing nearly two months with a hamstring strain.

"It wasn’t just me. Everybody had to try to step up," Sessions said. "We fell short. Atlanta played well. We have to get back in the gym and get ready for the game Saturday.”

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s season...

Player: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Position: Small forward

Age: 22

2017-18 salary: $2.1 million

2017-18 stats: 81 G, 27.5 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 40.3 FG%, 34.1 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 48.2 eFG%, 106 ORtg, 109 DRtg

Best game: 3/21 at Spurs - 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 9-for-17 FG, 3-for-6 3PT

Season review: The first half of Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s 2017-18 season went very differently than the second half. Through 46 games to begin the year, Oubre shot 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the perimeter. Oubre then shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three in his last 35 games to close the regular season. That included a stretch from March 25 through April 5 in which he shot 2-for-35 from long range and 23-for-77 (29.9%) overall in seven games.

As his head coach described, Oubre had a tale of two seasons. By mid-January it appeared to be a breakout year, as he was scoring consistently and shooting at a high percentage. He was even limiting his mistakes on defense. Then, his shot went away and Oubre could never quite regain it.

All in all, Oubre's season represented a step forward. He proved he could be a top-six player in a playoff rotation and had extended stretches of success he can draw confidence from in the future.

Now Oubre enters his biggest offseason yet as a basketball player. He has just one year left on his rookie scale contract and will be in line for a considerable raise if he keeps developing. If Oubre takes even a slight step forward, he will make big money in his next contract. If he takes a major leap forward, like Otto Porter did when he was in the same position in 2016-17, he could earn way more money than the Wizards can afford as currently constructed.

That dynamic gives the Wizards a decision to make this summer on Oubre's future. He has significant trade value at this point, given his upside and his contract. He is due to make just $3.2 million next season and will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. If they don't see a long-term future for him in Washington, trading him this offseason should not be ruled out.

It figures to be a busy summer for the Wizards and when it comes to Oubre there are a lot of factors in play. If they want financial flexibility, another option would be to deal Porter or another frontcourt starter and roll with Oubre as a less expensive option. Though his season was inconsistent, Oubre has shown enough to warrant consideration as a starter.

Regardless of what the Wizards decide, Oubre himself is in good shape. If he keeps getting better, he will earn a nice deal whether it's in Washington or somewhere else. He just needs to find consistency on both ends of the floor. 

He can do that on offense by tightening up his ball-handling and improving his ability to get to the rim. That would allow him to circumnavigate the type of shooting struggles that held him back late in the year.

Defensively, he has all the natural ability needed to be an elite player. He just needs to limit the gambles he takes that turn into blown assignments or unnecessary fouls.

Potential to improve: Consistency, efficiency, ball-handling


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