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Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 2, Bucks

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Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 2, Bucks

So what teams in the Eastern Conference did the most to improve for the 2015-16 season? The availability of cap space and the status of retaining one's own free agents factors into what teams are able to do. The countdown starts with teams that did the least to enhance its roster -- and depending on the team that could be a good thing. 

Former Wizards big man JaVale McGee finds new team

No. 2, Bucks

Last season's record: 41-41: Finish: 6th in East. Eliminated in first round of playoffs.

Key additions: In the draft, took SG Rashad Vaughn at No. 17. Made a deal that same night to acquire PG-SG Greivis Vasquez from Toronto for No. 46 pick, SG Norman Powell and a first-round pick. In free agency, brought in PF-C Greg Monroe.

The skinny: The big fish is Monroe, who sided with Milwaukee over bigger markets in Los Angeles and New York that courted his services. Look across their likely starting five and there is nothing but length, size and versatility starting with 6-7 PG Michael Carter-Williams and 6-10 SG Giannis Antetokounmpo. The bench is even deeper with Vasquez, who can play both guard positions, coming aboard and a long, athletic shot-blocker such as C John Henson. They can play slow tempo or speed it up which is key. 

Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 3, Knicks

Projected finish: 3rd-4th. This team will get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They're too deep and versatile not to and defense will help them get out of a lot of jams. They play hard for coach Jason Kidd.

 

 

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

NBA Summer League is right around the corner. While the Washington Wizards continue a search for a new president, they do have one thing pinned down: the Summer League training camp roster.

The Wizards open Summer League play in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, when they take on No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Mini camp begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Players will participate in a two-hour practice each day.

Here is the training camp roster:

Noah Allen, G/F, Hawaii (Capital City Go-Go)
Armoni Brooke, G, Houston
Elijah Brown, G/F, Oregon (Grand Rapids Drive)
Troy Brown Jr., F, Oregon (Washington Wizards)
Dontay Caruthers, G, Buffalo
Troy Caupain Jr., G, Cincinnati (Orlando Magic)
Corey Davis, G, Houston
Dikembe Dixson, F, UIC (Capital City Go-Go)
Kellen Dunham, G, Butler (Capital City Go-Go)
John Egbunu, C, Florida
Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Vince Hunter, F, UTEP (AEK Athens Greece)
Garrison Mathews, G, Lipscomb
Tarik Phillip, G, Ukraine (Petrol Limpija Ukraine)
Admiral Schofield, F, Tennessee
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Lavrio B.C. Greece)
Tony Wroten, G, Washington (BC Kalev-Cramo Estonia)

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Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura was introduced to the sport of basketball at 13 years old after spending his childhood on the baseball diamond, emulating Ichiro Suzuki, as many kids in Japan do. Just eight years later, Hachimura has charted his own path as the first Japanese-born lottery pick in the NBA after the Washington Wizards drafted him at No. 9 overall.

That trajectory is important to note when considering Hachimura's age. He is 21 years old, which is on the older side for an NBA draft prospect in the age of one-and-dones. But, you could say he's only eight in basketball years.

That's not a technical term used by NBA front office executives, but the fact Hachimura is a "late bloomer" was one of the biggest selling points for the Wizards. That's how interim team president Tommy Sheppard described him on several occasions the night of the draft and the day after. And even majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced it when asked about the pick in an interview with the Washington Times over the weekend.

While reason may suggest a younger player has higher upside, the Wizards are looking beyond simple age. In Hachimura, they believe they have a player who could benefit from not having the year-round strain of AAU basketball in his past.

"When you come to the game a little bit later, maybe you don't have some bad habits that you accumulate. You don't have a lot of extra miles," Sheppard said. 

"Those kinds of things resonate with us. You have to be healthy to play in the NBA, and there are so many players in this particular draft that for whatever reason, there are a lot of sad faces tonight because I think medical held a lot of people back. He has a clean bill of health, and that's exciting to us."

Sheppard could have been referencing any number of prospects who carried the label as an injury risk into draft night. With the ninth overall pick, the Wizards took Hachimura over Duke's Cam Reddish, who has several red flags, injuries among them. In the second round, they passed on Oregon's Bol Bol, who had a stress fracture in his foot, in favor of Admiral Schofield.

But health isn't the only potential benefit of picking up the game at a later age. Sheppard alluded to the development of bad habits. He thinks Hachimura is more of a blank canvas for the coaching staff and that could work in their favor long-term.

Sheppard made a comparison for Hachimura that was interesting for several reasons.

"With [Raptors forward] Pascal Siakam, you see what happens when guys come to the game a little late and what he was able to do. It's not the same, but if you ask me of someone who's story his reminds me of, it could remind you of something like that," Sheppard said.

Siakam's name was invoked over and over during the pre-draft process but more often to draw a parallel for Sekou Doumbouya of France. Sheppard was more so comparing the development track for Hachimura than the playing style, but it holds some weight.

There have been some famous cases of late bloomers in NBA history. Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Joel Embiid reportedly didn't start playing basketball until high school.

Duncan may be a good example of avoiding bad habits, as he is considered one of the most fundamentally sound players of all time. Olajuwon might be the most skilled big man in NBA history, and Embiid has a chance to become an all-time great.

What gives the Wizards hope that Hachimura will reach his potential and someday enjoy breakout success like Siakam has is his work ethic. The Wizards did deep background research on Hachimura, including through discussions with his college coach, Mark Few of Gonzaga.

They believe they found something in Hachimura that other teams may have overlooked.

"The things that you hope for and that you're optimistic about, they seem to be there. So, we're excited about that," Sheppard said. "It's really up to Rui and how bad do you want to be good?"

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