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Should Wizards rock big man rotation or roll with what's worked?


Should Wizards rock big man rotation or roll with what's worked?

The Wizards have dropped the last two games in the best-of-seven series against the Atlanta Hawks and now trail 3-2 heading into Friday's Game 6 in Washington. That means one more loss and summer vacation begins.

They've also won six of nine playoff games and easily could have triumphed in the last two. Pick up two more victories against the Hawks and the Wizards advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1979.

It's with that broad look at Washington's fortunes in the postseason with which coach Randy Wittman answered a question Thursday about possibly altering his frontcourt rotation. Specifically, what about using Kris Humphries considering Paul Pierce and Nene have struggled defending Atlanta's Paul Millsap. 

Nene, Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden are the true interior options Wittman has used against the Hawks' mobile frontcourt with Pierce picking up minutes as a stretch-four perimeter shooter.

"It's been successful," the coach said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday about his big man rotation.. "You don't want to change too much."

In fact, Wittman liked certain aspects of the matchup in Game 5 with Millsap, who is a dangerous threat because he can beat smaller players (Pierce) inside and maneuver for jumpers against beefy defenders (Nene) outside. Millsap scored 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting.

"I didn't have a problem with them trying to post because that's not their game," Wittman said. "If they want to do that, put isolation in, try to go against our mismatch, I don't have a problem with that at all. Now the flow of their offense isn't what it can be. Paul (Pierce) got scored on a couple of times, but what did Millsap end up with, 12, 14 points? That wasn't a problem."

Pierce, Nene and Gortat aren't falling out of the playing mix regardless. As for Gooden, the veteran forward has been off his game of late. On Wednesday, he played 12 minutes, his fewest in the playoffs this season. Gooden missed all four of his field goal attempts, falling to 1 for 10 over the last two games. Like the others, he doesn't offer much resistance against Millsap or Al Horford.

There are reasons why Gooden has remained in the rotation while Humphries and Kevin Seraphin mostly watch. His ability to shoot the 3-point helps open the court for John Wall's penetration while providing room for either Gortat or Nene to work inside. 

We discussed during the regular season just how a lineup with Drew Gooden joining starters John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat rocked. The Wizards went 12-1 in games that quintet played together (the lone loss came in double-overtime). In the playoffs, 4-0 (in fairness, we're not talking about substantial minutes with this unit, but wins are wins). That unblemished record remains because that unit did not receive any run together in Wednesday's loss. 

If Wittman chooses to shake up the rotation, Gooden likely falls off. If Wittman believes what he said Thursday, expect the coach to roll with what's been working overall in the postseason.

MORE WIZARDS: Wittman updates Wall's status, calls G5 effort 'Incredible'

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League


Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

Through nearly three weeks of NBA free agency and almost a month of trades, the Eastern Conference had remained eerily quiet. The Wizards had arguably been the most aggressive team in the East, as all the biggest moves had occurred in the West and, most notably, LeBron James changed coasts.

That all changed on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year. The full deal includes All-NBA guard DeMar DeRozan going to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. The Raptors also get guard Danny Green, according to ESPN.

Here are some takeaways from the trade...

This is good, potentially great news for the Wizards

The worst-case scenario for the Wizards and most of the East would have been if Leonard got dealt to either the Sixers or Celtics, as the potential would have been there for a dominant team. The Sixers, in particular, could have conceivably traded for Leonard without giving up much in the way of pieces that can help them now. They would have teamed Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would probably be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Instead, the Sixers struck out and now face the prospect of taking a pretty big L on this offseason, given all the guys they were tied to going into it.

Leonard and the Raptors will be good and they may even be better than they were last season. Though the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season, they disappointed in the playoffs. Leonard could change that, but he won't have the help to make them an unstoppable force. Kyle Lowry is good, but he's an aging player and they don't have a third star, at least not yet. They have a lot of recent first round picks that could, in theory, make the leap.

This deal is good for the Wizards and could become great if Leonard leaves in free agency next summer. If he does, the Raptors will be in deep trouble.

What will the Lakers do?

When James signed with the Lakers, most assumed they would then add at least one star to run with him. But now that Leonard is going to Toronto, it's very possible they don't add one at all. James might actually have to play with Lonzo Ball in addition to Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. Sure, they can sign Leonard next summer or find another star then, but this is shaping up as of now to be a lost year for James.

As consistitued, they aren't winning anything of substance. It's just so surprising James would be cool with this level of talent around him considering what he could have done this season if he signed with Philly or some other team.

People are looking at the wrong contract

Much of the instant reaction to the Leonard trade was praise for the Raptors in ridding themselves of DeRozan's deal. That's a headscratcher. DeRozan is set to make over $27 million in the next three years, the third being a player option, but he's an All-NBA player who turns 29 next month. In the context of NBA contracts, that isn't too bad.

Lowry's contract, on the other hand, is borderline awful. He's 32 with his numbers heading in the wrong direction and he's due to make $31 million next season and $33.3 million the year after. It's not like the Raptors freed themselves of their worst deal.

Masai is making moves

This is a risk for the Raptors and you have to respect it. Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, had seen enough of the DeRozan-Lowry duo falling short in the playoffs. He fired head coach Dwane Casey and pulled off a trade for Leonard, who at his best is one of the premier players in the NBA.

There is considerable risk in this move with Leonard having missed 73 games last season with a quadriceps injury and given the fact he can opt to test free agency next summer. If he really does want to join the Lakers, he could leave the Raptors empty-handed.

But it's a risk that is probably worth taking. Everyone assumed the same future for Paul George and he ended up staying in Oklahoma City. It's not a guarantee Leonard leaves and now the Raptors have a year to convince him to stay. Ujiri should get praise for this deal because it's bold and he did one of the hardest things a GM can do in finding a top-5 talent for his team.

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