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State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

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Can they get above .500? - After beating the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, the Wizards find themselves at the .500 mark (18-18) for the second time this season. Last time they got here, at 16-16, they promptly lost two straight games. But those were on the road, where the Wizards have had major trouble this season. This next stretch in their schedule will offer plenty of games at the Verizon Center for them to rack up some Ws. 

Four of the Wizards' next five games are in Washington, where they are an impressive 14-6. And two of those games are against teams well below the .500 mark, the Sixers and Blazers. Securing a winning record would be a nice short-term goal for the Wizards and they are likely to reach it soon. They are 16-10 since beginning the season 2-8. That 16-10 mark is a 51-win pace over the course of a full season and it's not that small of a small sample size.

RELATED: Beal proving he is the opposite of soft

The Wizards' first opportunity will come against the Bulls on Tuesday night in Washington. If they win, they will go above .500 for the first time since Nov. 24, 2015 when they were 6-5.

Easier to score 50? - Sports Illustrated unearthed an amazing stat last week following Jimmy Butler's ' 52-point masterpiece against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 2. Butler was already the eighth different player to hit the 50-mark this season, tying the record for most in one NBA season with the 1989-90 campaign and last year. Considering there are three-plus more months of the NBA regular season left to play, that's very noteworthy.

Basically, there has been a huge increase in 50-point games in recent years. One of those performances this season was by John Wall, who had 52 himself on Dec. 6. Wall and others on the Wizards were asked this past week if they think it's easier now to score 50 points than it was in the past. The opinions varied:

Wall: "Might be so. There's more spacing out there. There's more spacing, there's a lot more fouls called and flagrant fouls, technical fouls; all of that's called that wasn't called back in that era. It was a lot more tough to get to the basket with hand-checking and all of that. I don't think those bigs back then would let us get to the basket so easy and score layups."

Bradley Beal: “I disagree. But at the same time I do agree because our eras were different. Foul calls were different. Guys shooting 20 free throws these days vs. however many they shoot back in the day. Guys are putting up, 50 you got to respect it.”

Scott Brooks: “I would probably say I disagree because it’s hard to score 50 points in a pickup game let alone an NBA game no matter what generation you’re playing in. Doesn’t happen often. The points have gone up. I think more teams are averaging more points this year than have in the last 25 years. It’s tough to score. Fifty points, that’s a number that’s not easy to get... There’s no question that [no hand-checking is] the biggest change. It was hard. You got these bigger point guards like Gary Payton, Derek Harper, hand-checking was part of the game. So you can basically where that point guard is going if they’re a bigger, stronger point guard. The rules are better now. It’s much more free-flowing. There’s so many more opportunities to drive and kick for threes. The three-point ball is exploding. There’s not a lot of guys that can score back to the basket. But I think if you’re growing up now days you walk in the gym you start shooting threes."

The other six besides Wall and Butler to drop 50 this year are Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Who will be the ninth, if there is one? Beal has scored 40 or more twice already this season, so he's certainly capable.

Beal, by the way, suggested he thinks Westbrook's 17 triple-doubles this season are more impressive than the 50-point games:

"I would say Russ, having that many triple-doubles that many times in a row and being able to play that hard and at an elite level, that is kind of impressive and amazing to me. Just being able to play hard every single time you're on the floor and have no injuries and no splinters, just jumping and flying on the floor. Those things are impressive, but those are numbers. Guys are going to put up numbers every night. This is the game of basketball. It's not the first time we've seen guys score 40, 50 and above. It's just a trend where there's a lot of them this year. That's just the flow of the game. Guys are getting better."

Otto's always moving - Otto Porter may not be as fastest guy or play the most minutes, but every time he's on the court he's active on both ends of the floor. On offense he's cutting towards and away from the basket, while on defense he's usually guarding a mobile swingman. The result of all that has Porter near the top of the NBA in distance traveled per game.

Porter covers an average of 2.47 miles per game, which is tops on the Wizards and 11th overall in basketball. Beal offered a theory as to why that is:

"Otto's always moving without the ball. That's just a tale of what he does for us and the type of player that he is. He doesn't move at a fast pace, but he moves comfortably and he moves well without the ball probably better than most of us on the team. It's tough logging those many miles and putting that stress on your body, but he handles it well. He plays the three and the four, so it's a little tough on him. But he accepts it."

Eastern Conference standings

Stat line of the week: Marcin Gortat 1/6 vs. T'Wolves - 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 9-for-9 FG

RELATED: VIDEO: Kid has meltdown during danceoff at Wizards game

Quote of the Week

"That's a little crazy to me. There's no way he should be that low. He averages a double-double. He's probably playing the best out of all the guards in the East."

- Beal on his teammate Wall placing 7th among guards in the East in NBA All-Star fan voting

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road ahead

Mon. - OFF
Tue. - 7 p.m. vs. Chicago Bulls (CSN)
Wed. - 8 p.m. at Boston Celtics (CSN)
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - OFF
Sat. - 8 p.m. vs. Philadelphia 76ers (CSN)
Sun. - OFF

RELATED: Oubre tries to pronounce Antetokounmpo, has trouble

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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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