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Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Toronto Raptors to drop season series

Takeaways from Wizards' loss to Toronto Raptors to drop season series

With the season series on the line – and the pivotal tiebreaker that could come in handy for the playoffs – the Wizards couldn’t put away another one Friday.

They came from 19 down but fell to the Toronto Raptors 114-106, to lose the series 2-1 and failed to strengthen their hold on the No. 3 spot in the East. Instead, they dropped to fourth based on the tiebreaker.

The Wizards still have tiebreaker edges with one game left vs. the Boston Celtics (2-1) and the Atlanta Hawks (2-1).

John Wall (30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three blocks) and Bradley Beal (26 points, seven rebounds, four assists) led the effort for Washington (36-24). Otto Porter (18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals) made up for going scorless for the only time this season in Wednesday's matchup. Markieff Morris (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) only shot 4-for-13. 

Toronto (37-25) was led by DeMar DeRozan (game-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), Serge Ibaka (14 points, eight rebounds), Norman Powell (21 points) and Cory Joseph (15 points).

Washington opened by shooting just 15 of 46 in the first half which led to the deficit while Toronto made 22 of 37 shots.

Still, they took the lead for a moment with 3:30 left in the third quarter when Porter grabbed and offensive rebound and found Beal spotting up for a three, 72-71.

But the second unit couldn’t give them the spark they had in a 105-96 win on Wednesday, when they sparked a 26-3 run behind Bojan Bogdanovic.

The Wizards cut the deficit to 108-105 on a three-pointer by Wall the final minute, but DeRozan responded with a three over Bogdanovic with 20 seconds left to seal it.

--Beal had a free run in Toronto which looked clueless on how to defend him Wednesday. He got the ball of curls with nothing but space for open looks that got him off to a fast start. Here, they loaded up on Beal and made Wall the scorer. He had 18 in the first half but just two assists. Beal only had one point until he converted his first field goal at 5:38 of the second quarter as the Wizards got the deficit to less than double digits.

--Wall’s ball pressure on Joseph was key in turning the tide. Toronto couldn’t get the ball inside as easily nor get their offense started cleanly. The Raptors shot just 7 of 22 in the third quarter when the deficit was trimmed to 79-78 entering the fourth. Joseph had two of the six turnovers and shot

--Bogdanovic (six points), who had a season-high 27 in Toronto, didn’t have the explosion this time. He didn’t make his first field goal until he banked in a jumper in the fourth. He led a bench that totaled just 14 points. Toronto produced 44 led by Powell.

--Jason Smith’s eight points on 4-for-4 shooting was a vital part of a 26-3 run by the Wizards to turn the previous game into a blowout. He didn’t log a minute Friday.

--In his first appearance since being acquired this week, Brandon Jennings was ineffective with the second unit. He played five minutes in the first half and missed his only shot. Twice, Morris wasn’t expecting passes from him and bobbled the ball. It led to uncomfortable possessions with contested, low percentage shots. Jennings missed a three that led to a transition basket in the fourth and earlier in the quarter he tried to back down Delon Wright (nine points) and had his shot blocked.

--After playing a season-high 21 minutes, Ian Mahinmi played 15 and was crucial to the defense against the small lineups that Raptors coach Dwane Casey deployed. He used a lot of three guards plus two forwards. Mahinmi kept Patrick Patterson (eight points) in front of him and successfully switched onto guards. Starting center Jonas Valanciunas (two points) only played 12 minutes. When the Wizards were successful combating the small-ball lineup of Golden State, they used Morris at the five.

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings: Movement in the East]

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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga


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Bradley Beal snubbed in NBA 2K20 ratings

Bradley Beal snubbed in NBA 2K20 ratings

Bradley Beal has been snubbed yet again.

First All-NBA, now Beal was not even included in the NBA 2K20 top 20 rankings, which were released on a livestream on Monday.

LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard topped the rankings, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and James Harden. 

In what we're sure was a completely scientific poll, SLAM Gaming asked its followers if NBA2K got the rankings right. And, at least as of post time, nearly two-thirds of participants said no. 

Ahead of Beal in the rankings included Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and Jimmy Butler. Zion Williamson was the top rookie in the ratings. 

Beal averaged 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game last season. That's clear above Mitchell (23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists per game) and Butler (18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists per game).

The ratings are reportedly determined by a statistically based formula, though that hasn't ever stopped fans from expressing their ire at the game's rating gurus. 

Including John Wall in 2017.