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Utah's Delon Wright on point with Jerian Grant comparisons


Utah's Delon Wright on point with Jerian Grant comparisons

The similarities between Utah's Delon Wright and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant extend beyond being NBA Draft prospects.

The four-year players - - a rare classification for touted prospects in this era -- dueled Monday during the Washington Wizards' first pre-draft workout this year.

Both led their teams to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this season. Both will turn 23 before the start of their first NBA campaign.

The point guards are listed at an impressive 6-foot-5. That size allows them to scan the court for shooters, create space for their own offense and defend big guards if needed.

Each has been around the pro game for many years. The son of ex-Bullet/Wizard Harvey Grant, Jerian's NBA pedigree is well known in these parts. Wright's, perhaps less so. His older brother, Dorell, a forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, just completed his 11th season in the league.

As is the case every season, the Associated Press selected All-Americans. Only two point guards were picked among the nation's 10 best players. Grant was named to the first team, Wright the second. Filling up the box score certainly helped both. Wright, who led Utah to a round of 32 NCAA Tournament win over Georgetown, averaged 14.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

Most notably this June, both are projected first-round picks. Depending on what the Wizards desire with the 19th overall pick, either could land in Washington, which is where the pair battled head-to-head.

"It was fun. I watched a lot of him on TV this year. They compared us pretty much the whole year," Wright said. "Being seniors, guards. It was fun to finally play against him."

The Los Angeles native spoke shortly after a lengthy session on the Verizon Center practice court that included 3-on-3 full court action against Grant and individual work on his 3-point shooting. Wright's defensive length likely becomes his best asset as a rookie. He noted a high comfort running pick-and-roll sets, a favorite play under Wizards coach Randy Wittman.

What teams want to know is whether Wright can hit the perimeter shot.

"That's the main concern. Teams want to see if I can make the NBA 3's since the line is a little further back. If I'm struggling shooting or it looks natural," conceded Wright, who previously visited with the Pacers, Lakers and Bulls.

The workout mirrored his two-year career at Utah, which began after transferring from City College of San Francisco. Wright sank 36 percent of shots from beyond the arc as a senior after a dismal 22 percent the previous season. Oddly, Grant's 3-point numbers went the other over his final two seasons.

During a drill coming off screens before flaring out to either wing, Wright missed plenty of shots. When he moved to the top of the key, the 3-pointers fell one after another.

"At the beginning of the workout I didn't shoot good at all. Terribly, actually," Wright said. "But I thought at the end of it, I shot it pretty well. Better than probably what people thought of me."

Like Grant, Wright comes across during interviews as mature and thoughtful, traits often found in leaders. The Utes went 47-21 over the last two seasons after going 15-18 the campaign before Wright joined the program.

If he joins the Wizards, Wright becomes part of a loaded backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington needs a long-term backup for Wall, along with a perimeter shooting big man and wing depth.

"Coming in, trying to not have too much drop off if John Wall comes out of the game," Wright said of his potential role. "Maybe play with him. I can be interchangeable that way. I can play the two."

Same goes for Grant, who likely lands among the top 20 picks. Wright's draft range veers more toward the bottom of the round. At this point, he's not thinking about such things, especially one month out. Instead, Wright is following advice from Utah coach and former NBA player Larry Krystkowiak.

"For the most part he's telling me to enjoy the process," Wright said. "You only go through this one time."

At least for one day, he went through the process with Grant. The comparisons will take place regardless.

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually exist. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclomations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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