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Wall, Beal close out Knicks at MSG 111-108: Five takeaways


Wall, Beal close out Knicks at MSG 111-108: Five takeaways

NEW YORK -- With the Knicks in turmoil, a day after firing coach Derek Fisher and on their worst losing stretch of the season, the Wizards did what has become the norm for them at Madison Square Garden -- win.

Back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench over the weekend in a back-to-back, Bradley Beal (26 points) sparked the Wizards (23-27). John Wall posted his 29th double-double (28 points, 17 assists, five rebounds, one turnover), Jared Dudley (14 points), Marcin Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Otto Porter (13) responded in the 111-108 victory Tuesday.

Carmelo Anthony (game-high 33 points, 13 rebounds) led all scorers and Kristaps Porzingis (20) was a second-half spark for the Knicks after he'd scored just four points in the first two quarters. Starting point guard Jose Calderon failed to score.

The Knicks (23-32) erased what had been a 16-point deficit to take an 89-88 lead in the fourth quarter until Beal returned. Wall found him immediately for a three-point shot and then Porter for another for a 96-92 lead.

Beal hit another three-point shot and then doubled Anthony to force a turnover late and that led to Wall's jumper to put the game away. The Knicks have lost 10 of 11.

Still, the Wizards made it more interesting than it should've been after Beal missed two crucial foul shots. Langston Galloway (14 points), who hit a desperation three-pointer over Porter to cut the score to 107-106 with 8.5 seconds left, missed a wide-open look at the buzzer to force overtime.

Wall made all four of his foul shots down the stretch. 

  • The Wizards, who entered fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting, made 10 of their first 12. Robin Lopez's jump hook in the lane cut the deficit to 47-41 but immediate threes from Porter and Beal stretched it back to double-digits by half 63-50. They shot 16 of 26 from three-point range for the game, a season high for makes.

  • Like he did in Charlotte, Dudley opened on fire with his shot. He made 5 of 5 in the first half, including four three-pointers. The five field goals put him at 2,000 for his career. Like Charlotte, a game in which Washington lost by blowing a 19-point lead, offensively he wasn't a factor in the second half as he clanked his open looks and didn't score.

  • As has been typical for the Wizards coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, they were flat. They weren't able to get clean looks, missed badly on the ones they took and allowed the opponent to step into their comfort zone. Porzingis buried consecutive threes to trim the deficit to 65-60 less than three minutes in. Then he fooled Dudley, who was anticipating a hand off to Anthony on his curl cut, turned baseline and threw down a nasty, one-handed dunk to wake up the crowd. The score was tied at 83 going into the fourth. Coach Randy Wittman went to a small lineup of Wall, Porter, Beal, Garrett Temple and Dudley which allowed them to pull away late.

  • Anthony hit a three and Afflalo was given a basket on a drive and was about to take a foul shot to complete a three-point play that could've trimmed the deficit to 106-104. But the officials went to the Replay Center which determined that Beal was not in the restricted area therefor it was a charge on Afflalo. The basket was erased. With the score 107-103, Beal committed a turnover with less than 30 seconds left but was able to steal it back on a pass from Galloway to Anthony.

  • Kris Humphries made his first appearance since Jan. 3, when a right knee injury kept him out. He played the last 40 seconds of the second quarter and again with 1:36 to close out the third. Humphries pulled out the chair from Kevin Seraphin on defense which led to the former Wizards center falling and causing a turnover. Humphries' only three-point shot was errant on Wall's drive and dish for their final attempt of the third. Rookie Kelly Oubre played seven minutes in the first half. He hasn't been on the court for more than eight minutes in almost a month. 

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.


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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did


Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.


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