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What we know about who has performed best for Wizards at Las Vegas summer league

What we know about who has performed best for Wizards at Las Vegas summer league

LAS VEGAS – Through three games, the Wizards are winless at Las Vegas summer league, which shouldn’t come as a major surprise. It’s about the bigger picture anyway and not Tuesday's 82-73 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Of their 15 regular-season roster spots, 13 of them are filled with guaranteed deals. The other two, held by Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu, are non-guaranteed which means those players can be waived at any time before Jan. 10 without penalty under the salary cap. Then there's one two-way deal remaining for a G-League addition.

The case for Mac is the strongest. Entering his second year after going undrafted in 2016, he has an NBA gear. There are no statistics that’ll reflect this but it is clear when he’s on the court with nine other players.

Mac, who scored a team-high 20 points on 8 of 11 shots Tuesday, can get to spots on the floor when seemingly there are none. He can finish or create space by initiating contact and can shift down a speed with a Euro step to knife through traffic to find the rim.

[RELATED: John Wall hasn't made up mind about extension]

Mac will be out of control at times and has to tighten his ball-handling but he’s too good to let walk at $1.3 million. He can handle the speed of NBA play and is better in the open court.

The case for Ochefu can be made but he could end up a numbers game casualty with $30 million this season tied up into proven vets, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. The caveat, of course, is both are well past 30 and Mahinmi is coming off a season in which he missed 50 games with issues with both knees.

Ochefu, who went undrafted last year and earns the same as Mac on a non-guarantee, hasn’t gotten as much time and could benefit from the G-League once the Wizards have a team in 2018, but can they wait that long? He had nine points and 10 rebounds against Chicago.

If a move is possible involving Gortat or Mahinmi before the regular season tips, Ochefu would make sense as a more affordable option. He has a soft touch around the rim and is an adept passer out of the post.

[RELATED: Who is the best player in Wizards/Bullets history?]

With one of their maximum of two two-way contracts filled by Michael Young, that’s where another developmental player can land. The spot can pay anywhere from $75,000-$275,000 pending how many days are spent with the full team during the regular season.

Young, a combo forward, has a solid defensive IQ and did well to stay in front of guards on switches and battled bigger players on the low block as well. He’s also able to bring the ball up the floor to start the offense and push tempo.

The best of the rest (alphabetical) based on how they've played so far at summer league with two games remaining: Jared Cunningham; Marcus Keene; Jaleel Roberts; and Devin Robinson.

Danuel House is with the Wizards for the second year in a row after being released late last season and hasn't looked the part given his experience. He shot 0-for-7 and had three turnovers. House didn't play in the second summer league game but got the start Tuesday.

The Wizards will invite a group back to attend training camp that'll likely begin in the last week of September with some familiar names from the summer league team. Others will be new arrivals, but roster spots will be limited if any are available at all.

[RELATED: Kings never extended max offer sheet to Otto Porter]

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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 come into existence. 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 proclamations 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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