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What we know about Wizards, and what we don't know yet

What we know about Wizards, and what we don't know yet

The record is 10-14, so the Wizards haven't turned any corners or solidified anything about their 2016-17 season. After their 109-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets, a quality opponent in the Southeast division, these are some conclusions that can be drawn:

-- John Wall and Bradley Beal are having All-Star caliber seasons. Hardly anyone is talking about it because of the record, but both are setting new individual marks. Aside from having a career-high 42 points earlier in the season, Beal had a career-high nine assists Wednesday and has been a consistently good defensively. Wall had a career-high 52 points this season and 13th double-double. His ability to score off the ball has skyrocketed just as Beal's playmaking ability has gone to another level. And both are getting to the foul line more.

-- The Wizards can defend if they want to commit to doing it. If Wall and Beal extend and compete on that end, particularly with Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter, they can cover a lot of ground because they're long and athletic. If dribble pentration is minmized into the paint will determine whether they can sustain.

-- Maybe the most criticized of all the starters, Marcin Gortat has had his best season in Washington. He's maintaining a double-double average while defending his position well 1 vs. 1. Where he gets into a tough spot is on help rotations with the guards which appears to be more about communication than effort or IQ. Gortat didn't have a good game against Brook Lopez in a win over the Brooklyn Nets, but he defended the best offensive center in the league (DeMarcus Cousins) extremely well without help. It took Cousins 34 shots to get 36 points. When Gortat is forced into help situations too often, there will be breakdowns. But he can defend his own position better than the average NBA center. 

-- The lack of playing time held back Kelly Oubre as a rookie, but now that he's getting it he has proven why the Wizards traded up in 2015 to get him in the first round. He fell one pick outside the lottery but was widely considered a lottery pick talent. The 6-7 frame, 7-2 wingspan and defensive IQ are difficult to beat. When every player on this roster went to majority Ted Leonsis and said Oubre was held back by then-coach Randy Wittman they weren't lying. The Oubre that opponents are seeing on the court is the same guy they've faced every day in practice and he has emerged as the team's best one-on-one defender already. 

--  Until Ian Mahinmi gets back on the court evaulating what moves can or possibly be made is difficult. That's because the Wizards don't know how those pieces fit yet and they'll have to get them playing well to have any value in the market. When Mahinmi returns, rookie center Daniel Ochefu likely gets shipped to the Delaware 87ers of the D-League to get some game action. He has stayed active most nights this season becaue the bench is thin at his position and he could be needed in case of an emergency such as an in-game injuy or ejection.

-- The guard play off the bench is suspect, but after a terrible start Trey Burke has stabilized himself and is more effective if he plays more off ball or looks for his shot quickly when on it. The more decisive Burke is, and the earlier he can get his shot in the clock, the better he can score. After losing his spot to Tomas Satoransky he has gotten it back for now. But Marcus Thornton remains hard to gauge behind Beal. He's either hot or cold with rarely any in-between.

-- Andrew Nicholson is a spot-minute player off the bench and that appears to be his ceiling. Jason Smith will get more time when Mahinmi returns.

-- Smith is valuable when he pops mid-range off the screen-roll action. When he tries to dive all the way to the basket or stretch out to the three-point line, it all goes awry. Defenses won't guard, be fooled or respect that. Mid-range is his wheelhouse.

-- Coach Scott Brooks has kept a level head even after some trying times and that's becoming reflected in the identity of his team. Brooks doesn't go overboard with his emotions and keeps his players in check when they start to stray outside the lines. 

-- The true rookies (meaning, not Satoransky) will get their chances later rather than sooner. Sheldon McClellan and Danuel House have competed in the D-League already. Brooks wants them to get the reps there. He played McClellan more than he wanted to earlier this season because of injuries and minutes restrictions to his starting backcourt. As long as the Wizards stay in the playoff picture, it's difficult to see them getting significant chances outside of injuries or a teammate completely falling off the cliff . All three, includingg Ochefu, went undrafted for a reason. They needed development and Brooks doesn't believe they're there yet. 

[RELATED: Weighty issue: Wall trimmed down at Brooks' urging]

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Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery


Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


Though the Washington Wizards made some poor decisions to create the mess their next general manager will need to clean up, they have also been struck with a good deal of bad luck. John Wall falling in his home and rupturing his Achilles tendon certainly qualifies. Dwight Howard suffering a relapse with his back and requiring surgery to repair a herniated disc was out of their control. And if Bradley Beal makes All-NBA and qualifies for a supermax this summer, the timing would not be ideal as far as their finances are concerned.

The Wizards have long been one of the most snakebitten franchises in sports and even stand out in a city where curses are often blamed for sports misery. They could use some luck for a change and especially on the night of May 14.

That's when the 2019 NBA draft lottery will take place in Chicago, Ill. ESPN will broadcast the event live at 8:30 p.m. as the ping-pong balls fly through the air, determining the order for the June 20 draft and therefore the future of the league.

The Wizards will for the first time since 2013 have high stakes in the lottery. They had finished with at least a .500 record for five straight seasons before bottoming out in 2018-19. But their 32-50 record this past season gave them the sixth-best lottery odds and, in the first year under new lottery rules, that has left them in excellent shape ahead of May 14.

The Wizards lottery odds will break down pick-by-pick like this:

1st - 9.0%

2nd - 9.2%

3rd - 9.4%

4th - 9.6%

5th - N/A

6th - 8.6%

7th - 29.6%

8th - 20.6%

9th - 3.8%

10th - 0.2%

The two most important numbers to consider are nine and 37.2. They have a nine percent chance at the first overall pick and a 37.2 percent shot at selecting in the top four.

The Wizards' nine percent odds at No. 1 are only five ticks lower than the top teams in lottery odds, the Knicks, Cavs and Suns who are tied at 14 percent. Though their chances are still less than one-in-ten, that means they will be very much in the mix to land the ultimate prize, Duke forward Zion Williamson.

Williamson would change everything for the team that drafts him, but perhaps especially for the Wizards, considering the alternative direction their franchise could go. They already fired their general manager and have an uncertain future with their head coach Scott Brooks and arguably with their best player, Beal, as well. They appear to be teetering on the brink of a rebuild and Williamson could jumpstart them into the other direction.

No draft prospect, maybe with the exception of LeBron James in 2003, offers guarantees. Williamson could top out as a good, but not great player. But few who have dominated college basketball quite like he did have then failed to live up to the hype. Consider the fact he is only the third freshman ever to win the Naismith award for NCAA's best player. The other two were Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.

One NBA front office executive told NBC Sports Washington he believes Williamson will be an All-Star as a rookie and not just because of fan voting. He has superstar potential, both from a production and marketing standpoint. Williamson would likely step right in as at least the Wizards' second-best healthy player and as the face of their franchise, the player most associate them with.

Landing the top pick is not the only way May 14 can result in a success for the Wizards. Jumping into the top four would be a major victory, especially in this year's draft which appears to be top-heavy. That could mean a chance to draft Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett, Williamson's teammate at Duke. 

Barrett would be a nice fit alongside Beal and Wall when he returns from injury. He complements them positionally and has All-Star potential.

If Morant is the best player on the board, the Wizards should take him. But doing so would create a brand new storyline of how he would co-exist with Wall, who plays the same position. That dynamic would be hard to ignore for as long as they are together in the organization.

Though the Wizards have a better than one-in-three shot at the top four, their two most likely landing spots are No. 7 and 8 overall. If the Wizards did not make a major jump in the lottery, they may be wise to trade back and acquire more picks. They do not have a second round pick this year and not until 2023. They also have roster spots to fill and could use more young (and cheap) players.

The Wizards may not have to trade back very far to stock their cupboard with more picks. Last June, the Hawks got a lightly-protected first round pick from the Mavericks for going back from No. 3 to No. 5. The Sixers traded back from 10th to 16th with the Suns and scooped the Miami Heat's unprotected 2021 first round pick.

In a draft that most consider to not be deep outside of the top four or five picks, the Wizards may not see a huge difference in the eight pick and, say, selecting 12th. And that could be the key to getting another first or a collection of second round picks.

There are so many scenarios for the Wizards that all depend on their luck on May 14. Who they choose to send as their representative will be interesting. Will it be Beal, who right now is their biggest star? How about Wall, who was the first overall pick in 2010 and would be able to impact the franchise in an indirect way despite his long-term injury absence? It could also be whomever they hire as their new GM, or someone in the ownership group.

The Wizards, like the 13 other teams in the lottery, will be hoping for a blessing from the basketball gods.


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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.