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What we learned from Wizards' Summer League, despite them going winless

What we learned from Wizards' Summer League, despite them going winless

No, the Wizards going winless in the 2017 NBA Summer League does not mean anything in the big picture. Though the passion is appreciated, those tweeting criticism about coaching decisions (that actually happened) should take a breath and settle down. Fidget spinners are said to be therapeutic. Maybe buy one of those.

Despite the losses, there was plenty to learn from the Wizards' five games. Here are some thoughts and observations...

Devin Robinson has legitimate, NBA-level athleticism

Robinson's addition to the Summer League roster added intrigue because his potential is obvious. He is 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan and a 41-inch vertical leap. It turns out the Wizards had bigger plans for him, as they signed the Florida forward to a two-way contract, meaning he will have one of their 17 roster spots heading into next season. Robinson didn't have the best Summer League overall (3.4 ppg, 18.2 FG%), but he did show flashes in a small sample size. This putback slam in Friday's loss to the Timberwolves was a direct reminder of why the Wizards think this guy can turn into something some day:

[RELATED: Hannibal's road to Summer League as unusual as it gets]

Marcus Keene can definitely score

Keene proved in Las Vegas that his scoring ability is not just limited to the mid-major college level. It took him a few games, but Keene found his rhythm and left with a 11.3 points per game average on 50 percent shooting from the field. A 5-9 guard, Keene led the NCAA in scoring last season at Central Michigan with 30 points per game. He went undrafted, but felt this was the time to leave school after his junior year in part because of Isaiah Thomas' success this past season for the Celtics. After his performance in Vegas, don't be surprised if Keene draws interest from somebody on a two-way deal.

Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon Mac got better

We didn't see much of Ochefu or Mac at the NBA level this past season, as they were stuck on the end of the Wizards' bench for most of the year. But both clearly benefitted from having that year under their belt in this year's Summer League. Both played confidently and aggressively and looked like NBA players should when going up against lesser competition. For Ochefu, it was apparent in his play around the rim. There were several times where he flashed polish in the post. For Mac, it was his motor and speed on the fastbreak. He was blowing past people even with a bum ankle.

[RELATED: 5 things to know about new Wizards forward Michael Young]

Chris McCullough remains raw, but intriguing

McCullough got plenty of shots in this year's Summer League as a focal point of the Wizards' offense. He took 48 field goal attempts, but shot just 29.2 percent. Of his 14 makes, many of them were powerful dunks that provided some of the best highlights of the Wizards' five games. But beyond dunking, McCullough was still limited on that end of the floor. If he is going to play his way into the Wizards' rotation this upcoming season, he will have to earn Scott Brooks' trust on defense. His 5.6 rebounds per game in 22.2 minutes were solid. McCullough has the athleticism to play at the NBA level, but he has to find his niche. Once he finds a way to use his size and leaping ability to protect the rim, he could make a nice career for himself.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast - Will John Wall sign the deal?]


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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”


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Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

The Washington Wizards have reportedly offered their vacant general manager position to Tim Connelly. The news was first reported by the Athletic.

Here are five things to know about him...

1. Connelly is a Baltimore native who transferred to Catholic University in D.C. during his junior year in college, graduating from there in 1999. 

2. Connelly began his NBA front office career with the Wizards, starting as an intern in 1996. He spent a decade with the organization, holding such roles as assistant video coordinator, head scout, and director of player personnel. 

3. After leaving the Wizards, Connelly spent three seasons serving as the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

4. Connelly joined the Nuggets organization in 2013 as the executive vice president of basketball operations. He was promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2017. Connelly has been part of a Denver front office that has drafted the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris over the last five years. 

5. Connelly has six siblings, including four brothers: Joe, Pat, Dan and Kevin. All four of them have also worked in basketball in some capacity, Joe, Pat, and Dan all following Tim into the NBA ranks.