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Wizards aren't that far away

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Wizards aren't that far away

With the Olympics over and the United States bringing home gold again in basketball, the next big date on the NBA calendar is the Hall of Fame induction in early September and then training camp gets going October 2.So yes, it's less than two months until the Wizards lace them up again and start preparing for the 2012-13 season.

Is it too early to feel some optimism surrounding the Wizards with all the off-season changes that took place? Probably not, because one thing is certain:The Wizards will be better than last season when they went 20-46.How much better is an open question at this point.

Even though the Wizards added veteran forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, and drafted shooting guard Bradley Beal in the first round of the draft, the Wizards' success will rely heavily on former 1 pick John Wall. The speedy and electric point guard had a solid second season but he will have to elevate his game even further this season if the Wizards want to stay out of being in the lottery for the fifth straight season.

Wall had a very good rookie season, averaging 16 points and 8 assists but he had almost identical numbers his sophomore campaign. It was not the improvement that was envisioned when he was taken with the top selection in the 2010 NBA draft. By comparison, Chicago's point guard Derrick Rose -- taken 1 in 2008 -- took huge leaps each season, especially in his second and third seasons in the league when his average went up from 16 points his rookie season to 25 by the end of year three.

Wall is going to have to score more this upcoming season and he has the potential to do so with his offensiveexplosiveness, but his jump shot must improve. Wall has been working on his jumper this summer and even hired a shooting specialist to help him find his touch.

Now we know Wall can't do it all on his own and that's why veterans Nene, Okafor and Ariza were brought on board to help. Adding a shooter in Beal also brings a dimension the Wizards lacked last year and can help spread the floor even further for Wall.

With Randy Wittman officially the new coach and the immature Andray Blatche finally gone, it's definitely a new beginning in D.C. Well start seeing how it all takes shape in the not too distant future.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft. 

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