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Wizards end season with sixth straight win

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Wizards end season with sixth straight win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh watched and didn't seem to care. The final game of the regular season was meaningless, and the Miami Heat played like it.

Without their Big Three, the Heat suffered their worst defeat of 2011-2012 with a 104-70 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.

With their first playoff game just two days away, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra rested the boldface names and started Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Eddy Curry, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers. Only Chalmers usually starts, and Curry started for the first time in more than four years.

The Heat are locked into the Eastern Conference's second playoff spot and open the postseason Saturday against the New York Knicks.

Miami was blown out early. Washington led by 25 at halftime and by as many as 38, sending the Heat to their biggest loss since Jan. 20, 2010.

"If we land safely and the plane touches down in Miami, it's a victory," Battier said. "That was a nasty game. Luckily no one was injured, seriously, that's what you take away from this game."

The Heat had only two players in double figures: Norris Cole with 14 and Curry with 10.

"Obviously we're not gonna put too much weight into this game. We don't think it'll have too much bearing on the second season," Spoelstra said.

"This will be a great first-round matchup. The way the season's been we couldn't expect anything other than to play after a day. We don't need more than that. We're in the same place the Knicks are in," Spoelstra said.

"They're coming off a game as well, so everybody's on a fair fighting field right now. Let's tip it off."

The Wizards started the season 2-15 and fired coach Flip Saunders, replacing him with Randy Wittman. Washington closed with its first six-game win streak since Nov. 11-21, 2007. Three of the six wins were against the East's top two teams: one against Chicago and two over Miami.

"This was a real satisfying way to come down the stretch for this team," Wittman said.

Mo Evans had a season-high 18 points, Nene and Kevin Seraphin each scored 15, and John Wall had seven points and 12 assists for the Wizards.

Washington went on a 27-11 run to take a 33-18 lead early in the second quarter and increased it to 57-32 at halftime. It was the Wizards' biggest win since Nov. 11, 2005.

On Tuesday, Spoelstra also rested James, Wade and Bosh in a 78-66 loss at Boston.

Spoelstra had a problem that Wittman wishes he had. Wittman has no assurances from team president Ernie Grunfeld, whose contract was extended earlier this week, that he'll return as coach -- despite the impressive stretch to end the season.

"I'm not an idiot. Any time you lose a job you're disappointed. I think anybody doesn't want to lose a job or look elsewhere for a job," Wittman said. "I'll coach somewhere."

In January, the Wizards were a national punch line. In March, they traded JaVale McGee and Nick Young and acquired Nene. With the Brazilian in the lineup, Washington was 7-4.

Wall said that he liked the new tenor of the team.

"We had a lot of jokes going around the locker room. It's more serious about everything, and we're acting more like a team," Wall said.

NOTES: Washington G Jordan Crawford missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Curry's last came on March 7, 2008, when he played for New York. ... Washington F Andray Blatche, who didn't play after March 17 to improve his conditioning, said he's lost 12 pounds and admitted he regretted allowing the negative crowd reaction bother him. He let "the boos get myself down, messing with my head and not being able to go out and work as hard as I could," Blatche said.

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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.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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

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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.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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