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Wizards set to open season in Cleveland

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Wizards set to open season in Cleveland

1) Carryover: Sure, the Wizards are entering a new campaign with several players set to make their Washington debut. There is a certain injured threesome (John Wall, Nene, Kevin Seraphin) who will watch Tuesday's season opener from the sideline (Since I'm a company man, this where I remind that you can watch the game on Comcast SportsNet at 7:00 p.m). Of course there is no direct connection between last season's strong close and facing the Cavs on Halloween Eve, and yet...What's been noticeable during Washington's month-long training camp and preseason has been the team's competitive spirit which is indeed a carry over from the season-ending six-game winning streak posted in April. That might not be enough to avoid a losing record over the opening 10 games without Wall, especially if Nene sits out that entire stretch as well, but it's certainly a positive development - and one that a road victory over another lottery team seeking a standings rise would fortify.

2) Head-to-Head: Last season the Wizards won only 20 games. Two came against the Cavaliers (21-45 record last season), including a 96-85 road win in the Wizards penultimate game which at the time was Washington's fifth straight triumph. Interesting that the last team to defeat the locals, also Cleveland, 98-89 on April 14 at the Verizon Center. Wall averaged 20 points in those two games while Cavs star point guard played only 10 minutes combined. Only one of the two will be on the court Tuesday. Actually, not a single player in Washington's announced starting lineup also started in the late season win over Cleveland while Wall and Chris Singleton were the only players to participate in all three games against the Cavs. Jordan Crawford missed that contest with a sprained ankle, but averaged a team-high 24.5 points in the other two games. The Wizards will need his scoring off the bench, something the reserves have provided throughout the preseason, including Crawford tallying 14 in the 99-95 win earlier this month.

3) Rookie showdown: This matchup, one the NBA prominently displayed on the schedule, was to be headlined as the battle of the rising point guards: John Wall vs Kyrie Irving. The main spotlight remains on Irving, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, but without Wall the intriguing head-to-head battle centers on dueling first-year wing guards Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters, the Syracuse product selected one spot later. Beal, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, remained poised yet aggressive throughout the preseason, though opposing defenses tightened up on the 6-foot-4 guard. Drafted one spot after Beal, Waiters left college with a strong reputation as a defender which makes the first regular season meeting against the offensively potent Beal one to watch indeed. Beal knocked down 4 of 8 shots and scored 14 points in the preseason meeting while Waiters missed seven of nine attempts and finished with four points. Cleveland also drafted former North Carolina center Tyler Zeller in the first round.

Projected starting lineups: Wizards - A.J. Price, Bradley Beal (guards); Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza (forward); Emeka Okafor (center)...Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters (guards); Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson (forwards); Anderson Varejao (center)

Injuries: Wizards - Wall (knee, out); Nene (foot, out), Kevin Seraphin (calf, out); Cavaliers - Luke Harangody (right knee sprain)

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!