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Wizards will allow contracts for McClellan, House, Ochefu to become guaranteed for season

Wizards will allow contracts for McClellan, House, Ochefu to become guaranteed for season

The contracts of Sheldon McClellan, Daniel Ochefu and Danuel House will become fully guaranteed for the Wizards which will lock in the undrafted rookies for the rest of the season, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.

A player has to clear waivers before Tuesday, so the actual deadline is today at 5 p.m. ET.

All three signed non-guaranteed deals in the summer and all teams have to make a decision near the midway point of the regular season whether ot not to allow such contracts to reach full value. 

Each earns the rookie minimum of $543,000 which makes it sensible to retain their services for a team that's over the salary cap but still under the luxury tax. With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, it also keeps the Wizards' options open. Young players with potential can make for attractive throw-ins to sweeten the pot, though the best-case scenario is they pan out for the next 2-3 years as contributors at a low cap number.

Ochefu signed for three years non-guaranteed and the other two have one more non-guaranteed year on their deals.

McClellan has emerged out of necessity, with an early-season injury to Bradley Beal and Marcus Thornton having difficulty on the defensive end under coach Scott Brooks. Friday, McClellan didn't score in 11 minutes but had three assists. Two of them came in the fourth quarter when the Wizards were making a 9-0 run to regain the lead 89-85 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves in a comeback victory. McClellan averages 4.1 points in 13 appearances, including three starts.

Thornton, who had a disastrous two-game road trip earlier in the week, didn't play Friday.

Ochefu has played spot minutes with Ian Mahinmi (knees) out. While Jason Smith gets the first call behind Marcin Gortat, Ochefu is there in case there's foul trouble or another injury. If it weren't for Mahinmi's injury, Ochefu would've been sent to the D-League already to get game action which has happened with McClellan and House. Ochefu has appeared in eight games. 

House has been out since breaking his right wrist in November.

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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