Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards reached the midway point of the 2018-19 season on Tuesday night with their loss to the Sixers, one that dropped them to 16-25 after 41 games. With the year exactly halfway over, NBC Sports Washington Wizards insiders Ben Standig and Chase Hughes answer the biggest questions about what has happened so far and what is still to come...

Best win of the season so far?

BS: I don't think it's recency bias selecting Sunday's stunner at Oklahoma City. Washington scored 116 points against the league's top defense, outrebounded a burly group led by center Steven Adams and won on the road for only the fifth time in 23 games. Few saw this coming. Certainly not the Thunder.

CH: Call it recency bias, but I agree. It has to be the win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City. With all the injuries, and it was on the road and against one of the best teams in the NBA, that was a thoroughly impressive win. It may go down as the best win of the entire season when it's all said and done.

Worst loss?

CH: Many ways to go with this one. It's like choosing a flavor at a Baskin Robbins where the freezers are broken and everything has gone sour. I'll go with Dec. 18 at the Hawks. They had just beaten the Lakers and then turned around and laid an egg against one of the league's worst teams. Inexcusable, even with John Wall's injury.

BS: The Wizards lost to a 5-20 Cleveland team on Dec. 9. Not just lost, but got outworked by a 5-win Cavaliers that led by 26 points before cruising to a 116-101 win. That same Ohio team has lost 13 of 15 since.

 

Best adjustment or change made so far?

BS: Might have been nice seeing Thomas Bryant pick up a few minutes from the start with Dwight Howard sidelined, but the energetic center inherited the starting role once the veteran underwent back surgery. Bryant seized the opportunity with enthusiasm. There's plenty of room for growth with the 21-year-old, but the strides made from a player claimed off waivers already stand out.

CH: It has to be giving Thomas Bryant more minutes. He has been the breakout player of this season for the Wizards. He is only 21 and developing very quickly. He has a bright future and has already exceeded what was expected of him as an offseason waiver pick-up.

Biggest surprise?

CH: There has been a lot about this year that has been surprising. But I will go with the trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. I didn't necessarily think they would re-sign him this summer, but to trade him in December was unexpected for me. Oubre wasn't improving as quickly as many had hoped, but he is young and was a restricted free agent. They apparently had seen enough. That, and they really wanted Trevor Ariza.

BS: That it's been a chaotic first-half of the season and Dwight Howard wasn't part of the drama. Fears existed from the jump about locker room chemistry considering other teams quickly moved on from the future Hall of Fame center in recent seasons. Instead, Howard, generally a pleasant presence in his dealings with local media, was slowed by a back issue that ultimately required surgery after playing only nine games. 

Most valuable player besides Bradley Beal?

BS: Jeff Green. The Wizards knew they were adding a been there, done that veteran free agent this offseason. They couldn't expect he would emerge as their top power forward option. His field goal, free throw, and 3-point shooting percentages are easily above his career averages. 

CH: Tomas Satoransky. With Wall out for the season and not playing well even when he was available, Satoransky has been invaluable. His development these past three years has been good to see.

Best newcomer?

CH: Jeff Green. On a team that has undergone significant midseason change, he has been a constant. The veteran forward has been more efficient than ever before. The Wizards have knocked it out of the park two years in a row now with backup power forwards on one-year deals between he and Mike Scott.

BS: You're not going to make me repeat my Jeff Green praise from above, right, Chase Hughes?

Will Beal make the All-Star team?

BS: Affirmative. Unless there's some funky inclusion with the starters, the math suggests Beal is one of six Eastern Conference guards expecting good news. His candidacy isn't based on mere reputation. Beal's current pace would establish new career-highs in scoring, rebounds, and assists. 

 

CH: Yes. I know the East is deep at guard and Dwyane Wade could screw everything up by getting voted in as a starter. But Beal has been so darn good. He's averaging a career-high 24.0 points on 46.8 percent shooting with 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He has taken his game to the next level and he would be a massive snub if he were left out.

Will they make the playoffs?

CH: It's tempting to say yes, but I will go with no just because of the timeline with the trade deadline closing in. It's less than a month away and if they don't turn things around quick, the Wizards will become sellers. Now, sellers could be a relative term, but if they trade guys like Jeff Green, for instance, it will be tough to make that final push.

BS: The Wizards entered 2019 two games back of a playoff spot. That might not seem like a daunting climb, but history shows its rare for teams in that spot to reach the postseason. Washington must make its move with John Wall out of the season, Markieff Morris sidelined at least another five weeks and Howard away until further notice. Props to Beal and crew for their effort, but the Wizards remain momentum-less. If they trade away expiring contracts by the Feb. 7 trade deadline, playoff hopes fade away.

Will they sell off major pieces at deadline?

BS: If by major piece we mean Beal or Porter, then no. The Wizards view the pricey pair as keys for bigger goals. As for Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Morris, stay tuned. All three enter free agency this summer. If Washington fades before the trade deadline, the prudent move is sending them away for assets.

CH: I don't think so. I think there is a good chance they become sellers, but the odds of them parting with a major piece, as I would define it, like Beal or Porter, seem very slim. Beal is pretty much untouchable, within reason, and they remain high on Porter.

Bold prediction for second half?

CH: Dwight Howard doesn't return. I know he was given a timeline of two-to-three months to be re-evaluated after his Nov. 30 back surgery, but I just don't see how a guy could come back so soon from that injury. Even if he does come back, it will take time to get to full speed. It's a serious procedure.

BS: Barring injury, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter both average at least 20 points per game over the remainder of the season. That's nothing new for Beal but would represent a step up in production for Porter. Without John Wall around, the ball will be in their hands plenty. 

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