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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Goga Bitadze

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Goga Bitadze

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: Goga Bitadze

Country: Georgia
Position: Center
Age: 19 (turns 20 in July)
Height: 6-11
Weight: 250
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.3 bpg, 54.8 FG% (3.9/7.2), 31.3 3PT% (0.4/1.2), 71.4 FT% (in Euroleague)

Player comparison: Nikola Vucevic, Robin Lopez

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 17th, Bleacher Report 20th, Sports Illustrated 10th, Ringer 19th

5 things to know:

*Bitadze is one of the best international players in this year's class, up there with Sekou Doumbouya. Bitadze is a skilled big man from the country of Georgia. He is projected to have a relatively high upside on both ends of the floor with the ability to score and block shots.

*He played in the Euroleague last season, which is the second-best basketball league in the world. That gives him a bit more certainty than Doumbouya, who was in a second tier league in France. Usually, the Euroleague is a decent predictor for NBA prospects. Luka Doncic, for example, dominated the Euroleague and then found instant success in the NBA.

*Bitadze's 2.3 blocks per game average in the Euroleague is a very good sign. Though the NBA requires more athleticism to play around and above the rim, blocked shots aren't as common in the Euroleague. The only other guy to average at least two blocks per game since 2007-08 is Ekpe Udoh. Bitadze's 2.3 per game represented a major outlier.

*He is considered a very good screen-setter and passer. Bitadze could thrive as a pick-and-roll centerpiece at the next level. Some, though, wonder how he will handle pick-and-rolls on the defensive end. He will have to make up for a lack of quickness with anticipation and his length.

*At this point, Bitadze does not have a reliable outside shot. He is smooth off the dribble and in the post with the ability to score in a variety of ways in the lane and on the baseline. But his range is limited and developing a respectable perimeter shot would go a long way in helping him reach his potential.

Fit with Wizards: Bitadze is not a perfect fit for the Wizards at this point. If they see him as the best player available with star potential, then it would make sense. But from a need perspective, there are several things not to like.

For one, he's more of a traditional center and the Wizards have been trying to get away from that. Secondly, they already have a logjam at the position and will to a greater degree if they re-sign Thomas Bryant.

The one way Bitadze could make sense for the Wizards, though, is if they believe he can be a top rim protector. It just seems like other guys who could be available at nine offer more of a guarantee. If the Wizards really want rim protection, they could go with someone like Jaxson Hayes instead.


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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 


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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.