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2019 NBA Draft: Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter’s versatility could fill needed role for the Wizards

2019 NBA Draft: Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter’s versatility could fill needed role for the Wizards

Here’s what is key with the Washington Wizards and their first-round selection in the 2019 NBA Draft: There’s need at every position.

The Wizards, barring the unforeseen, may only have three healthy players under contract for the 2019-20 season -- Bradley Beal, Troy Brown Jr., Ian Mahinmi -- by the time we reach draft day on June 20:

John Wall’s ruptured Achilles will keep the point guard out for the majority of the season. Should Dwight Howard opt into his $5.6 million player option the trio becomes a quartet – but only if the center is physically capable after missing nearly the entire 2018-19 season with back issues.

Regardless of the exact roster makeup, some holes will remain which is why adding a versatile talent like Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter makes plenty of sense.

Free agency tips off July 1. The draft comes first. The latter event should not have much barring on the former. Free agency planning isn’t exact science. Neither is draft prospect evaluation. Do the homework and make a call. With so much roster uncertainty, the Wizards are unshackled from any need vs. best available debate.

“Take the best talent,” one NBA front office executive said to NBC Sports Washington.

Based on the Wizards’ likely draft slot scenario –think 6-9 barring lottery luck -- that might mean Hunter, even if he lacks 'wow' upside.

The first-team All-ACC performer leads the South region’s top seed into Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with against no. 12 Oregon. It’s another opportunity for scouts to study the 6-foot-7 sophomore even if single games in the Tournament are rarely defining.

Hunter was selected ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors for his role in the nation’s stingiest defense. Virginia led Division I teams in points allowed (54.6) and field goal percentage defense (37.4).

Offensively the Philadelphia native averages 15.2 points. He sinks 44.6 percent of 3-point attempts while showing the ability to generate production in isolation sets. Hunter scored 23 points in Virginia’s first-round win over Gardner-Webb.

“[De’Andre] might be the most versatile guy in the tournament,” Virginia point guard Ty Jerome said before the Cavaliers’ NCAA Tournament opener last week. “[He] can guard one through five almost, can get a bucket when you need one, isolation, offensive rebound, knock down catch-and-shoot shots.”

For all those positive attributes, there’s little in Hunter’s arsenal that is particularly jaw-dropping.

“He’s a perfect as a role player in the NBA,” NBC Sports college basketball insider Rob Dauster said.

That’s not exactly what teams – or fans – are clamoring for with a top 5-10 selection. The dream involves a franchise-altering talent.

This is where context matters.

Not all drafts are created equal. The top seven picks from the 2018 class likely all slot ahead of whoever is the second pick in 2019 beyond Zion Williamson if eligible this season. No doubt, some from the 2019 crop emerge as starters, if not stars. Projecting those players now is the trouble. Sometimes they don’t exist.

“The desire to have a franchise-level player with say the fifth pick. Great idea if there is that level of talent in the draft,” another NBA executive told NBC Sports Washington. “Some years, yes. Most years, no.”

Hunter’s talent is tangible immediately. It’s why ESPN ranks the lengthy forward fifth overall on its 2019 draft big board.

It’s why Hunter makes for an intriguing candidate for the Wizards (31-45), who would currently hold the eighth overall pick based on record. They own a 23.1 percent chance of jumping into the top 4 and a 5.2 percent shot at landing the coveted no. 1 overall selection. Hello, Zion.

Hope doesn’t just rise if lottery luck means landing the power-packed Williamson. It explodes through the Capital One Arena roof, under which Williamson and Duke play this weekend. That’s the dream. The likelihood has the Wizards remaining in the middle of the lottery where they ideally find a helpful piece.

There is nothing wrong with a steady building block to go with a two-time All-Star in Beal and Brown, last season’s first-round selection. If we do factor in the depth chart, the Wizards would have obvious holes at forward even if they bring back the majority of the current roster.

Hunter addresses all these areas. For a team trying to re-emerge after a trying campaign that included internal squabbles, don’t sleep on the impact of the right role player.

“(De’Andre) does everything, a guy you want on your team,” Jerome said. “Pretty cool guy off the court too.”

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Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

With the grind of the NBA season preparing to get underway, the Washington Wizards are spending some time off the court as a way to relax and have some fun. On Monday, the team headed to Top Golf to take some hacks, and we were treated to a breakdown of each player's swing.

As you can see, some like head coach Scott Brooks have a pretty smooth swing. However, the same cannot be said about others.

Take for example Moe Wagner. 

The newly acquired Wizard started off promising with a solid stance, bent knees and all. But, the wind up showed that there were clearly some quirks in his mechanics. Then, the worst thing possible happened: a missed ball. No one will really judge if the swing isn't the prettiest, considering his job is to play basketball, but to come up empty hurts.

Wagner wasn't alone in his misfortunes, however. Jordan McRae also had some trouble getting his club to connect with the ball. But, as they say, third times the charm.

As for other poor swings, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant had success hitting the ball, it just didn't look all too pretty.

For Bryant, he may be taking the concept of getting a low, solid base, quite too literally. With Bertans, the movement on his back leg followed by a quick swing is, well, interesting to say the least.

But, fear not, Washington does have a few players who at least look like they've picked up a golf club before. 

Even rookie Rui Hachimura showed off a pretty decent stroke.

While the videos did provide a good laugh, it's safe to say that most of these guys shouldn't quit their day jobs.


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What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

WASHINGTON -- Point guard Chris Chiozza is hailed as a success story for the Wizards' G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, which played its first season last year as an expansion franchise. He joined the organization in training camp as an undrafted rookie and by February had played his way into an NBA contract with the Houston Rockets.

Chiozza initially signed a 10-day contract with Houston and ended up sticking around through the playoffs until late July when he was waived. That opened the door for a reunion in Washington where he landed on an Exhibit 10 contract last month.

His time in Houston was brief, but important for a variety of reasons. For one, Chiozza got some official NBA experience for the first time by appearing in seven regular season games. 

Chiozza, 23, is now back with the Wizards with a different perspective.

"It's a much more comfortable feeling now, just having that experience," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I wasn't expecting to be back here. But it's a great opportunity. I get along great with everybody here."

Chiozza is currently gunning for a roster spot with the Wizards out of training camp. With injuries to two of Washington's point guards, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, Chiozza could earn some playing time early in the season behind projected starter Ish Smith. Chiozza's main competition is undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, who joined the Wizards on a three-year deal this summer. 

Chiozza could have his contract converted into a two-way deal, as they have an open spot there next to Garrison Mathews. That would allow Chiozza to start the season with the NBA team until G-League training camp begins on Oct. 28. Then, a 45-day limit would kick in for how much time he could spend in the NBA. Forty-five days, though, would be plenty for the Wizards to work with, as Thomas is expected to return from his left thumb injury not long after the season begins.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks believes Chiozza has a real chance to carve out a steady career in the NBA.

"I think he knows that he can play in the league. As a young player, you hope that you can be in the league but you're not quite sure if you can," Brooks said. "But with Chris, I think he knows he can play in it."

Chiozza draws confidence from having a full year of professional basketball under his belt. But he also had a unique experience playing in Houston. He got to square off every day at practice with two guards who will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

Chiozza got to see up close what makes James Harden and Chris Paul great. And he took away from that lessons of how he can elevate his own game as a point guard.

"It was crazy just to see how good of a one-on-one player [Harden] is. When you watch him on TV, you can't really tell how smart of a player he is with the reads he makes. He can read when it's his shot or it's time to kick out to a shooter. Just watching him and CP3 and how they read the defense is pretty interesting," Chiozza said.

"When I was growing up, [Paul] was my favorite point guard. Just being around him and going to his camps and stuff and then being on his team, it was crazy."

Chiozza said practicing with Paul is a different experience than in games where he is more conservative with his ball-handling and passing. In practice, Paul may surprise you by passing the ball through a big man's legs or with dribble combinations he doesn't allows deploy. Chiozza calls them "pick-up moves."

Chiozza saw the finer details of what makes two great guards the players they are. As he aims to find a niche in the NBA, that can only help his cause.