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2020 NBA Draft: Wizards' biggest needs are all on defense... again

2020 NBA Draft: Wizards' biggest needs are all on defense... again

We may not know how the 2020 NBA Draft will be conducted, but we do know what the Wizards should be looking for when it is.

Because as much as the coronavirus hiatus has affected the league, it hasn't really changed offseason priorities for teams from a roster-building perspective. The trade deadline had already passed and teams were moving forward with what they had.

And given the draft happens before free agency, it's not too early to look at what those needs are given they essentially will not change. Here is a glance at what the Wizards need most with the draft in mind...

Rim protection

The Wizards' biggest need this offseason is the same one they have had for a long, long time, arguably since Nene left and maybe even since the days of Brendan Haywood. For years, it has become a copy-and-paste deal as the Wizards have struggled defensively and at the rim more than anywhere.

The problem is that finding rim protectors is very difficult in today's NBA. The rules favor offense, many teams are looking for them and the ones that have them don't let them go. The Wizards have had some epic swings-and-misses in trying to find one between Ian Mahinmi, Dwight Howard and others.

And as much as not having a shot-blocker has hurt the Wizards in recent years, that could be compounded next season when John Wall returns from his ruptured Achilles. It would be smart to shore up the back-end of the defense so they can ask less of Wall, who will have his hands full staying in front of lightning quick point guards on a surgically-repaired leg.

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It's also a challenge to find players who can help with rim protection right away. In the last 10 years, only nine players have averaged 1.5 blocks or more per game as rookies. It usually takes some time for even the best shot-blockers to adjust to NBA athletes and rules before they find success in that area. That has even applied to guys like Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who each averaged fewer than one block per game as rookies.

Still, it wouldn't hurt to try. The Wizards haven't drafted a guy with rim-protector potential since Jan Vesely in 2011. He actually became one, just in Europe and not for them.

Perimeter defense

Again, another need the Wizards have had for years. No, you're not reading an article from 2016. 

And just like rim protection, this is going to be more important once Wall returns, especially when you consider the core they are building around. The Wizards have Wall at point guard and a host of players for whom offense is the name of their game between Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant. Beal has shown more defensively than the others, but as we've seen this season he can't do as much on that end of the floor when he's carrying the brunt of the offense.

Also, when you watch the Wizards sometimes it's hard not to notice the lack of physical play on the perimeter. It is really apparent when they play teams like the Clippers and Celtics.

The Wizards also have a greater need at small forward than any other position with no long-term solution in place. Hachimura could develop into more of a three, but right now he fits best at the four. They have some young talent in Troy Brown Jr. and Isaac Bonga, but not enough where it couldn't be boosted.

High ceiling

Last year, the Wizards went for guys with high floors, ones that had played several years in college and offered some safety in their selections. Hachimura and second round pick Admiral Schofield were fairly sure bets when the Wizards could have taken chances on boom-or-bust players like Cam Reddish and Bol Bol.

They did well with picking Hachimura, and that approach was perfectly understandable at the time given the organization's overhaul last summer and the fact general manager Tommy Sheppard was still operating with an interim tag. He wasn't in position to take any chances.

But this time around, as he admitted himself, could be different. And given the Wizards' salary cap future, it would be smart to collect some lottery tickets that could transform the team's future in ways they can't really pull off through free agency without big money to spend.

Often times the high-ceiling, raw potential players fizzle out quickly. But sometimes they turn into Pascal Siakam or Donovan Mitchell and alter the course of a franchise signficantly. Getting players that outperform their contracts will be pivotal for the Wizards to make all of this work with Wall and Beal's salaries on the books.

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76ers' Ben Simmons diagnosed with partial dislocation of the left kneecap

76ers' Ben Simmons diagnosed with partial dislocation of the left kneecap

After exiting the 76ers-Wizards matchup early Wednesday night, Ben Simmons was diagnosed with subluxation of the left patella on Thursday.

Simmons left the game during the third quarter and did not return. The injury occurred after he grabbed an offensive rebound and dribbled to the corner to pass to Al Horford in the post. Following the play, he began flexing his left leg and left for the locker room. Simmons was seen walking gingerly in street clothes minutes later.  

Before leaving the game, Simmons recorded eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.

Simmons’ diagnosis of a partially dislocated kneecap leaves him out indefinitely as he and the team consider treatment options. He has already been ruled out of Philadelphia’s game against the Orlando Magic on Friday. However, his MRI showed no ligament damage in the knee, which leaves him optimistic to return later in the playoffs.

His knee injury is not the only injury Simmons has had to overcome this season. He also missed the final eight games before the NBA’s hiatus with a nerve impingement in his lower back, but fully recovered before the restart began.

Playing without an All-Star player will be a challenge for Philadelphia, but the team has proven successful thus far in Orlando. The Sixers have gone 2-1 in the bubble and currently trail the Indiana Pacers by one game for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and are two games behind the Miami Heat for fourth. 

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Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

Kevin Durant gives his NBA Finals predictions

While a number of teams are fighting to be the favorite heading into the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers picked up a key endorsement from Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant.

When asked who he thought will win it all this year, Durant chose the Clippers defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals and upsetting the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. 

"They're just so deep," Durant said of the Clippers on “Play For Keeps” podcast. "They haven't had their whole team together at once for a long period of time yet, and that talent is just undeniable. When you have [Paul George] and Kawhi [Leonard] at the wings, that's what you need to win is wings. You got those two at the wings, arguably top three, top four at the wing position on one team."

So far in Orlando, the Clippers have gone 1-2 after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and falling to the Lakers and Phoenix Suns. As of now, they hold the two-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture and would face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. However, they are currently just a half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets with five seeding games remaining.

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The Lakers clinched the one-seed last week and are up six games in the standings over their cross-town rivals.

ESPN’s playoff odds gave the Clippers a 10% chance of winning it all. They ranked third behind the Bucks with a 49.7% chance and the Lakers at 18.7%. 

Durant chose Los Angeles over his own team, the Brooklyn Nets, who are also in a good position to make the playoffs as the current seven-seed in the East Conference. However, the Nets are playing in Orlando without eight players including a number of starters like Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Durant, who missed the entire regular season after tearing his Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals.

If his team retains the seven-seed heading into the playoffs, they would likely face the Toronto Raptors, who Durant projected would fall to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But regardless of seeding, Durant acknowledged it’s still anyone’s game.

“I hate doing that s---,” he said about predicting a winner. “You never know what could happen – you seen that with us last year.”

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