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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Another 40-point game from Bradley Beal not enough as Wizards fall to Jazz

Another 40-point game from Bradley Beal not enough as Wizards fall to Jazz

The Washington Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 129-119 on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Only one spot in the standings separates the Wizards from the playoff picture, but it sure doesn't seem like it at the moment.

With their loss to the Jazz on Friday night, the Wizards have dropped four of five coming out of the All-Star break. They have lost nine straight games to the Jazz going back to 2016.

If the Wizards are going to figure it out soon, they will have to do so on the road. Their loss to Utah kicked off a four-game West Coast road swing.

The Wizards are now 21-37 on the season. That puts them on pace for 30 wins.

2. Within the context of this week, 30 points on Wednesday against the Nets qualified as an off-night for Bradley Beal. On Friday, he was back to his early-week form with 42 points, including 23 in the first half alone.

Beal also added 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals. He shot 17-for-33 overall and 6-for-15 from long range.

This was Beal's 10th 40-point game of the year, which is two off the franchise record for a single season. The problem is the Wizards are 1-9 in those games.

This was Beal's 17th straight 25-point game, which is tied for the longest streak ever in Wizards/Bullets history. He tied Walt Bellamy, who set the record in the 1961-62 season.

3. Some day years from now, when Rui Hachimura is asked if he remembers his 'welcome to the NBA' moment, he's probably going to answer with what Donovan Mitchell did to him in the first half on Friday night.

Mitchell threw down one of the more vicious poster dunks you will see, and it all happened in the halfcourt. Mitchell is just a different type of dunker and he got Hachimura at the perfect time with a jump off two feet.

 

On one hand, good for Hachimura for meeting him at the rim. But, man, that was ugly.

4. That moment aside, Hachimura had a solid night in the box score. He poured in 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and added seven rebounds and three steals.

Hachimura's consistency scoring the ball already as a rookie continues to impress. This was his 35th career game and his 26th with double-figure points and his 18th with 15 points or more.

But also consistent is Hachimura's trajectory as a scorer. It was another game where he started off hot, then cooled down to disappear late.

5. It appears that Troy Brown Jr.'s decrease in minutes on Wednesday was not a one-time thing. He again took a backseat to Jerome Robinson, who played 22 minutes compared to Brown's 18.

Head coach Scott Brooks explained the move on Wednesday by saying "minutes are going to be competitive" now that the team is healthy. Robinson has evidently been showing Brooks more in recent games.

The best guess is that it involves defense. Robinson has been more impressive on that end than he has been on offense. He is a physical perimeter defender and the Wizards can use more of that.

One play in the first half demonstrated that well. He checked Jordan Clarkson at the three-point line and trailed him off the dribble to the baseline where he stuffed him to force a jumpball. It was the type of contest we haven't seen enough of from the Wizards this season.

Brown, though, has a chance to respond and he was more aggressive attacking the rim against the Jazz. That is a good sign.

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Justin Bieber's new No. 1 album features production from ex-Wizard JaVale McGee

Justin Bieber's new No. 1 album features production from ex-Wizard JaVale McGee

Former Wizard Javale McGee has a well-known reputation in the NBA for his emphatic dunks, and his name is cemented in NBA history with two championships. Now McGee can add a No. 1 album to his list of accomplishments.

McGee, who currently is helping the Los Angeles Lakers maintain the best record in the Western Conference, was listed as a contributor on the song "Available" on Justin Bieber's new hit album “Changes.” 

McGee took advantage of constantly being on the road during his career and began networking with major players in the music industry, before meeting Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, one of Bieber's producers in 2013.

"I was in the studio with Poo Bear around November of last year," McGee told the New York Times in an article published Friday. "I didn’t know who I was making music for. I was playing some songs and samples and he stopped on this one sample that I had made. He looped it, put it in the computer and we just started writing to it. We ended up writing the whole song, but there were no drums or anything." 

McGee said a few months later when he was speaking with Boyd, he was notified that he was on the album. 

"It was amazing," McGee said. "Justin Bieber is one of the, if not the, top artists out there. So to be able to keep working and produce something for an artist like that is amazing."

Another slam-dunk.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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