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5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

In an 82-game NBA season, there is no natural quarter-mark. Technically, that would be at halftime of a team's 21st game.

But now that the Wizards have played 23 games this season, they have a nice three-day break, which provides an opportunity to step back and take stock of what we've seen so far. And for these Wizards, that evaluation process is extra interesting because they had so much roster turnover in the offseason.

Really, these past two months have been an introductory period where we got our first glimpse at a team almost entirely comprised of new players. According to Basketball Reference's continuity table, only the Warriors have seen fewer minutes played this season by players who were on their team last year.

With all that in mind, here are five things we have learned about the 2019-20 Wizards after basically a quarter of the season has passed...

Bertans was a steal

The highlight of the Wizards' season so far is definitely the emergence of Davis Bertans, whom the Wizards acquired over the summer in the NBA trade equivalent of a casino heist. Somehow, after only giving up the Euro-stashed Aaron White, they brought in what has so far been the best three-point shooter in the league this season. General manager Tommy Sheppard hadn't even had the interim tag taken away when he made the move in July, which should be a very good sign of things to come.

Bertans is their second-leading scorer with 15.7 points per game and is shooting an absurd 46.5 percent from three. He has doubled his attempts from last season with the Spurs, from 4.4 to 8.6 per game, and somehow his percentage has gone up. That's unheard of.

Bertans has been so good that it is inevitable the Wizards will field calls leading up to the Feb. trade deadline from contenders looking to add a shooter. But should they part ways with a guy who can shoot this well at 6-foot-10? Maybe if they were undergoing a long-term rebuild it would make sense, but team chairman Ted Leonsis doesn't want it to take long and neither does Bradley Beal. Bertans is the type of guy you keep if you plan to compete for the playoffs sooner than later.

Beal may have a shot at All-NBA

Though his shooting percentages have suffered from a recent slump, Beal is putting up monster numbers now in his first season as the face of the Wizards' franchise. He's averaging career-highs in points (27.4/g) and assists (7.0) while also adding 4.5 rebounds per game.

You know what those look like? All-NBA numbers. Consider the fact only three players in the last decade have averaged at least 27 and seven in a full season: James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. All three guys did it multiple times during that span and only one of their seasons, 2015-16 for Harden, didn't end with an All-NBA nod. Somehow Harden was snubbed despite averaging 29 points and 7.5 assists that year.

So, it could happen where Beal keeps this up and still falls short. But helping his cause are injuries at the guard position with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each out long-term.

It's really hard to make All-NBA on a team that wins fewer than 30 games, but it has happened before and Beal might be the next to do it. If he does, the Wizards signing him to a contract extension before the season will look even smarter because if he hadn't signed that deal, All-NBA would qualify him for a supermax.

Rui is already good, could be very good

It didn't take long for rookie Rui Hachimura to show he belongs at the NBA level. Most rookies take years before they can impact games the way he has, with averages of 14.4 points and six rebounds per game. That is especially impressive for a guy who was taken ninth overall.

We still don't have a great read on what Hachimura's ceiling is, whether he will ever develop into an All-Star. But he's already shown enough to say he will be a productive NBA player for many years to come. The Wizards have found another franchise building block.

They may have another one in Moe Wagner. He came over as a Lakers castoff in the summer and has done nothing but exceed expectations. He's averaging a solid line of 11.6 points and six rebounds per game while ranking seventh in the league in true shooting percentage (68.2).

Thomas is back, at least partly

Isaiah Thomas is currently sidelined with a left calf injury and there is an argument their best point guard is Ish Smith, but Thomas has already proven plenty of people wrong with the way he has played this season. There was so much mystery surrounding him entering the year because he only played 12 games for the Nuggets last year and hadn't shown he could be healthy in the past two seasons.

So far this year, though, he has been a solid offensive player with averages of 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three. He may never be the All-NBA player he once was, but Thomas clearly still has plenty of days left in his career.

They're probably going to get a high draft pick

Sure, most of us didn't think the Wizards would be very good this year. But given they have so many new players, they deserved some time to show us what they could do before we drew conclusions about their likely fate this season.

So far, they have actually been surprisingly good on offense. They are currently fourth in both points per game and offensive rating. Few would have predicted that coming in.

But their defense may be even worse than we thought. They are dead-last in points allowed and in defensive rating. And, because of that, they appear safely headed towards the draft lottery in the offseason.

Maybe they can turn things around and fight for a playoff spot, but at 7-16 on the year it looks like the Wizards will be picking high in the June 2020 draft. Though it would have been fun if they were a surprise team this year, that is probably for the best in the big picture. 

They can get another blue chip prospect and add him to a core that includes Beal, John Wall, Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and maybe Bertans, if they can find a way to keep him. Add someone like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards to that mix and the 2020-21 Wizards could make some noise. For now, there are going to be a lot of high-scoring games with the Wizards coming out on the wrong end of them more often than not.

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Troy Brown Jr. closing game at PG is perfect example of value Wizards see in Disney restart

Troy Brown Jr. closing game at PG is perfect example of value Wizards see in Disney restart

The Wizards were the final team included in the NBA's restart in Orlando, FL and with that brought some potential pitfalls, some of which Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans certainly weighed for themselves before choosing not to go. There is also the potential they hurt their lottery odds or even get screwed by the league's adjusted lottery rules.

But the Wizards chose to look at the situation as glass half-full and not half-empty. They embraced the opportunity to play more basketball and viewed the final 11 games (three exhibition, eight real ones) as a unique circumstance for player development.

On Monday in their loss to the Pacers, we saw a perfect example of that. They played a certified perennial playoff team, one with an airtight defensive structure. And they were able to push them at the end while using a lineup completely full of young players.

The final lineup for the Wizards, from the 5:56 mark on, had Troy Brown Jr. at point guard, Jerome Robinson at the two, Isaac Bonga at the three, Rui Hachimura at the four and Thomas Bryant at center. All five players are 23 or younger and Bryant, now in his third NBA season, is the most experienced of the bunch.

Head coach Scott Brooks saw immense value in that stretch where he was able to put some of the Wizards' youngest players into unfamiliar roles.

"We have to see what we have in a lot of different positions. These are great minutes," he said. "That's why we're here. We're here to get better and we're here to improve."

Most notable was the backcourt. Though Bonga, Hachimura and Bryant have taken on more responsibility with Beal and Bertans out, they have played those positions in crunch time before.

For Brown and Robinson, it was a different look from what they are used to seeing. Robinson would normally be sitting in favor of Beal and Brown would not be playing point guard. Ish Smith or Shabazz Napier would instead be out there, depending on who had the hot hand.

Brown has played plenty of point guard in his life, and he holds a preference for the position. But he has only played it sparingly so far in his two NBA seasons, not enough to even register on his Basketball Reference position estimate breakdown.

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On Monday, Brown got to let loose and be the floor general. He responded well with three points and three assists during the final six minutes. The Wizards were down 13 when he checked in and cut the lead to seven before Indiana closed them out.

"I enjoyed it," Brown said. "For me, it felt natural. Today, I had more turnovers than I would like. But I feel comfortable calling out the offense, bringing the ball up and just initiating the offense and getting us into a flow."

It wasn't much, but it may have been a preview of more to come. Brooks, in fact, suggested Brown could start at point guard in one of the team's remaining five games. 

"There might be another game where Troy maybe starts at the point, you never know. He has to be ready," Brooks said. "We have played him in that before. We did it during the season and I wouldn't be surprised if we did it sometime during the next five games."

Brooks wasn't asked about Brown potentially starting at point, he brought it up himself. If he does go that route, it would make plenty of sense.

The Wizards are using their time at Disney World to develop young players, which they have plenty of. But they don't have one in their usual point guard rotation. Brown can play the position, so if they fully commit to playing youngsters, he would be the guy.

The Wizards' final five opponents are tough ones: the Sixers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Those teams feature some really good point guards like Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Eric Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker. 

But two match-ups stand out as arguably the best for Brown. With Ben Simmons now playing forward, he could try his hand against Shake Milton of the Sixers, whom the Wizards play on Wednesday.

Or, what would be really intriguing is when the Wizards play the Pelicans in their following game, on Friday. New Orleans has Lonzo Ball, who is about Brown's size and would be great barometer for him on both ends of the floor. 

Either way, if Brooks does indeed give Brown a game to start and play heavy minutes at point guard, the Wizards' time in Orlando will all of a sudden become a lot more interesting.

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5 takeaways from Wizards-Pacers, including Rui Hachimura's match-up with T.J. Warren

5 takeaways from Wizards-Pacers, including Rui Hachimura's match-up with T.J. Warren

The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 111-100 on Monday afternoon in Disney World. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

Expected result

We knew the road was going to get tougher for the Wizards after they started out with the Suns and Nets, two of the worst teams the NBA brought to Orlando. And even with Victor Oladipo out for rest and Domantas Sabonis injured, the Indiana Pacers still possess far more experienced talent than the Wizards do.

Washington was able to hang around in the first half, but the Pacers blew the doors open in the third quarter and coasted to victory. T.J Warren had another big game with 34 points and 11 rebounds.

The result of the game, though, is secondary to what the Wizards' young players did, and there were some positives in that regard. Troy Brown Jr. (10 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Thomas Bryant (20 points, 11 rebounds) were solid. So was Jerome Robinson (17 points), who is producing more consistently now than ever before.

RELATED: WIZARDS-PACERS WAS DEMATHA REUNION FOR OLADIPO AND GRANT

Another off-day for Rui

We are starting to see the effects of Rui Hachimura being moved up the scouting report. After he went for just nine points against the Nets on Sunday, he managed only nine points on 4-for-12 shooting against the Pacers. He was harassed by one of the NBA's best defenses and should be able to take some lessons away from the experience.

Hachimura, by the way, got to spend much of the game matching up with Warren, who made waves recently with a 53-point game against the Sixers. It was fascinating to watch because Hachimura and Warren's games are very similar.

Warren, in fact, might be one of the best comparisons to Hachimura in today's game. While many have focused on Kawhi Leonard, that is arguably unfair to Hachimura. Leonard is the best wing defender of his generation and has the chance to be an all-time great. Hachimura isn't known for his defense at all, at least not yet. So, it makes little sense.

Warren, on the other hand, is a gifted scorer who began as a midrange killer and has expanded his range to add a three-point shot, just as Hachimura will hope to do. They also have nearly identical builds. And if Hachimura follows the same track as Warren, who is now a fringe All-Star, that would be just fine.

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Rotation changes

Losing their first two games in Orlando was enough to convince head coach Scott Brook to shake things up. He pulled Shabazz Napier from the starting lineup for Ish Smith and also turned to Admiral Schofield early and more often. Schofield appeared to take the place of Jerian Grant, who actually played quite well the day before.

As for Schofield, it was good to see him play more, though he didn't play particularly well. He had logged only six minutes so far in the seeding games and was a DNP on Sunday. They need to play him more just to see what he's capable of, as this is their best chance to get film on him in NBA situations. Though he just joined the organization as a second round pick last summer, minutes are going to be much harder to come by next season. He needs to be given an opportunity.

Regarding the point guard spot, it would be nice to see Brown get a real, extended look there by the end of the Wizards' time in Orlando. Point guard is really the only position the Wizards don't have a young guy to let loose. Both Smith and Napier are veterans. 

But Brown can play there and given this is becoming entirely about player development, the Wizards should let him play at least one game with 30-plus minutes at the one. Maybe you don't do that against the Thunder or the Celtics where Chris Paul or Kemba Walker could eat him up. But what about against the Pelicans? Let him go toe-to-toe with Lonzo Ball for 35 minutes. Maybe he shows you he can be counted on at point, where he has said he would prefer to play long-term.

Napier stepped up

After getting demoted to the bench, Napier responded well. In fact, Brooks pointed Napier out as a player he wanted to see more from, just as he did with Brown and Bryant the day before. They bounced back accordingly, and so did Napier. Maybe there was a cause-and-effect.

Napier came out blazing with 11 pts in his first nine minutes on 5-for-7 shooting. He ended up with 16 points and four assists.

That was good to see because, remember, Napier is an impending free agent. Everyone focused on Davis Bertans, who decided to opt out, but Napier has a lot riding on this offseason as well. And because of that, he has a lot to gain in Orlando. It would be a shame if he were to fizzle out at this point in the year.

Points in the paint

The Wizards got decimated by the Pacers in the paint where they outscored Washington 62-44. Warren hurt them and so did Myles Turner, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

That, of course, is not a strength area for the Wizards' defense. Bryant and Moe Wagner (5 points, 5 rebounds) aren't exactly known for their rim protection.

And as it all transpired, it sort of made you realize how much the Wizards could use a guy like Turner. If you recall, he was reportedly available not long before the trade deadline. If Indiana starts picking up the phone again, the Wizards would be smart to give it some consideration.

He led the NBA in blocks last season, is only 24 and is on a manageable contract. He would be a great fit alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Hachimura. And the Wizards really need a shot-blocker to shore up the defense behind Wall, who is likely to struggle on that end more than he will on offense coming off of his injury.

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