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Despite GM comments, Wizards continue to field calls for Davis Bertans

Despite GM comments, Wizards continue to field calls for Davis Bertans

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard was sincere in his comments last month about his intentions to re-sign sharpshooting forward Davis Bertans this summer, but that hasn't stopped teams from showing interest ahead of the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline.

In addition to the Sixers, Hawks and Lakers, the Celtics and Nuggets have emerged as suitors for Bertans' services, NBC Sports Washington has learned. Bertans, 27, has enjoyed a breakout season, averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 43.4 percent from three on 8.6 attempts per game.

Those last numbers are key. Bertans has established himself as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the NBA. He is on an expiring contract and thus has become a key trade target for teams in need of shooting.

How much the Wizards will actually entertain offers is unclear. He is one of their best players and the fact he has become one of the best catch-and-shoot scorers in the NBA is particularly enticing given the offensive style they like to play.

Many believe Bertans, whose salary is $7 million this season, could make $15 million or more annually on his next contract, but the Wizards could pay him that if they choose to with Ian Mahinmi's $15.5 million salary set to come off the books. 

The Wizards will play two of the teams that have targeted Bertans this week, the Celtics and Hawks. Bertans, though, remains out with a right quad injury and will miss at least their game against Boston.

That injury is healed to the point Bertans is expected to return soon and likely by the end of the weekend, according to one person familiar with his recovery. If Bertans comes back soon and plays like he did before the injury, the trade interest will only continue to heat up.

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Eliminated from playoffs, Wizards hope to make gains in other ways

Eliminated from playoffs, Wizards hope to make gains in other ways

The Wizards arrived in Orlando with dual goals, to make the play-in tournament and to use the extra games to develop their young players. Now that they are eliminated from playoff contention, the second one has come fully into focus.

Really, it was their most important goal all along. Though they had an opportunity to make the postseason, and publicly stated their hope of qualifying, they had no illusions of their chances, especially with Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opting not to go. 

Surely they wanted to do better than they have so far. With their loss to the Pelicans on Friday night, the Wizards have lost all eight of their games in the bubble: five regular season games that count and three others during their warm-up exhibition schedule.

It was been an ugly showing in terms of wins and losses, no doubt. But the returns in the player development department have been solid. 

"Coming down here, that was our goal: get involved in the play-in game. We didn’t reach that, but we also had other goals to develop and keeping getting better and keep playing the brand of basketball we want to play," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We’ve done a lot of good things."

Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant have made the most of the experience. Brown is averaging 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists while handling more ball-handling duties than he usually does. Bryant has been a force on both ends, averaging 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from three (5.0 3PA).

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS LOSS TO PELICANS

The rest of the team has been a mixed bag. But young players like Jerome Robinson, Isaac Bonga, Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield are getting more minutes than ever and are being allowed to play through their mistakes.

The mistakes, though, could be less forgivable than they appear. Brooks dropped a reminder of another reason why the Wizards feel their time in Orlando is valuable.

"Our job is to keep evaluating before next season starts who’s going to be with us and who’s not," Brooks said.

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Next year, the Wizards will have some collection of these guys but whomever is kept will be asked to perform under more pressure, for a team with bigger goals. Once Beal reunites with John Wall, it will be playoffs or bust.

The guys who will return need to work the kinks out now because the coaching staff and front office will have no choice but to be less lenient in their decisions. Barring a trade, Bryant should be back and installed as an important piece. He understands what he is preparing for.

"It’s difficult because everyone wants to win," he said. "But sometimes you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture of how things are going to work out."

The Wizards will now get their toughest tests yet with their final three games in Orlando all coming against teams with top-10 records in the NBA. They see the Thunder, Celtics and Bucks to close things out.

There may not be much on the line in terms of the standings, but the Wizards' young prospects will get to try their hand at the league's best. Whether they can leave the bubble with a victory is now a real question.

"This is my rookie season and I want to finish strong. Hopefully we can win a game," Rui Hachimura said.

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5 takeaways from Wizards-Pelicans, including Rui Hachimura's breakout

5 takeaways from Wizards-Pelicans, including Rui Hachimura's breakout

The Washington Wizards lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 118-107 on Friday night in Orlando, officially eliminating them from the playoffs. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

Yet another loss

The playoffs were always going to be a longshot for the Wizards and now those hopes are officially a thing of the past. They were eliminated from postseason contention on Friday night with their loss to the Pelicans, who used a 12-point advantage in the third quarter to coast to victory.

Now it is fair to ask if the Wizards will win a single game in Orlando, as with this loss they fell to 0-5 in the restart games that count and 0-8 if you include their three exhibition games before that. Making matters worse is that their three toughest opponents still await.

Their final three games are against the Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Unless any of those teams rest star players, it will require a major upset for the Wizards to leave Orlando with a victory.

Sure, it's more about player development than anything. But zero wins would be unexpected.

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Rui bounced back

After three games in which he fell short of double-digit points and shot a total of 8-for-29 (27.5%), Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura finally broke through with a big offensive performance. He wasted no time either, with nine points in the first quarter and 15 by halftime. 

Hachimura finished with 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting with six rebounds. It seemed like the Wizards tried to spread things out a bit more to give him space. It didn't hurt the team was able to knock down some threes.

Head coach Scott Brooks explained recently how the team's lack of 3-point shooting has limited Hachimura's ability to go to work in the midrange. He had more room to operate but also hit some tough shots that just didn't fall for him in previous games.

It was good to see, though, because the Wizards only have three more games in Orlando. If any of their young players are going to get something out of this experience, they better do it sooner than later.

No Zion

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Hachimura go up against Zion Williamson, as the Pelicans held him out for rest on the second night of a back-to-back. Williamson, who has been treated very carefully all season, played 22 minutes against the Kings on Thursday.

That would have put the No. 1 pick from last summer against the No. 9 pick and it would have been their first meeting since college. The Wizards didn't see Williamson last July in the Summer League because he got hurt. And their other game against the Pelicans this season was canceled due to the league shutting down because of the coronavirus.

Maybe next year.

Bryant keeps producing

Few players on the Wizards have made the most of the restart quite like Thomas Bryant, who has made the most of his extra shot attempts, especially from long range. Bryant posted another strong stat-line of 22 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He went 9-for-18 from the field and hit two threes.

Much like Troy Brown Jr. (20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), Bryant is showing enough in Orlando to warrant some respect next year in the Wizards' gameplan. We're seeing that Brown's play-making should be incorporated into the offense, no matter the fact that John Wall and Bradley Beal will be high usage centerpieces. And Bryant's three-point shooting is begging to be utilized.

Maybe it is as simple as Bryant spending more time on the perimeter as they spread the floor with shooters. Or, he could form a deadly pick-and-pop duo with Wall, who has never really had a reliable partner in that regard in his career. Bryant can also be effective at rim-running. The potential between those two in the pick-and-roll is very intriguing.

Wagner and Robinson were off

Something doesn't seem right with Moe Wagner. He has been one of the Wizards' most disappointing performers so far in Orlando and he just doesn't appear to be himself on the floor.

Wagner had another bad game with two points in 10 minutes. He only attempted one shot.

Before the game, Brooks said he had been thinking a lot about how to get Wagner going, that he wasn't playing with the same spirit he is used to seeing. Beyond that, the numbers tell a bleak story. In five games at Disney World, Wagner has 16 total points. He's averaging 3.2 points per game while shooting 30 percent.

Is it the ankle injury he suffered earlier this year? Is something going on we don't know about? Wagner is a good player, but he hasn't looked like it in Orlando. The good news is he has three games left to change that.

Jerome Robinson had been one of the best stories of the restart for the Wizards, but he took a step back in this one. The second-year guard scored only six points on 2-for-8 shooting. Maybe he can get back going on Sunday against the Thunder.

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