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A guide to who could be the next hero for the Wizards with John Wall sidelined

A guide to who could be the next hero for the Wizards with John Wall sidelined

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Only two days remain in 2018. Forget end-of-year lists. Focus on 2019 projections. 

In the category of Washington Wizards breakout performer for the current season, numerous candidates exist. With John Wall expected out for the remainder of the season, the team needs more than just nominees. They need serious contenders.

In the 130-126 win over the Charlotte Hornets, several grabbed the spotlight.

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal, on pace for a second All-Star appearance, was the lone Wizards player on the court Saturday ineligible for the award. Washington’s leading scorer shined in the leading man role for chunks of the last two seasons when Wall missed time. Last season it was 41 games. This time it’s half a hundred including the final 47.

For now, the situational comparisons end there. Washington’s lineup and rotation were largely stable when knee and shoulder injuries sidelined Wall last season. The current setup defines madcap.

Four projected opening starters were among Saturday’s inactives including Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. There’s another quartet thrust into the mix comprised of players who weren’t on the roster when the month began. This doesn’t even count first-round pick Troy Brown Jr., who received scant minutes much of the season.

At 14-23, some argue the Wizards’ ship is sinking. With Wall’s injury, it’s certainly an all-hands-on-deck situation. We just don’t know yet which supporting players are most ready to plug the biggest holes. Neither does the leading man.

“In a way [I’m curious],” Beal said after Washington snapped a three-game losing streak. “It feels like an AAU team right now. We’ve only got eight guys or so in rotation. We have to make do with what we have. Everybody has to step up, it’s not just going to be that one person that comes in and makes the difference. Everybody has to step their game up, elevate it and bring a lot more to the table.”

They did against the Hornets, one of the teams the Wizards are chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

Brooks only used eight players. Seven scored in double figures. Three tallied at least 20. Surprisingly, Beal wasn’t one of them.

“You would have never had me think that we can have three 20-point scorers and one of them not be Brad,” the relieved coach said after a trying day.

Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza, one of the recent additions, led the Wizards with 24 points. Though the 14-year veteran isn’t an unknown, his part likely expands without Wall. The veteran forward set a season-high with nine assists while sinking four of 10 attempts from beyond the arc.

“He needs to shoot. We need his shooting,” Brooks said. “We need his toughness. We need his professionalism. We need everything that he brings and he has done a great job.”

Thomas Bryant

Thomas Bryant received a head start on his breakout candidacy when Dwight Howard underwent back surgery in November. The energetic center powered his way to 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Tomas Satoransky

Tomas Satoransky, the player most directly affected by Wall’s absence, finished with 20 points, six assists, and four 3-pointers. The 6-foot-7 point guard likely faces long-shot odds for the breakout award in part because he won it last season after taking over for Wall. His pass-first approach fuels a needed hockey assist mentality without Wall. The Wizards had 35 assists on 48 field goals in the win.

"We knew we still have to pick up our energy (without Wall). But it's not a new situation for us,” Satoransky said. “Obviously for the long run, it's a tough loss. You always need your All-Stars. Having two All-Stars is great to have on your team. It's going to be a tough adjustment, but we have been in that situation.”

Washington’s current bench situation isn’t what anyone imagined when the season tipped.

Sam Dekker

Sam Dekker, acquired in one of two trades made by the front office this month, ran, cut and jumped his way to 13 points.

Chasson Randle

Guard Chasson Randle’s last six months included two stints with USA Basketball, training camp work with the Wizards and a revolving door situation with Washington's NBA roster. He’s now the primary backup point guard and not just by default. The Stanford alum continued his deft work running the offense while scoring 13 points.

Troy Brown Jr.

Then there’s Brown, the No. 15 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. His continued absence from the rotation became a hot topic especially after recent transactions and injuries opened playing time. Brooks relented Saturday and Brown delivered by making his first three field goal attempts and finishing with nine points.

The poised 19-year-old worked hard in the shadows and during appearances in the minors with the Capital City Go-Go. He proved ready for this moment and acknowledged some relief postgame.

“I helped the offense, finally,” Brown exclaimed.

Ron Baker

Another new guard, Ron Baker, didn’t take his warm-ups off Saturday, but he’s received steady work since his signing days before Christmas. 

Expect more for him and other the other player's the Wizards must now count on in unexpected ways for a playoff push.

With Wall’s absence opening up 35 minutes a night, opportunities exist. Let’s see who is ready for their close-up.

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Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Moe Wagner has openly expressed his desire to follow the trajectory of Thomas Bryant, whom he has reunited with as a teammate now in Washington after they previously overlapped in Los Angeles.

He is a big man who can stretch the floor and plays with loads of energy. And he was a Lakers castoff now hoping to find his NBA niche in a Wizards uniform.

Through 10 games in Washington, Wagner is ahead of schedule. What he did on Friday night in Minnesota was something Bryant didn't do until months into last season, and technically it was much rarer than that.

Wagner became the first player to put up 30 points and 15 rebounds off the bench since Yao Ming in 2002 and the first in Wizards/Bullets franchise history since Cliff Robinson in 1985. No NBA player had ever dropped 30 points with 15 boards and hit four threes off the bench before in NBA history.

Wagner did this, mind you, against Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best centers in the league. And Wagner did it all in only 25 minutes as he battled through foul trouble to make 13-of-15 shots overall and shoot a perfect 4-for-4 from three. 

He had his moments on the defensive end as well. While Towns lit up the Wizards for 25 points in the first half and for 36 in the game, 19 of those came in the second quarter when Wagner had to take a seat because of his fouls. 

Wagner's defensive style isn't pretty. Without the length or instincts to block shots, he has to scrap his way to getting stops. He uses his fouls and has a knack for drawing them.

Wagner took three charges in Friday's game and now has 10 on the season, which leads the NBA. Last year, Bradley Beal and Jeff Green led the Wizards with 12 for the entire year.

Charges generally aren't utilized in the NBA because they are very difficult to achieve. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks led the entire league with 0.84 per game. Though Wagner is averaging one per game himself this year, that pace will be difficult to sustain. Last season, Ersan Ilyasove led the league with 0.73 charges drawn per game and DeMarcus Cousins was No. 1 with 0.5 per game the year before. 

But there are players for whom charges are a defensive weapon. Ilyasova and Cousins are always near the top of the league in the category and so is Blake Griffin. Shane Battier might be the most famous charge-taker of all-time. Maybe Wagner can be next.

Taking charges, though, are just one of the ways Wagner is using his energy and effort to affect games for the Wizards. After Wednesday's win over the Timberwolves, he is second on the Wizards in deflections, second in contested shots and second in screen assists; all hustle stats. And his net rating is best on the team and fourth-highest in the NBA. 

Wagner is so far proving to be a diamond in the rough, just like Bryant was last year. Keep in mind the Wizards got him in a salary-dump trade from the Lakers that also gave them Isaac Bonga and a second-round pick. All the Wizards gave up was cash considerations, which they used to be famous for coveting.

All of this makes it fair to wonder if the Wizards can do it again. They got Bryant from the Lakers and then Wagner.

So, who is the back-up center currently on L.A. they can poach next summer?

Well, technically that would be either Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee, so maybe not. But the Wizards already fooled the Lakers once and it looks like they did it again.

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Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal led the Wizards to their third win of the season Friday night with a brilliant 44-point, 10-assist performance against the Timberwolves. 

It was the third time in his career scoring 40 points and dishing out 10 assists, which is now a Wizards franchise record. Beal passed Gilbert Arenas (2) and John Wall (2) to become the outright leader in this high-profile category.

The other two instances where Beal went 40-and-10 were last season against Toronto (43 points, 15 assists) and in 2018 at the Suns (40 points, 15 assists). 

This wasn't the only impressive statistical feat Beal accomplished on Friday. He recorded his third 40-point game of the season while shooting over 60 percent, something only four other players have done so far in 2019-20.

Beal is now averaging 29.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds on the year. He's clearly on his way to another All-Star game selection, and if he keeps up this level of production he'll earn himself his first All-NBA selection and perhaps a place in the MVP discussion. 

Even though the Wizards are in the midst of a rebuild and have had their fair share of frustrating moments, but at this point, Beal is must-see television. 

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