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How the draft lottery changes could help the Wizards and give them a decent shot at Zion Williamson

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How the draft lottery changes could help the Wizards and give them a decent shot at Zion Williamson

It was never in the plans for the Wizards to bottom out like they did in 2018-19, with a 32-50 record, their first losing mark in six years. But if they were to pick a year to drop out of the playoffs and into the lottery, this may be the one.

That is because the league adjusted their lottery rules by spreading out the odds to discourage tanking. The Wizards will become one of the first teams to benefit from the changes.

Washington ended the season with the sixth-worst record. That gives them a nine percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a 27.6 percent shot at selecting in the top three.

Under the previous system, the sixth-best lottery odds would have given the Wizards a 6.3 percent chance at No. 1 and a 21.5 percent shot at the top three.

Upping the Wizards' chances for the first overall pick by 2.7 percent may not seem like much, but that leaves them at only five percent lower than the top teams. The best odds are 14 percent and shared by the Knicks, Cavs and Suns.

Under the old system, the team with the worst record held a 25 percent chance at No. 1, the No. 2 team had a 19.9 percent shot and the third team had 15.6 percent odds. But those percentages were lowered and the remainder was distributed to help other teams like, in this year's case, the Wizards.

Nine percent odds will not give the Wizards assurances of anything, but every ping-pong ball will count this year with a top prospect in Zion Williamson that makes this no ordinary draft. He is expected to change whichever franchise he lands with both on and off the court as a star player and perhaps the most marketable prospect since LeBron James.

If Williamson came to the Wizards, he likely wouldn't be their best player right away given Bradley Beal is an All-Star and potentially an All-NBA player in his prime. But Williamson would immediately be the de facto face of the franchise, the guy most fans associate the Wizards with. He is expected to field many endorsement offers, including what could be one of the most lucrative shoe deals for a rookie in NBA history.

Landing the No. 1 pick is not the only scenario that would amount to a win for the Wizards at the May 14 draft lottery. Their highest odds are for the seventh pick at 29.6 percent and the eighth pick at 20.6. If they can jump up to any of the top four spots, they could come away with a franchise-changing player, possibly Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett of Duke.

Washington just needs a little luck. But past draft lotteries have shown that a longshot can happen.

Back in 2013, the Wizards jumped from the eighth-best odds to No. 3, an event that had a 4.8 percent chance of happening. They selected Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown. 

In 2014, the Cavs got the No. 1 pick despite having the eighth-best odds and just a 1.7 percent chance. And the Clippers made a similar jump in 2011, going from eighth to first with just a 2.8 percent change.

The Wizards could easily end up seventh or eighth and go into the pre-draft process with many possibilities. But they have decent odds to land the top pick, making the draft lottery a very important event in their offseason. 

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The Wizards are keeping a very close eye on John Wall in his recovery, and he prefers it that way

The Wizards are keeping a very close eye on John Wall in his recovery, and he prefers it that way

This week is Wall Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards' five-time All-Star point guard. Today, we examine how the Wizards are closely monitoring his rehab from a ruptured left Achilles...

With $170 million committed to John Wall over the next four years, the Washington Wizards will do everything they can to make sure they get his rehab from a ruptured Achilles right. The future of their franchise depends on it.

So, in order to certify that things are going well, there is a team of people at work. Jesse Phillips, the Wizards' director of player performance and rehabilitation, has spent much of his summer in Miami, FL where Wall makes his offseason home. Steve Smith, the team's senior director of health wellness and performance, flies in to be with Wall Monday through Thursday.

Wizards assistant coach Alex McLean leads Wall through his on-court workouts, which at this point feature only light basketball activities. General manager Tommy Sheppard and head coach Scott Brooks have also made the trek to South Florida to check on Wall. And Dr. Daniel Medina, the Wizards' new chief of athlete care and performance, has been involved, making sure all of those playing a role in Wall's recovery are on the same page. 

Wall also has his own people who are Miami-based. He has a physical trainer, Dr. Brett Fox, who counts many professional athletes as his clients including Wall's former teammate Jeff Green and NFL wide receiver Allen Hurns. And Wall has a personal trainer, Andy Luaces at Core Fitness, who has worked with Green, Hornets point guard Terry Rozier and many college and pro football players who reside in the Miami area.

There are a lot of people working with Wall and monitoring his progress. His rehab is being so closely managed that he joked at a recent charity event: "I feel like I'm in solitary [confinement]."

Keeping tabs on Wall's recovery goes beyond simply having people there to see it. Phillips and Smith prepare reports on Wall's daily progress. Those notes, sometimes paired with video, are sent to top executives in the organization including managing partner Ted Leonsis. 

Leonsis doesn't just skim past them in his email inbox, either.

"I used to start my day reading the Washington Post. Now I start my day reading [and watching] my daily John Wall exercise video," Leonsis said.

Part of the reports include Wall's weight. He weighs in towards the beginning and end of each month to track his progress. 

All of it makes for a painstakingly detailed process. But despite being the subject of all that attention, Wall doesn't mind being micromanaged.

"It’s great for me, to understand that the organization I give my all to and the city I give me all to has my full support and believes I can come back to be the player I am," Wall told NBC Sports Washington. 

"That’s the best-case scenario. I’ve seen guys who have been with organizations that didn’t really stand by those guys. To have Ted and Tommy and all those guys, Coach Brooks, the whole D.C. community or DMV, has my support, it means a lot to me."

"John knows that. We text and talk all the time," Leonsis said. "I think great athletes think that’s fantastic. We care about him."

Wall, who turns 29 next month, is entering his 10th NBA season. He has been around long enough to have undergone several significant injury rehabs. He has made plenty of friends in the league and has heard how other organizations have treated their injured players.

Wall believes the Wizards are doing things right and in part by expressing almost extreme patience. Everyone from Leonsis on down has said that Wall has no defined timeline to return. They will be understanding even if he has to miss all of the 2019-20 season to make a full recovery.

Wall says that patience isn't there in other situations.

"To know they have my back and that I don’t have to rush back, it’s the best [situation] ever," Wall said. "A lot of guys have been in this position and they have to rush back from injuries. I don’t have to do that. I can take my time."

How much time Wall will end up taking seems to be very much up in the air. Leonsis said at a press conference last month said that Wall "probably won't play at all next year." But in order for that to happen, Wall's rehab would stretch to an unusually long amount of time.

The return timeline for a ruptured Achilles is generally 11 to 15 months. The 11-month mark is in January when three months of the season will still remain. He could even take 13 months, one month longer than most players have had in the past, and still return to play 15-20 games.

Missing all of next season would mean Wall waits 20 months following his surgery to return to NBA game action. That is a long time, especially considering Wall is in a precious window of his athletic prime.

But Wall, at least at this point, insists he is in no rush.

"I’m enjoying it. It’s a fun process," he said. "It’s not boring like a lot of people told me it would be. I love the challenge."

What may ultimately be tough to balance is that patience coupled with Wall's competitive drive. When the regular season is in full swing and the Wizards are where they are in the standings, will Wall be willing to stay on the sidelines?

Because as much as Wall says the right things about taking the long view and being understanding if doctors say he should sit out all of next year, he can't help but also issue warnings to his critics, the stuff that suggests he has some urgency to get back in due time.

"I love to hear everybody talking about ‘oh he will never be it again, John Wall is done.’ That motivates me more every day," he said. "I wake up and say ‘I’m going to prove somebody wrong.’"

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Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

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Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

WASHINGTON – Shey Peddy rarely gets to see the floor as a part of the WNBA-leading Washington Mystics. Sunday was only the 10th game of her WNBA career, playing in garbage time of what was going to be another dominant Mystics victory. 

She only managed three points on one made basket, but it was perhaps the biggest basket of the night. As Peddy, 30, caught a pass at the wing in her right hand, she quickly squared up and delivered a 3-point basket for Washington. It was the Mystics’ 18 such basket from range on the day, a new WNBA record. 

This is just the latest in the plethora of record-breaking performances for the Mystics in 2019. A massive 107-68 victory over the Indiana Fever is starting to feel habitual for those in the Entertainment and Sports Arena. More records falling on a daily basis.

Which, by the way, winning by 39 points also gave the Mystics their 11th win of 20 points or more to build on their current WNBA record. There are seven games still left on the schedule.

“When you shoot 39 threes and make 18 of them and you have 30 assists for the game, coach has to be pretty happy,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “The world looks really good when you’re making shots.”

Even more impressive is that the Mystics accomplished such a feat without one of their star players Kristi Toliver. Entering the contest she had made the second most 3-point baskets on the team and did so at a 36% clip. But had the Mystics had Toliver, Peddy would not have been in the lineup. She recently signed a seven-day player contract with the team to fill Toliver’s roster spot. 

Production was from all corners of the roster to set the 3-point mark. Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers both had four each from long range as the bench added six.  Emma Meesseman, who came off the bench, led the unit as they combined for 36 points. 

In total, nine of the 11 eligible players on the gameday roster made a 3-pointer, with all 11 scoring a point. The only one who didn’t get one long ball attempt was center LaToya Sanders.

While the team was unaware of the record, they consciously knew that Sanders was the only one who didn’t shoot a 3-point shot.

“We’re going to get [LaToya] to shoot one. I’m going to give it to her real late in the shot clock, watch,” Natasha Cloud said postgame. 

The center has attempted two threes in her entire seven-year career. 

Like all games throughout the season at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C., there was a match lit underneath the Mystics (20-7) in the opening moments of the contest. They jumped out to a 24-4 lead over Indiana and held the Fever without a basket from the floor for the first seven minutes. 

An admirable 13-0 run by the Fever (9-17) momentarily made it a game in the second quarter. However, right after the spark the Fever’s top player Candice Dupree exited the game with a finger injury. She spent the rest of the game courtside sporting a splint. 

Elena Delle Donne contributed to three of the team’s recording-breaking 3-point baskets. She also recorded her 11th game with 20-plus points as she led all scorers with 25. 

In addition to the setting the WNBA’s 3-point record, having nine separate players hit one also set another record. Recording 30 assists put them two shy of another single-game high. 

It all came as the Mystics closed their toughest stretch of 2019: three games in five days. Their next goal? Rest, and they’ve earned it on their six-game winning streak.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas no matter what. Once we clinched a playoff spot, we didn’t come into this game thinking ‘alright let’s relax.’ We came into this game, ‘okay let’s continue to separate ourselves.'” 

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