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How will Ted Leonsis' patience in hiring a new GM affect the Wizards' draft process?

How will Ted Leonsis' patience in hiring a new GM affect the Wizards' draft process?

The Wizards moved into their expansive, new practice facility in Ward 8 last September, just before training camp. That makes this summer the first time it has served as their offseason headquarters.

That has led to a question for the basketball operations staff that is trickier than it may seem: where will they hold their draft war room? 

For many years, it was in the Wizards' locker room at Capital One Arena. They lined it with tables and used a projector screen to watch as Adam Silver delivered the news pick-by-pick.

Now, they need to find a new location, one with proper television viewing and enough space for what could be a larger contingent than in years past with the team holding a higher pick and thus more interest in being there for the action.

With fewer than three weeks until the draft, the question still remains of who will be running that room, who will be making the decisions. Now 59 days since they fired Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards still do not have a full-time replacement as team president.

That timeline, as owner Ted Leonsis explained to NBC Sports Washington this week, is more about patience than panic. He sees choosing Grunfeld's long-term successor as something he shouldn't rush, even if it seems like the Wizards are running out of candidates and time to make the call.

Speculation around the league has the Wizards holding out for someone currently in the front office of an NBA Finals team. The Warriors and Raptors just kicked off their series and, if it goes the distance, will be playing into mid-June. Game 6 is set for June 13 and Game 7 for June 16.

If Leonsis can't interview someone in their front office until then, that would leave just days before the draft. And he hinted to NBCSW's Chris Miller he is considering that scenario. 

One of the most interesting things he said on the Wizards Talk podcast was this:

"I wouldn't let one of my key people in the playoffs go interview."

Leonsis is taking his time, hoping to get this right and to not have to go through this process again anytime soon. And, interestingly enough, the 59 days do not stand out as much as one might think in terms of how long these things usually take.

The Pelicans recently took 56 days between firing Dell Demps and hiring David Griffin. Last year, the Hornets had 47 days between dismissing Rich Cho and bringing in Mitch Kupchak.

Those two were short in comparison to how some other teams have operated recently. The Timberwolves waited 114 days before hiring Gersson Rosas to run their front office. James Jones was the interim GM in Phoenix for 185 days before he was promoted to full-time in April.

The key here, though, isn't the time, it is the timing. All of those teams wrapped up their searches long before the draft. The Wizards now seem to at least have a chance of dragging this out until very close to June 20, if not after.

If it goes past June 20, that wouldn't be unprecedented, either. In fact, the last time the franchise was searching for a new team architect, in 2003, they didn't make the hire until June 30. That was, of course, the time they hired Grunfeld, now 16 years ago.

That anecdote may not provide anyone solace for how the Wizards are operating now. They didn't exactly ace the draft in 2003. Though they found Steve Blake in the second round, they picked a bust 10th overall in Jarvis Hayes. 

Whatever they could have gleaned from the pre-draft process about Hayes' bust potential, they missed. And this time around, they could be risking that happening again.

Unless they promote interim president Tommy Sheppard to be their long-term guy, the person they hire will have not been there representing them for the NBA Combine. The global camp was canceled, but Sheppard has been on the road attending agent-held pro days. 

On Monday, the Wizards will begin their pre-draft workout process at the practice facility. The first few days will be a host of players more likely to go in the second round or be options for their G-League team. Some names include Shizz Alston Jr. of Temple, Trey Mourning of Georgetown and Marques Bolden of Duke, according to two people familiar with their plans.

Several days into the process, they will begin bringing in the bigger names, players who could be real options at the No. 9 pick. They have workouts scheduled with Coby White of North Carolina and Keldon Johnson of Kentucky, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Workouts can sometimes be considered tentative, even days in advance. Some players cancel when they get promises from other teams. It has happened with the Wizards before, like when Chandler Hutchison backed out last-second in 2018.

But in about a week, the Wizards will be getting a close look at players who are real options at ninth overall. Maybe Leonsis can overlook the disadvantages of not having his long-term president there to see those workouts and interact with the players in a face-to-face interview process. But clearly, there would be advantages to having that person there.

Sometimes it is an up-close look at how a player fares against others in his range. Though agents often work to avoid those scenarios, the Wizards used a direct comparison to make their decision last summer.

They chose Troy Brown Jr. with the 15th overall pick after watching him work out in their facility against Zhaire Smith. They took Brown when it came down to him, Smith and Lonnie Walker IV on their draft board, according to people familiar with their process.

If Leonsis gets this hire right, like really right, then no one will care in four years about that person missing a few pre-draft workouts back in the summer of 2019. He is making a call that will set the course for his franchise for many years to come. 

But the calendar keeps shifting and the longer they wait, the more that wait will affect their pre-draft process.

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Wizards' best hope for improving on defense centers around Thomas Bryant

Wizards' best hope for improving on defense centers around Thomas Bryant

The Washington Wizards were so truly terrible on the defensive end last season that they didn't discriminate towards any areas of the game.

Were they bad at defending threes? Yeah, they were 26th in the NBA in threes allowed (12.1/g) and 27th in opponent three-point percentage (37.0).

What about protecting the rim? Yeah, that too. The Wizards allowed more field goals within five feet of the rim (22.1/g) than any other team and the third-highest percentage (64.2) from that range. 

Collectively, it all added up to the 28th-ranked unit based on defensive rating (113.9), the highest in Washington franchise history. And they allowed the second-most points (116.9) of any team in the league.

The thing is, the Wizards didn't do a ton to address their defense this offseason, at least in the short-term. Though they likely set themselves up to be better down the road, most of the players they brought in who can help now aren't defensive guys.

C.J. Miles, Moe Wagner, and Davis Bertans are shooters. Rui Hachimura is known far more for his scoring than his defense. And Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas at the point guard spot aren't exactly defensive stoppers.

If the Wizards are to improve defensively this season, even marginally, it will have to be due to players becoming better on that end than they have been in the past. And there is one player in particular who can make the biggest difference.

That would be third-year center Thomas Bryant, who has not been a plus-defensive player so far in his career but is only 22 years old. He hasn't been much of a rim protector previously, but he possesses some natural abilities that suggest he has the potential to become one. He is a high-energy player with long arms, fairly quick feet and a willingness to play through contact.

Bryant knows he holds the key to the Wizards' defensive ceiling.

"I have to be one of those guys to make a big difference. A big man can be the anchor for the defense. I have to take that responsibility to heart every day, whether it's in practice or the game," he said.

Bryant averaged 20.8 minutes per game for the Wizards, but only 0.9 blocks. His per-36 blocks average was 1.6, which was tied for 30th in the NBA. 

But for Bryant, and all big men, it's not just about blocking shots. It's about altering shots and the best rim protectors dominate in that regard. Though the stat can't be found on Basketball-Reference or NBA.com, the Wizards track it and pay close attention.

"Defensively, he definitely has to work and he has to improve," head coach Scott Brooks said of Bryant. 

"The two or three shots that players block is really good, but there are a thousand other plays that they can be in the wrong spot that they have to work on. He has to be in the right spot, protecting the paint and being in the paint to not allow guys even in there."

Bryant said altering shots has been a big point of emphasis for him leading up to the 2019-20 season. And in that process, he's trying to be more talkative on the floor to help his teammates who can't see behind them when defending guards.

"I'm starting to keep my hands up and my arms up, just verbalizing out there on the defensive end. I'm trying to be more engaged and that way my teammates are more engaged," Bryant said.

Ultimately, the Wizards will need more from everyone on their defense. One of their problems with rim protection is that guards can penetrate off the dribble too easily. By the time they meet Bryant at the rim, they have a full head of steam.

There are also, of course, way too many threes going in, and those count more. Even if Bryant became a lesser version of Rudy Gobert, he would need some help.

But no one else on the Wizards roster arguably presents the same short-term upside that Bryant does. If he figures it out on defense, it could make a world of difference for a team that needs it.

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Wizards vs. Bucks Preseason Game 4: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Bucks Preseason Game 4: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Wizards return home to the nation's capital after a one-game road trip to Madison Square Garden. Bradley Beal led with a team-high 21 points. The Bucks head to D.C. currently sitting at 3-0 so far throughout the preseason.

Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PRESEASON HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 2019 NBA Preseason 

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 6:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Bucks preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards vs. Bucks, NBA Preseason (LIVE)

8:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

BUCKS vs. WIZARDS INJURY REPORT:

Bucks: Eric Bledsoe (OUT, Fractured Cartilage between two of his ribs)

Wizards: John Wall (OUT, Left Achilles rehab), Isaiah Thomas (OUT, Left thumb rehab), Ian Mahinmi (OUT, Right Achilles strain)

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