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How the Wizards locked up Trae Young to one of his worst career shooting nights

How the Wizards locked up Trae Young to one of his worst career shooting nights

Since the start of the new decade, nothing was slowing down Trae Young. 

He was averaging 35 points, 10 assists and was shooting nearly 42 percent from three on a ridiculous 10.8 attempts per game. Two days before coming into Capital One Arena, Young recorded his first 40-point triple-double against the Rockets. 

But on Friday night, Washingon contained the second-year phenom. He scored 19 points, went 7-20 from the floor and missed all seven of his threes, which is tied for the second-most 3-pointers attempted without a make in a game in his career.

Leading the effort on defense was Gary Payton II. Ever since the Wizards signed him using a hardship exception, Payton has probably been the team's best perimeter defender. And they've noticed. 

"I thought [Payton] was active from the start," Scott Brooks said. "He's not good, he's a great defensive player and he's a great pick up by Tommy [Sheppard] and the staff."

Payton has great size and length for defending guards like Young. He's quick enough to keep smaller guards in front of him and strong enough to make them uncomfortable on their drives. When you can't get by your defender, players start to jack up contested jumpers.

Young's different though. He'll try to burn you from three and then capitalize on his defender playing up to get easier driving lanes. Payton knew this was coming, so he made sure to force Young to drive into the paint where Ian Mahinmi was waiting for him. 

"Just make it tough for him, cut his water off early," Payton said. "Most of his shots come from three, that's how he gets going. We just try to limit his threes, make him take deep threes that are contested."

The Wizards aren't exactly the team to slow great scorers down, but for some reason, they've always guarded Young well. They held him to 12 points per game and sub-30 percent shooting in four meetings last year, which were by far his worst averages against any team as a rookie. 

But Atlanta's smart. They're not going to force their best player to beat his man off the bounce every trip down. That's what screens are for. 

Brooks may not have the quickest bigs in the league, but he asked Mahinmi and Anzejs Pasecniks to play up when their man went to screen for Young. 

"I thought the bigs did a good job on being up in our screens," he said. "You can't guard [Young] one-on-one when the big sets screens, and our bigs did a good job up to the touch, creating a bit of a scrum there so he had to see over a bigger player."

This forced Young to get rid of the ball and rely on the likes of Kevin Huerter and rookies De'Andre Walker and Cam Reddish to knock down shots. That's been the Hawks' issue all year, and that's why they're looking at trading for more established talent already. 

What the Wizards did against Young wasn't earth-shattering. Most teams that play the Hawks deploy the same strategy. Washington's execution was the difference, and teams who buy in to a culture are often the groups that execute at the highest level. 

The Wizards may not be there yet, but these are the small steps every team must make when building a contender. There are no shortcuts. 

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Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Coming off a nail-biting win over Donovan Mitchell in the first round, Rui Hachimura lost to Suns star Devin Booker in the quarterfinals of the NBA 2K Players Tournament Thursday night. 

The Wizards' rookie forward played with the Clippers, while Booker went with the Mavericks. Not only did Hachimura have the more talented team in this matchup, but it looked like he had a coach sitting near him the whole time too. 

Hachimura's biggest challenge in this one was finding easy points against Booker's defense. Booker did a good job using his center to close down driving lanes while leaving Hachimura's big men wide open in the corner.

The Clippers bigs aren't great outside shooters, so outside of a few surprising makes from Montrezl Harrell, it was a rough night offensively. Hachimura tried to go with a small-ball lineup with Marcus Morris at the center spot, but then he started giving up way too many offensive rebounds. 

On the flip side when Hachimura tried to do the same thing to Booker, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber were able to knock those shots down. That left the door open for Luka Doncic to get open looks and that's how Booker eventually pulled away in the second half. 

It was a good run for Hachimura in the tournament. He knocked off the four-seed in Mitchell and delivered one of the more memorable moments of the first round. He just ran into a buzzsaw in Booker, who may have a decent chance to win the whole thing. 

The semifinals and finals of the 2K Players Tournament will begin on Saturday. 

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GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

With the NBA season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the extra free time has given teams an opportunity to reflect on the first 64 games of the 2019-20 campaign. 

Whichever direction the league decides to go with returning to play, the 2020 NBA draft and free agency period loom large once the season is over. For the Wizards, they have a pair of key players set to hit the open market: Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier. 

John Wall's return significantly elevates expectations surrounding the Wizards next season and will make the team's offseason decision-making process that much more important. In the case of Napier and Bertans, Washington's general manager Tommy Sheppard talked highly of both in a Q&A with Dave Johnson Thursday

"I think with [Napier and Bertans], when we acquired them not as rentals we acquired them to stay here," Sheppard said. "I think the players that we acquired, they're here to show that they can be here for the future. With Davis and Shabazz, they showed enough to us that certainly we would love to retain them. We plan to."

What Sheppard had to say about Bertans isn't necessarily new. He maintained the stance all year that the Wizards intended to keep Bertans this summer and held true to it when Washington reportedly turned down offers including first-round picks at the trade deadline. 


Napier's future with the team, on the other hand, has not been talked about publicly by someone like Sheppard. The Wizards acquired him from the Nuggets in exchange for Jordan McRae at the trade deadline and the six-year veteran appeared in 15 games for Washington before the season was suspended. 

Napier started eight games and averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.1% from the field and 38.1% from three. Based on production alone, it's not that surprising Sheppard wants to bring the former UConn star back. 

However, if the Wizards can re-sign Napier this summer, they'd have quite a lot of viable point guards on their roster going into next season. Wall will be back and Ish Smith will be in the final year of his two-year contract.

Napier would figure to be either the third point guard or Washington's backup shooting guard depending on how you look at things. Then you have to ask how comfortable you are with Napier potentially taking minutes away from Jerome Robinson and ball-handling opportunities from Troy Brown Jr., both young wings the Wizards need to take a step forward next year. 

But shooting and playmaking are at a premium in the NBA today, and as defensively challenged as an Ish Smith-Shabazz Napier backcourt would be off the bench, there's no doubt Washington's second unit would be able to put up a ton of points. 

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