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Loss to Nuggets puts another dent in Wizards' playoff hopes

Loss to Nuggets puts another dent in Wizards' playoff hopes

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 113-108 on Thursday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. On the day the NCAA Tournament truly began with its Round of 64, the Washington Wizards put another nail in the coffin of their playoff hopes. If it wasn't clear already, it is now: good draft lottery odds are not only more realistic than the playoffs, but the more prudent goal.

The Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets and have now dropped four of five. They are six games out of a playoff spot with only nine left to play.

But, hey, Ja Morant looks good. And Friday, the Duke Blue Devils will get started with Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Maybe they can grab one of those guys and add some hope to their short- and long-term future.

Injuries have ravaged the Wizards' roster this season, and they have had other issues that run deeper, ones that plagued them long before John Wall went down for the season. Maybe getting a good draft pick, even if it ends up closer to No. 10 than No. 1, wouldn't be the worst thing. At this point, it's the best they can really hope for.

2. The Wizards were without Trevor Ariza for this game as he hurt his groin the night before in Chicago. Head coach Scott Brooks indicated again that it isn't serious, that it was more of a precaution due to the back-to-back set of games.

As the Wizards play out their final nine games, it will be interesting to see how they treat Ariza, injury or not. Since the Wizards acquired him in December, he has been second on the team with 34.7 minutes per game. Given he is 33 years old and set to hit free agency, there is no reason to push it.

3. With Ariza out, Troy Brown Jr. got the nod for his first career start. He was in there with Tomas Satoransky and Bradley Beal at the guard spots, giving the Wizards three guys who can handle the ball and run the offense. It wouldn't be surprising if that trio was in the starting lineup on opening night next season.

Brown, as he has in most of his opportunities this season, didn't shy away from the moment on Wednesday. He made a quick impact with a series of nice plays in the first quarter, including a strong baseline drive and not long after that a reverse alley-oop fed by Beal on the fastbreak.

Brown ended up with a career-high 13 points (6-10 FG) with five rebounds and three assists. The kid can play.

4. Brown for Ariza wasn't the only lineup change Brooks made. The other, which wasn't due to injury, was Thomas Bryant in for Jeff Green.

The news was revealed shortly before tip-off, so Brooks did not offer an explanation pregame. But it was interesting, for sure.

One reason is because Bryant played alongside Bobby Portis in the starting frontcourt. Those two had only played together five total minutes in the first 18 games since Portis arrived in a trade.

There are mixed opinions within the Wizards organization as to whether they can co-exist on the floor. Both are centers that run and shoot, but don't offer much in the way of rim protection. Their styles are redundant and have basically been used as a tag-team partnership.

The Wizards, though, need to evaluate all of their options and especially with their impending free agents, which Bryant and Portis are. If they can't play together and will be too expensive to retain as a duo, the team will have to pick between them.

5. The Wizards are in an undeniably tough spot entering this summer with Wall's torn Achilles, an injury that could keep him out all of next season, the first year of his supermax contract. They are going to have to navigate what is arguably one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. 

That is not hyperbole. How many players in the history of the game have suffered such a devastating injury while making 35 percent of the salary cap? 

If the Wizards are to somehow improve this offseason, they will need to get creative to do so. They will have to find some diamonds in the rough. They will have to build their roster the hard way.

The Denver Nuggets may provide some hope. Look at how they constructed what is currently the second-best team in the West. They found Nikola Jokic in the second round, as well as Monte Morris. They drafted Gary Harris 19th overall. 

Jamal Murray was the seventh overall pick, but the Nuggets mostly got where they are by outsmarting other teams and doing it through the draft. The Wizards will have to find some Nuggets-like luck in June.

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.

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The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

On Tuesday night, Portland guard Damian Lillard broke #NBATwitter with his 37-foot, series-clinching buzzer-beater against Oklahoma City. 

It's not the first time we've seen him do that, but it's by far the biggest impact his play has had on the NBA world to this point.

Fair or not, Lillard's image has always been the overlooked underdog.  Even after being named All-NBA First Team last season, it's rare you hear his name mentioned among the NBA's most popular players. 

That attitude is what fuels the Portland Trail Blazers though. It's what the entire roster uses as motivation every game. It's a mindset every team in the NBA should be emulating too, and it starts with their star. 

If you're an organization in the middle of a rebuild, you should be looking no further than Ja Morant if you want this same organizational mindset going forward.

Ja Morant is the next Dame Lillard.

Ja Morant is going to be a star. 

The Wizards are one of those teams, and with the NBA Draft Lottery coming May 14, if the ping pong balls land in their favor, Morant needs to be their pick at No. 2 in the NBA Draft.

Don't worry about any other point guards on the roster and what that means. Don't pass on Morant.

Obviously, No. 1 would mean Zion Williamson, and anything past No. 2 means both are probably off the board, so we'll stick with that No. 2 pick in this case.

Both Lillard and Morant come from small schools in Weber State and Murray State, respectively. Both were under-recruited with Lillard being just a two-star and Morant not even being ranked by recruiting services ESPN, 247Sports, or Rivals.

Lillard was the better three-point shooter coming out of college, but Morant still has range, and can jump out of the gym.

Neither has a ton of size (Lillard 6-2, 185 lbs., and Morant 6-3, 175), but both aren't scared of the spotlight, and step on the court ready to eat the other team alive.

In a star-driven league based so much around player's brands and recognizability, there's something to be said for the guys that have the talent, but haven't been given the stage to show it yet. You get that combination of "chip on their shoulder" mentality with the star potential and work ethic biggy backing it. 

One of the best movie lines ever spoken was in Remember the Titans when Julius tells Gerry "attitude reflects leadership", and it's a mantra any successful team, business, volunteer group, club, or literally any collection of people should follow. 

If you want the right attitude in your locker room, you want leaders that can create it. 

Morant and Lillard share that same leadership, and the results are there to prove it. 

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