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Mystics' Delle Donne, Thibault earn top AP honors

Mystics' Delle Donne, Thibault earn top AP honors

Elena Delle Donne was named WNBA Player of the Year by the Associated Press on Wednesday, highlighting just one of a handful of AP honors the Mystics racked up including two All-Defense Second Team appointments and Coach of the Year. 

Delle Donne made history in Washington this season, as she became the first WNBA player to reach the 50-40-90 club, after she shot 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from behind the 3-point line, and 97.4 percent from the foul line. Only eight NBA players have achieved the same. 

The Mystics' forward-guard also led the team in points-per game (19.5) and rebounds-per game (8.3, including 6.7 defensive rebounds-per game). Delle Donne also received her seventh Player of the Week honor of the year before she and Washington head into the postseason.  

Guards Ariel Atkins and Natasha Cloud were also named to the WNBA All-Defense Second Team, while Delle Donne was selected to the All-WNBA Team.

And, in his 7th year as the Mystics' head coach, Thibault was voted AP's WNBA Coach of the Year.

The Mystics finished the season atop the league, with a 26-8 record and a six-game win streak, enough for the team to finish the regular season leading the AP Power Poll (a spot they maintained for the final five weeks of the season). Washington is also the first seed heading into the WNBA playoffs. 

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The Wizards offense and defense are on opposite ends of the efficiency spectrum

The Wizards offense and defense are on opposite ends of the efficiency spectrum

As good as the Wizards' offense has been through the first nine games of the 2019-20 regular season, their defense continues to prevent the team from putting multiple wins together. 

According to NBA Stats, the Wizards sport the league's sixth-best offense, scoring an impressive 110.3 points per 100 possessions, but rank 29th in defense. Compared to the other top-10 offenses in the NBA, the Wizards have the worst net rating at -4.4. 

For Washington to have a borderline elite offense and still post such a bad net rating, it speaks to just how bad their defense has been.

NBA Math charts team's standing in the league based on their offensive and defensive efficiencies and their latest graph depicts the Wizards' problems quite perfectly. 

According to the graphic, the Wizards have a better offense than teams like the Rockets, Lakers, Clippers and Raptors, who are all on track for deep playoff runs. 

However, their defense ranks below the likes of the Knicks, Hornets and Grizzlies. 

The silver lining here is the offense has been great and has more than enough weapons to keep up the production. Bradley Beal is putting up career scoring numbers despite uncharacteristically low shooting splits, Rui Hachimura continues to get better every day and Isaiah Thomas is showing more explosiveness on his drives. 

Defensive success in the NBA mostly comes from effort, so if the Wizards can turn it up a notch or two there they should be able to stay competitive with almost any team in the league.

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Marc Spears sees Rui Hachimura's impact stretching farther than on the court

Marc Spears sees Rui Hachimura's impact stretching farther than on the court

Hopes were high entering the season that Rui Hachimura could become a foundational piece for the Washington Wizards, and for the most part, he has lived up to all the hype. 

His impact on the court is undeniable for a struggling Wizards team. He's the third-leading scorer on the roster behind Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant at 14.4 points per game just nine games into his career, and he ranks top five among NBA rookies in points, field goal shooting and rebounds. 

Hachimura is not your average rookie, though. When the Wizards drafted him ninth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, they were certainly adding a player with high upside and translatable skills, but his popularity in his home country of Japan has arguably made a bigger imprint on his time as a professional. 

Marc Spears, senior NBA writer at The Undefeated, joined Chris Miller and Gary Carter on the Wizards Talk Podcast to discuss the rookie's sizeable impact both on and off the court. 

"I love his game, I love his aggressiveness offensively," Spears said. "I think he's a good rebounder but could be a great rebounder, and the one thing I really like is the fact that, unlike a lot of the Japanese baseball players who get annoyed by it, he's embraced the media, he's embraced the Japanese media and wants to be a voice out there.

"And I think it's making him some money off the court because he's been so open-minded to it."

Hachimura has been on Spears' radar. Spears watched him live three times while the rookie was playing at Gonzaga last season and wrote a story about how Hachimura is trying to help multi-racial kids like himself. 

At one of the games where Gonzaga played Santa Clara in late January, Spears noticed a Japanese basketball league called San Jose Zebra in attendance.

"There were kids in that program who came to that game and were basically in awe of seeing somebody that was actually like them," Spears said. 

The Wizards' rebuild hinges on players like Hachimura developing into foundational pieces, but it's clear there's a bigger picture regarding the rookie's success. 

The better he gets, the more his star will grow both in the United States and in Japan. 

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