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One thing to watch for each of the Wizards' remaining regular-season games

One thing to watch for each of the Wizards' remaining regular-season games

The Wizards' new schedule to close out the 2019-20 regular season was released on Friday night. Here is one thing to watch with each game:

July 31 vs. Phoenix Suns, 4 p.m.: A chance for a good start

The Wizards will play what is quite easily the worst team on their schedule first, which means they will have a chance to get off on the right foot with a win. The flip side, however, is that a loss to the Suns would take a major hit on their playoff hopes, especially considering the truncated season and how each game carries more importance. This is a game Washington basically can't lose. 

Aug. 2 vs. Brooklyn Nets, 2 p.m.: Best chance to help their cause

The team the Wizards need to gain ground on the most, the Orlando Magic, is not on their schedule. The Magic are the eighth-ranked team in the conference with the Wizards lagging behind in ninth. But Washington will see the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets, which will offer them their only opportunity to directly help their playoff cause by playing a team that is right ahead of them. If the Wizards can take care of business against Phoenix, then beat Brooklyn, they could set the stage for a playoff push.

RELATED: WIZARDS PATH TO PLAYOFFS WON'T BE EASY

Aug. 3 vs. Indiana Pacers, 4 p.m.: First time seeing Oladipo

Pacers star Victor Oladipo missed a year with a torn quadriceps tendon and had just returned in January, playing only 13 games before the league shut down. He was not quite himself and was still playing his way into shape and finding his rhythm. Now he has had months more to recover and train, which means he could come back much closer to his peak form than when we last saw him. The Wizards will play against him for the first time this season when they play Indiana and, if Oladipo has improved, that could be a very difficult game to win.

Aug. 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4 p.m.: Beal vs. Simmons

One of the games within the game to watch in Orlando is Bradley Beal's quest for All-NBA. And one of the players he is competing with at the guard spot is Ben Simmons, whom he will see when the Wizards face the Sixers. With so few games and so much attention on them, it would not be surprising if what happens in Orlando carries enormous weight for awards voters in select categories. If Beal goes off against Philly, it might make a real difference. That said, there is a possibility both Beal and Simmons are left off All-NBA.

Aug. 7 vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m.: First game vs. Zion

The Wizards still had both of their yearly meetings with the Pelicans left on their schedule and will get to play one of them in Orlando. That means they get to see rookie superstar Zion Williamson for the first time. He was the No. 1 overall pick out of Duke and he has been exceptional so far, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19 games. Williamson will square off against fellow rookie Rui Hachimura, whom the Wizards took ninth in last June's draft.

 

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Aug. 9 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 12:30 p.m.: A rematch of a great game

One of the Wizards' best wins this season came in their second game when they went into Oklahoma City and topped the Thunder by the archaic final score of 97-85. That was many moons ago, and a lot has changed for both teams in the time since, but it will be a rematch of one of the Wizards' most memorable games of the season. If the Wizards win the second meeting, they will sweep the Thunder for the first time since they moved from Seattle.

Aug. 11 vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 9 p.m.: Will Giannis play?

The Wizards will have to see the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently own the NBA's best record, and they are already 0-2 against them this season. But by the time they face the Bucks, it seems like there's a good chance they will be resting players, possibly including Giannis Antetokounmpo. They will almost certainly have the top seed in the conference locked in and there is no homecourt in the playoffs anyway. This could represent a break in the schedule right when the Wizards need one as they aim to close the gap on a playoff spot.

Aug. 13 vs. Boston Celtics, TBA: The final game

This game will be interesting simply because it is the final game of the Wizards' regular season and a lot could be on the line. To make the playoffs, the Wizards need to get within four games of the No. 8 spot. They are currently ninth and 5 1/2 games back. There is a good chance everything comes down to the final game. And if the Wizards are somehow in a position where they control their destiny and have to win this game to get in, it will carry major significance. Or, it could just be the final game in a season that ends without a postseason berth.

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Important 2020 NBA offseason dates; when is the NBA Draft? Free agency?

Important 2020 NBA offseason dates; when is the NBA Draft? Free agency?

Whenever the NBA regular season ends, it marks a good time to take a look at the calendar to get an idea of what lies ahead in the offseason. This year, the calendar is been adjusted significantly due to the league's months-long hiaus due to the coronavirus.

Now, the offseason begins for most teams in August and will center around the month of October when the draft and free agency are held. Here is a list of the key dates to keep in mind...

August 17 - NBA playoffs begin; deadline for early entrants to declare for NBA Draft

August 20 - NBA Draft lottery

*The Wizards have the ninth-best lottery odds, which means a 4.5% chance at the No. 1 pick and a 20.2% chance of selecting in the top four.

September 15 - Conference finals begin

September 30 - NBA Finals begin

October 6 - Deadline for early entrants to withdraw from NBA Draft (including international players)

October 16 - 2020 NBA Draft

October 17 - Deadline for player, team and early termination options; deadline for qualifying offers extended to restricted free agents

*the Wizards do not have any player options or team options to consider this year and all of their free agents are unrestricted (via Spotrac)

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October 18 - NBA free agency negotiating period begins (4 p.m. ET)

*The Wizards can officially start discussing terms with Davis Bertans, their No. 1 offseason priority. They can also begin negotiating with other players around the league

October 19 - Official start of league year; restricted free agents can sign offer sheets; teams can sign rookies, league minimum and two-way deals; rookie options can be exercised

October 23 - NBA free agency signing period begins (10 a.m. ET); teams can sign and extend players, plus complete trades; restricted free agent offer sheets can be matched

*This will be the moment of truth for the Wizards and Bertans. Given he is one of the top-10 free agents available, he will likely sign fairly soon once the window opens.

November 10 - Training camp opens

December 1 - 2020-21 NBA season begins

*This date, along with the beginning of training camp, are considered flexible at this point.

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5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

Now that their 2019-20 season is finally over after nearly 10 full months, the Wizards' offseason is going to pick up very soon. The draft lottery is on Aug. 20, so just one week after their season finished.

The Wizards are entering one of the most important offseasons for them in recent memory. Here are the five biggest questions they will need to address...

Will Davis Bertans re-sign?

The No. 1 question for the Wizards this offseason centers around their most prominent free agent. Bertans enjoyed a breakout season in Washington after coming over in a trade from the Spurs last summer. But he is an unrestricted free agent and he won't be cheap, as he is now legitimately one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He can impact games dramatically despite barely touching the ball.

The WIzards made a bet that they could re-sign Bertans by not trading him at the deadline in February. Now it will be up to general manager Tommy Sheppard to seal the deal. The good news is that there is mutual interest. Bertans likes playing in Washington and is intrigued by the role he could play next season with John Wall and Bradley Beal back. Bertans could be a perfect complement to them and help supercharge the Wizards' offense into one of the very best in the NBA. Re-signing him is the top priority for the team this offseason, as NBC Sports Washington has reported, now they just have to get it done.

Will Scott Brooks be back?

This isn't really much of a question, barring something unforeseen. But it is worth addressing solely because Brooks only has one year left on his contract and that can often force decisions to be made with coaches. The overwhelmingly safe bet is for Brooks to enter the final year of his deal and for both sides to play it by ear. If they reach expectations next season, or exceed them, maybe he sticks around beyond 2020-21. If they don't, both sides can part without calling it a firing.

Back before the pandemic hit, like right when it hit, I was working on a story involving Brooks' contract where I interviewed his agent, Warren LeGarie. The world has changed quite a bit since then, but LeGarie made some interesting points at the time. One is that Brooks has been down this road before, coaching out the final year of a contract. He did that in Oklahoma City once. LeGarie, who has also represented Sheppard, called Brooks "re-energized" by the team's youth movement and "all-in" on their future. He said they would "be open" to continuing the partnership beyond next season if that's where things went. Basically, both sides seem ready to keep it rolling at least into next year and see what happens.

Who will they draft?

If they do re-sign Bertans, they will not have a ton of money left to spend in free agency thanks to the max deal for Beal and the supermax contract for Wall. That leaves trades and the draft as the best way for the team to make significant improvements to their roster. And because they missed the playoffs, the Wizards will have a high first round draft pick, which will give them a chance to add another blue chip young player on a cheap contract.

They have the ninth-best odds in the lottery, which gives them a high possibility of selecting in the top-10 and a 20.2 percent chance of picking in the top-four. If they pick around 10th, then it could be tough for that player to contribute right away, unless they find another Rui Hachimura-type, whom they got at No. 9 last summer. But if they move up closer to the top, they could land an instant impact player like Anthony Edwards of Georgia or James Wiseman of Memphis. Given his position, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, Wiseman seems like the obvious best fit for the team in a dream scenario. There are also some intriguing options like LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Obi Toppin and Tyrese Haliburton who could be in the mix at the top.

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Who starts at forward?

The Wizards have some parts of their roster that are settled going into next year. We know what their backcourt will look like and, unless something shocking happens, we know Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will likely be in the frontcourt. Now, Troy Brown Jr. or Isaac Bonga or even Bertans could fill that fifth spot, but for several reasons it appears to be the most likely area they could find an upgrade.

Brown and Bonga are young players who could be best placed on the bench. Bertans also fits well there given his ability to change games as a microwave scorer and the defensive concerns you would have with him and the rest of the starting lineup. So, if the Wizards do want to use the rest of their money on a free agent, or target something significant in a trade, forward is the place to look. Whether that's a three or a four depends on how they view the short-term future of Hachimura. One name my colleague Chris Miller has thrown out there that makes a lot of sense is Jerami Grant of the Nuggets. He defends multiple positions and defense is a major need for the Wizards. His brother, Jerian, also happens to already be on the team.

Will they swing big or stay measured?

We know the timeline is going to speed up for the Wizards considerably this offseason with Wall coming back and Beal entering another year of his prime. They can't take the longview like they did a year ago. They want to win and that will dictate how they operate this offseason, which means veterans will likely be favored over young players to an extent. But to what extent, we don't know. What the Wizards have to balance is the possibility Wall and Beal do not work out once they reunite. And if things ever did go south, you wouldn't want to leave yourself in a position where you mortgaged the future and are left with nothing to show for it.

Also, when it comes to making win-now moves, there are different degrees of that. There is the method of putting together an experienced, playoffs-worthy bench. And then there is the method of thinking much bigger and trying to obtain another star on the level of Wall or Beal, or one that is even better. That, of course, is easier said than done, but the Wizards do have some options now with all the young players they have and the high draft pick they are set to receive. They have some trade assets to to work with. Stranger things have happened.

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