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A refresher on where the Wizards left off in the 2019-20 season

A refresher on where the Wizards left off in the 2019-20 season

If your memory of what has happened during the 2019-20 Wizards season so far is foggy, you deserve a pass. They last played months ago and some pretty serious and important stuff has happened in the world since. 

But now that the NBA is on its way back according to reports, it wouldn't hurt to brush up on the Wizards, who stand 24-40 on the year after 64 games. With that in mind, here are some storylines surrounding the team that remain worth watching when the games are back...

Beal was playing really, really well

In hindsight, the only thing that could stop Bradley Beal this season was the league shutting down. Because before everything was put on hold, he was tearing up the NBA like a guy with an axe to grind, as if he had recently been a historic All-Star snub or something.

Beal was absolutely dominating before the games stopped. In 10 games from Feb. 23 to March 10, he averaged an absurd 37.5 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 48.1 percent from three on 10.8 attempts.

The scoring itself went back further than that. He has averaged 35.5 points per game since Jan. 20 and during that stretch raised his season clip from 27.2 all the way to 30.5, good for second in the league. 

Lots to play for

Thanks to a top-heavy Eastern Conference, the Wizards had played themselves into a sort of boom-or-bust spot when it comes to their draft lottery odds. They are ninth in the East, but also ninth from the bottom of the NBA.

The details of the NBA's lottery odds have been released and the Wizards have a lot to gain or lose in terms of ping-pong balls. They can be as high as ninth in lottery odds, or pick no better than 15th if they make the playoffs. What they can't do is help their lottery cause, as the odds will be based on the standings from March 11. So, in a way, the Wizards could be hurt by the new format.

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Defense was getting better

The Wizards are 16 games under .500 in large part due to their defense, which for much of the season has been terrible. But, to their credit, the tide appeared to be turning before the season was paused. After ranking last in the NBA with a 116.3 defensive rating before the trade deadline, they placed 11th in the league with a 110.8 defensive rating after that. They went 7-8 during that stretch.

That is a sample size of 15 games, or about five weeks, so a legitimate trend. And there seemed to be a clear correlation, that after they traded Isaiah Thomas they got better as a group.

Now, ranking 11th in the NBA in defense is probably unsustainable. Trading Thomas didn't land them a rim protector or a gritty wing defender. But they have shown progress and will hope to build on it when they return to the court.

Bertans is on pace for threes record

One of the best developments of this season for the Wizards was the emergence of Davis Bertans, whom they basically acquired for nothing in a trade last summer. He is enjoying a breakout season, one that has him now considered among the very best three-point shooters in the NBA.

Bertans, in fact, still has a chance to break the Wizards/Bullets franchise record for threes in a single season. He's only played in 54 games and now only eight remain, yet amazingly he only needs 24 more threes to set the mark. That means three per game and he averages 3.7 for the season. 

The current record is Beal's, as he made 223 in the 2016-17 season. With 200 already, Bertans may beat Beal's record in only 62 games played.

Inexperience has shown

Another reason why the Wizards are where they are in the standings is their lack of experience. They have a lot of young players logging heavy minutes as they learn the ropes in the NBA.

The inexperience has shown up in a few ways, one of them being their home and away records. The Wizards are a solid 16-16 at home, yet a hideous 8-24 on the road. Keep that in mind as they travel to Orlando, FL to play away from D.C., albeit at a neutral site.

The Wizards also have a 6-18 record against teams with .500 records or better. And that is something else to consider as they play an adjusted schedule in which the bad teams have been removed by way of the NBA's 22-team cut-off.

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Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Playing basketball in your driveway, that is relatable. Doing so to prepare for NBA games while in the middle of a league shutdown due to a worldwide pandemic; well, that is unusual.

But for Wizards center Moe Wagner, training during quarantine required some creativity before the team reopened their practice facility in early June. First, he rented out the townhouse below his to set up a workout space. It was vacant, allowing Wagner to use training equipment with enough space for a 7-footer to move around.

"We set up a little gym," Wagner said.

Wagner's schedule was regimented by Zoom workouts hosted by the Wizards trainers and coaching staff. But eventually, that wasn't enough.

Wagner had his brother, Franz, with him. Franz plays for the University of Michigan, where Wagner starred before becoming a first round draft pick in 2018.

"Eventually my brother and I got a little eager to shoot a ball, so my agent had us sent a basketball hoop for outside which we built. It took us like three days," Wagner explained.

"We played a little bit in the garage in the middle of the city. It was kind of an absurd situation, but you will take what you can get, I guess."

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The garage Wagner and his brother played in was without a roof. They are common in Washington, D.C., especially in Northeast. So, it was technically a garage but more like a walled off driveway.

"[We] set it up in my back alley. Every time a car drives by, you have to wait. Obviously, it's very old school. You're going back to the roots a little bit. But after six weeks of not touching a ball, you're like 'we've gotta do something, man.' I'm a professional basketball player and I haven't touched a basketball in six weeks. That ain't right," Wagner said.

RELATED: WIZARDS WILL FACE LAKERS, CLIPPERS IN SCRIMMAGES

Waiting when cars drive by makes sense. Driveways are big enough for kids to shoot around in. But Wagner requires a bit more range to spread out and practice NBA threes.

Wagner indicated he did not shoot a ball for roughly six weeks. That would mean he set the hoop up around the end of April. If that is the case, he was likely more fortunate than many other young players who went longer without being able to shoot.

That's the big variable with the league's hiatus; who had the resources to train, either to just stay sharp or potentially even improve. Wagner was able to keep working on his game, it just took a good deal of creativity. 

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Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Before the Wizards begin their eight-game schedule to close out the regular season on July 31, they will have three exhibition games to get warmed up in Orlando.

They will start July 22 against the Denver Nuggets and also play the Lakers and Clippers. Those are the three top seeds in the Western Conference.

Here is a look at their three-game set:

7/22: Nuggets, 3:30 pm ET
7/25: Clippers, 8 pm ET
7/27: Lakers, 3 pm ET

The question here, of course, is whether the stars will play given these games won't count. In a usual preseason, the answer would probably be 'no.' But in this case, with each team only having three games to find their rhythm before games start, and after months off, it is anyone's guess.

RELATED: NO OLADIPO FOR PACERS IN ORLANDO

It wouldn't be surprising if the Wizards did see some combination of Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The biggest question mark would be that Lakers game since it is the last exhibition game for both teams. Maybe James and/or Davis sit with two games already under their belt and an opening night meeting with the Clippers awaiting.

Either way, the Wizards will get a look at some of the NBA's best teams before they kick things off for real. And this also means they will be playing games nine days ahead of their regular season. There are now just under three weeks to go until the Wizards return to the court.

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