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Robinson, Bryant and McRae likely to form core of Capital City Go-Go

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Capital City Go-Go

Robinson, Bryant and McRae likely to form core of Capital City Go-Go

With training camp starting later this month, we at NBC Sports are previewing the season for each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we look at three players who may spend a lot of time in the G-League: Devin Robinson, Thomas Bryant and Jordan McRae.

 

Player: SF Devin Robinson

Age: 23

2018-19 salary: Two-way contract

2017-18 stats: 1 G, 13.0 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 33.3FG%, 00.0 3P%, 00.0 FT%, 33.3 eFG%, 103 ORtg, 102 DRtg

2018-19 storyline: Devin Robinson was part of the very first year of NBA two-way contracts, as the Wizards signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Florida last summer. Now he enters year two hoping to make more of an impact than he did as a rookie. Robinson appeared in just one game last season for the Wizards.

In the Las Vegas Summer League this July, Robinson shined and displayed development in all parts of his game. He flashed some polish to go along with his obvious and rare athletic traits. The question now is whether he is ready to get a more extended look at the NBA level, or if he will have to get used to leading the Capital City Go-Go each and every night.

Wizards executives and coaches will acknowledge that Robinson was impressive in Summer League, but they only put so much stock into performances in Las Vegas. Though he may have raised his stock significantly among fans, that’s not going to be the basis of their evaluation. They want to see him gain muscle, develop more as a ball-handler and continue to adapt to his new shooting mechanics, which they installed this past season to raise his release point.

If the Wizards’ roster was constructed more like it was last year, Robinson would have a clearer path to getting minutes. But this year, they have added depth in their frontcourt and it’s hard to see Robinson passing rookie Troy Brown, Jr. at small forward, where the Wizards are deeper than at any other position.

The safest expectation for Robinson this season is to make a lot of noise for the G-League team and be promoted as their star player.

Potential to improve: Gain weight, ball-handling, rebounding

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Player: C Thomas Bryant

Age: 21

2018-19 salary: $1.4 million

2017-18 stats: 15 G, 4.8 mpg, 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 38.1 FG%, 10.0 3P%, 55.6 FT%, 40.5 eFG%, 100 ORtg, 108 DRtg 

2018-19 storyline: Amid all the hype for their trade for Austin Rivers and their signing of Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, the Wizards made a minor move on the second day of free agency by claiming Thomas Bryant off waivers from the L.A. Lakers. He was a second round pick just last summer out of Indiana University, where he attended as a highly prized recruit.

Bryant’s career at Indiana didn’t live up to expectations and he only played 15 games for the Lakers, but the long-term potential is enticing. The Wizards basically acquired a project who could convey as a diamond in the rough someday down the road.

Bryant did have some success last year in the G-League, as he was named first-team all-league and to the rookie team. He averaged 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and shot 36.4 percent from three for the South Bay Lakers. That latter is a particularly good sign for a guy who measures in at 6-foot-10.

Like Robinson, Bryant will probably spend much of his time in the G-League once Go-Go training camp begins. He is a raw talent on the outside of the rotation looking in. The Wizards have Howard and Ian Mahinmi set at center with Jason Smith behind them. They can also opt to go small and use guys like Markieff Morris at the five spot.

Bryant should thrive at the G-League level and could set himself up for a more important role the following season. There is also the potential for an opportunity to come from injury. If either Howard or Mahinmi goes down, Bryant could get the call-up.

Regardless, the fact the Wizards can afford someone like Bryant the playing time to continue developing at the G-League level is a huge bonus. The Wizards believe they can get their young players to log at least 1,000 to 1,400 minutes this season between the two leagues. Bryant can hit that mark if he stays healthy, strictly by being a key cog for the Go-Go.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, rebounding, finishing at rim

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Player: SG Jordan McRae

Age: 27

2018-19 salary: Two-way contract

2017-18 stats: (didn’t play in NBA)

2018-19 storyline: The toughest guy to set expectations for on the Wizards’ 2018-19 roster has to be Jordan McRae and the answer could be to not expect much at all when it comes to the NBA level. He will likely be with the team until G-League training camp starts, as the two-way contract clock doesn’t begin until then. But the path to playing time for McRae does not appear to be there as of now.

McRae is a shooting guard and the Wizards are pretty set at the position. They have an All-Star in Bradley Beal and an unusually capable backup in Rivers. Plus, Brown can play some at the two and then there’s Jodie Meeks, who will certainly be motivated to bounce back this year with free agency on the horizon.

That said, McRae is a bit older than the typical two-way player, so he’s not a long-term project. And he also had two years of NBA experience to draw from, including time with the NBA champion 2016 Cavaliers.

Beyond those facts, helping McRae’s cause are two things. One is that he has shot well from three in the NBA with a 38.4 career percentage. The other is that he has a 7-foot-1 wingspan despite standing 6-foot-6. If injuries pave the way and the Wizards are looking for length and athleticism, he could fit the bill.

The most likely scenario for McRae is a lot of time with the Go-Go. He was a G-League All-Star for the 2015-16 season and is the type of veteran who could help usher along the Wizards’ young prospects.

Potential to improve: Forcing turnovers, field goal percentage, rebounding

 

 

2018-19 WIZARDS ROSTER OUTLOOK:

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.
 

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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga

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