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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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Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

There were times when Trevor Ariza felt compelled to let everyone know how he viewed his role in the NBA.

One such occasion came the day after the Wizards concluded the 2013 season, one in which Ariza mainly served as a reserve. 

“Well, I’m a starter. I’m going to let you know that right now,” said a forceful Ariza at the time. “I’m a team player, but I’m a starter. That’s what kept me going. That’s what kept me focused; knowing that I’m a starting three in this league, and nobody’s going to change that. Or nobody’s going to change that mentality, I should say.”

Others bought in. Ariza hasn’t come off the bench since. He started 474 consecutive games including 61 during the playoffs. That streak began the following season in Washington.

"It was nothing personal, nothing against my teammates," Ariza told a reporter one year later as the 2013-14 campaign concluded with a second-round playoff appearance.  "I thought [the Wizards] were going in a different direction.”

The belief proved prescient. After helping Washington reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Ariza entered free agency in the summer of 2014. With the Wizards’ plotting a Kevin Durant future and near-term fixes, he signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets. 

Four years later, Washington’s direction had them seeking a reunion. The Wizards officially acquired the 6-foot-8 forward Monday from the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

There’s no confusion over Ariza’s role this time.

The Wizards, 12-18 through 30 games, have struggled in numerous ways. They misfire on 3-pointers to the point coach Scott Brooks recently half-joked he no longer assumed the matter fixable. Opponents comfortably drain deep shots against Washington. Starts are slow. Cohesion lacks. 

Adding Ariza serves to address these matters even if just a short-term fix.

“He’s a great player. He’s a champion,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who also played with Ariza during Los Angeles’ 2009 championship season, on Sunday. “He knows what it takes to win. … [Trevor] can guard multiple positions. He knocks down big shots. He makes winning plays.”

Those traits were in plain sight during his first stint in Washington. Ariza’s reputation was different. He played for six teams during his first nine seasons. The journeyman perception included sidecar mention when the Wizards acquired him and Emeka Okafor from New Orleans in 2012. 

Despite Ariza’s productive run in Washington, the Wizards had contingency plans. Ariza lost his starting job that first season in Washington to Martell Webster, who signed a contract extension the following offseason. 

During that summer of 2013, the Wizards also selected Otto Porter third overall in the NBA Draft. Paul Pierce signed almost immediately after Ariza latched on with Houston in 2014.

Drew Gooden, a 14-year NBA veteran, played in Washington during the 2013-14 season when Ariza shot a career-best 40.7 percent on 3-pointers.

“Yeah we missed Trevor, but we added Paul Pierce, a Hall of Famer. He was great for us,” Gooden, now part of NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast team, said. “[Ariza’s value] wasn’t as noticeable at the time until he started winning in Houston.”

Ariza’s 3-and-D work keyed Houston’s 2018 Western Conference Finals appearance. Analysts note what Ariza bolting this offseason to Phoenix for a one-year, $15 million contract meant to his former team when assessing the Rockets’ struggles this season.

“You saw how he made Houston kind of gel,” Gooden said. 

The league’s evolution toward deep shooters and those capable of defending the arc increased Ariza’s value. Playing two slender forwards together like Ariza and Otto Porter seemed far-fetched in 2014. That’s exactly the Wizards’ plan once Porter returns from his knee injury.

Despite a statistical drop in 26 games with Phoenix (37.9 field goal percentage), the Wizards weren’t alone in coveting Ariza this time. Other teams including the Lakers were reportedly in the mix when Washington swooped in.

“I think all NBA teams look at themselves and think they could be that much better with Trevor Ariza on their team,” Gooden said.

Part of Ariza’s local appeal involves helping former teammates John Wall and Bradley Beal elevate their performances. The Wizards go as their star backcourt goes. Just like most aspects of this frustrating season, their work hasn’t been good enough.

"We needed a change," Beal said of the team broadly. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

“It’s always great to add a guy like Trevor back, one of the best veterans and teammates I had,” Wall said. “We know what he brings to the table.”

Leadership is expected from the new oldest player on the roster. Don’t expect demonstrative acts. 

“How hard he works after practice. How he takes care of his body. His leadership will be shown out on the court,” Gooden said. “When younger players see this, it’s going to be a template of an actual true pro.”

Ariza long ago believed his traits meant NBA starter. He never shied away from putting in the work to prove his point.

“I just always had confidence in myself,” Ariza said in 2014. “I always know that I have to work for everything. Nothing is ever going to be given to you period. With that in mind, I just worked hard and told myself that I was going to do everything to be the player that I think I am.”

That’s precisely the approach current Wizards desire. They made their move. The subtleties of Ariza’s game no longer require self-promotion.

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Washington Wizards to re-sign guard Chasson Randle, while Suns release Austin Rivers

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Washington Wizards to re-sign guard Chasson Randle, while Suns release Austin Rivers

The Wizards are expected to re-sign guard Chasson Randle to a non-guaranteed contract ahead of Tuesday's road game against the Atlanta Hawks, a source confirms with NBC Sports Washington.

Washington's roster dropped to 13 players after Saturday's trade that sent Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to the Phoenix Suns for Trevor Ariza. Teams are required to have a minimum of 14 players.

The 6-foot-2 Randle participated in the Wizards' training camp and later signed with Washington on Oct. 30. He never played for the Wizards and was released on Nov. 12. Meanwhile, Randle, 25, spent time with Washington's G-League team, averaging 23.1 points in seven games for the Capital City Go-Go.

Right now the Wizards lack guard depth behind John Wall, Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky following the trade. While first-round pick Troy Brown, seldom used this season, could receive more minutes, Randle offers specific point guard depth.

News of Randle's addition came on the heels of an ESPN report that the Suns have agreed to release Rivers, who averaged 7.2 points in 29 games with the Wizards. The veteran's $12.6 million salary was necessary for the purposes of the trade for Ariza, but Rivers' playing style and approach entering a contract year seemed poorly suited for a young Phoenix team. 

Rivers can sign with another team once he clears waivers. Though Washington has another open roster available, per league rules, Rivers cannot re-sign with the Wizards. He never quite clicked in Washington anyway after coming off a career season with the Clippers.

The Washington Post first reported Randle's signing.

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