The NBA's break in between games due to the coronavirus is long enough to equal a full NBA offseason. If any of the general rules of NBA offseasons apply, that means some players could come back looking noticeably different.
Since young players are usually the ones who improve the most over the summer, Rui Hachimura and Troy Brown Jr. are two players to watch. They are the Wizards' two most recent first round picks and both spent the break working with the resources they had, hoping to make another leap.
Hachimura, whom the Wizards took ninth overall in 2019, spent much of the time off in Los Angeles. He mostly trained at home with access to weights and a schedule lined with Zoom workouts hosted by Wizards coaches and members of the team's training staff.
Hachimura didn't have full-time access to a hoop, but did get some shots up here and there. Since returning to Washington once the Wizards' practice facility reopened in June, Hachimura has been working closely with assistant coach Corey Gaines.
The emphasis has been his outside shot, ball-handling and court vision.
"I feel like I have more confidence in my threes," Hachimura said. "I feel like that's come from how much I'm working out. The coaches have done a good job with me, the technique and stuff. I think it's more the confidence and I think it's getting better."
The Wizards have been trying to add arc to Hachimura's shot ever since they drafted him out of Gonzaga. He has a solid midrange shot, but the percentages go down the further out he goes and the flat trajectory doesn't help.
Hachimura is shooting just 27.4 percent from three as a rookie this season. The team hopes he can step into a larger offensive role with Davis Bertans having opted out of the league's restart. If his three-point shot is indeed improved, Hachimura could make a big difference.
"I'm so excited for this opportunity," Hachimura said. "I think we have a chance to make the playoffs."
Much of Brown's focus during the break has been on the defensive end. He wants to be a more reliable and versatile defender for the defensively-challenged Wizards.
The problem there is that with social distancing in Wizards' workouts, he can't really practice defending other NBA players. So, it has required some creativity.
"I've done lateral slides with resistance bands on. More so making your body used to those quick movements and getting those twitch muscles used to sliding fast and making quick reaction times," he said.
Brown said he adjusted his diet during quarantine and dropped his body fight down to six percent, the lowest he's been since he was drafted 15th overall by the Wizards in 2018. He also feels like the time away helped him clear his head.
"For me personally, I feel like it's been a good break to take some time off mentally and regroup. I've been able to work on my body and work on stuff I normally wouldn't be able to work on," he said.
The Wizards have a lot of young players who had the chance to improve dramatically in the past few months. But their two recent first round picks certainly stand out as ones to monitor given how important they are to the team's future. In just a few weeks, we should get a sense of whether they were actually able to improve or not.
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