Wizards

Quick Links

Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Scott Brooks doesn’t know much about Sam Dekker. Four games since the Wizards acquired the energy forward as part of a successful three-team deal, it’s clear the head coach is enjoying the homework.

John Wall’s passionate work from the start against the Los Angeles Lakers helped snap the Wizards’ four-game losing streak, but Dekker’s X-factor performance also stood out in Washington’s rousing 128-110 win Sunday night.

Sunday marked the Wizards’ first game since the weekend’s chaotic trade sequence that will ultimately bring Trevor Ariza back to Washington. The deal doesn’t become approved by the league until Monday. With Otto Porter (right knee contusion) sidelined, Washington took the court shorthanded at positions where players would contend with LeBron James. Markieff Morris exited after a knock to the chin resulted in a stinger.

Brooks admitted pregame he loved the undermanned challenge. Dekker’s constant and perceptive movement helped Washington play at needed levels without cutting corners.

“Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out,” Brooks said. “I didn't really know everything about his game, I still don't.”

Brooks isn’t alone in learning about the fourth-year player. Dekker received regular rotation work the previous two seasons with the Rockets and Clippers, but his NBA career has yet to blast off.

An ankle injury kept him off the court in Cleveland earlier this campaign until the Dec. 7 trade involving Jason Smith landed him in Washington.

The general scouting report played out in real life against the Lakers. High motor player. Athletic 6-foot-9 forward. Scattered shooting from distance.

The two positive traits showed in the open court and on the move. Dekker repeatedly found space when Wall or Tomas Satoransky ran the offense. They frequently found him for dunks and layups. Dekker finished 10 of 15 from the field.

“Whenever I have the ball or attack, penetrate, he’s a great cutter,” said Wall, who finished with a season-high 40 points and 14 assists. “We were just talking about it. He said ‘Whenever you have the opportunity to be aggressive, I’m always a guy that’s cutting and doing the little things. I don’t mind doing the dirty work.’”

The Wizards (12-18) need more grit in their world considering their underachieving start to the season. That’s something Dekker believes he can provide. Considering he doesn’t have full grasp of the team’s playbook terminology, falling on the back of basketball basics is necessary for now.

“They called out a couple of plays tonight and I looked at John, looked at Brad (Beal) and I’m like where (do I go), Dekker said sarcastically. “(They) would just say go to the corner. OK. That part of it is tough.

“One thing you can control is how hard you play and how smart you play. When you put yourself in a position to do some good things, and help the team. That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”

Going forward Dekker will try finding a spot in Washington’s rotation. Ariza, who was Dekker’s basketball tutor when the two played in Houston during the 2016-17 season, likely moves into the starting lineup.

Reserve minutes opened when Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for Ariza.  The basics of Dekker’s game compares to the popular Oubre, but with perhaps a steadier baseline.

He has yet to run the court with complete ease. Dekker remains on a minute’s restriction because of the ankle injury. “I was able to do some things tonight that I haven’t been able to in the past couple of games. That was a positive,” he said.

There’s no guarantees for minutes or the 24-year-old being part of Washington’s future. Dekker is one of several restricted free agents on the roster. For now the goal is simple: Play and play hard.

“I’m just trying to prove myself every night. I’m trying to show coach I’m a guy that can help this team,” Dekker said. “I’ve helped teams in the past, but I really want to be part of a playoff run here.”

Color Brooks impressed, with one clear clanking exception.

“I'm assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did,” Brooks said after watching Dekker air ball a 3-point attempt and wildly miss on another. “But he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn't have to turn the switch on, it's on.” 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards' fundamentals will be put to the test against Dejounte Murray, LaMarcus Aldridge

Wizards' fundamentals will be put to the test against Dejounte Murray, LaMarcus Aldridge

The Wizards are hosting the Spurs on Wednesday night, and these days that sentence isn't nearly as scary as it used to be. 

Tim Duncan is an assistant coach rather than a player, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are retired and Kawhi Leonard is a full two teams removed from his time playing for Gregg Popovich. 

San Antonio is reeling at the moment, dropping six straight games. If they lose in DC, it would be the longest losing streak the franchise has had since 1996-97, the season before they drafted Duncan. But that doesn't mean they won't represent a significant challenge. The Spurs are well-coached, fundamentally sound and are probably due for a win to get back on track.

The Wizards play the Spurs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

They rank fifth in offensive efficiency and 26th in defense, which is surprising given their tendency to take too many mid-range jumpers and stifling batch of guards. On both ends of the floor, the Spurs are going to test the Wizards' fundamentals. That might yield fine results on offense for Washington, but the defensive end could be an ugly scene. 

Here are two stars to watch on the San Antonio side that the Wizards will have to be wary of if they're going to secure their fourth win of the year. 

Dejounte Murray

Murray's numbers won't bounce off your screen, but he's a bonafide stud Bradley Beal might have to deal with throughout the night. He made the NBA's All-Defensive First-Team two seasons ago as a 21-year-old but missed last season due to a knee injury. 

His defensive acumen and athleticism are still with him, and he might just be the best perimeter defender in the NBA not named Marcus Smart or Kawhi Leonard. If Beal is going to keep up the same level of production we've seen over the last week, he'll have to get there while dealing with an immense amount of ball pressure.

Offensively, Murray isn't much of a threat from the outside but he makes up for it with his explosiveness toward the rim. The Wizards defense has struggled with breakdowns created off of dribble penetration, so there's a good chance Popovich looks to create open looks off of Murray's drives. 

LaMarcus Aldridge

Moe Wagner won't be able to take as many charges against this big man. Aldridge, who's averaging 18.3 points on 52 percent shooting, does most of his damage in the mid-post area. Aldridge has more shot attempts from between the free-throw line area and the three-point line (62) than he does at the rim (41).

He has a multitude of moves and counters, but he doesn't get to the line much for a player who primarily plays inside the arc. For the Wizards to contain him, they'll have to play smart but remain physical with him on his catches. Don't let him get to his spot without working for it. 

Thomas Bryant and Wagner are more equipped to defend your traditional bully-ball big men like Joel Embiid or Andre Drummond. Guarding a player like Aldridge requires poise and self-control, which are not words typically used to describe the Wizards' interior defense. 

Between Murray's dribble penetration and elite perimeter defense and Aldridge's refined face-up game, the Spurs represent a major problem for the Wizards at this stage of the season. Washington's offense is for real, as they rank third in the NBA in efficiency, but the defense is the main reason they're 3-8. 

This game could go one of two ways. The Wizards can communicate more effectively on defense, defend with more connectivity and let their offense take care of the rest in a solid win, or they could continue to struggle and a fundamentally-sound team like the Spurs will blow the doors off of them in front of their home crowd. 

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington on Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST for all your Wizards coverage before tip-off at 7 p.m.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year tracker: How does Rui Hachimura compare to Ja Morant, other elite rookies?

tyler-herro-kendrick-nunn-rookie.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year tracker: How does Rui Hachimura compare to Ja Morant, other elite rookies?

When it became apparent that Zion Williamson's knee injury would keep him sidelined for the first month-and-a-half of the season, the Rookie of the Year race opened up substantially. 

Williamson was the heavy favorite to win before the year tipped off, and now a few surprising young players have earned themselves consideration. The top pick in this year's draft may reclaim the voter's favor once he returns in early December, but don't count these five players out. 

Obviously production will be valued over everything else. You don't want to disregard a player's stats if he's on a bad team, because usually, the best rookies are on bad teams. But this season is a little different, as we have two rookies both producing eye-popping numbers while being key contributors to a sure-fire playoff team. 

5. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards

The Wizards received a fair amount of criticism for taking Hachimura ninth overall in June. His ceiling of a modern-day forward who could guard multiple positions, space the floor and attack mismatches is very enticing. However, questions about his shooting range, lateral quickness and strength inside had plenty of draft experts skeptical. 

So far, Hachimura has looked really good. His three-point stroke hasn't come along yet, but he's shooting 50 percent from the floor and currently ranks seventh among rookies in scoring.

His pull up jumper looks legit, he's far more mobile than he was given credit for, and once Hachimura learns how to finish through contact and figure out his spots on the floor, he's going to be dangerous screening for Bradley Beal. 

Stats as of 11/19: 27.7 mpg / 13.1 ppg / 1.7 apg / 5.5 rpg

4. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

The Heat currently hold the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, and much of their success can be credited to rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn.

Outside of Jimmy Butler, Miami doesn't have many ball-handlers who can create offense for themselves and their teammates. Herro has played with the ball in his hands a lot more than people expected coming out of Kentucky and hasn't really been phased by it. 

So far, he's displayed sneaky-good playmaking, exceptional shot-making and an impressive level of poise. What he lacks in size and length he makes up for in flat-out skill. 

Stats as of 11/19: 28.9 mpg / 13.3 ppg / 2.1 apg / 4.5 rpg

3. Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors

As a second-round pick out of Villanova, Paschall was brought to Golden State to learn from Draymond Green and hopefully develop into the two-way combo-forward this franchise first unleased on the NBA. 

But then Stephen Curry broke his hand, and with Klay Thompson out for the year as well, the Warriors needed immediate help scoring alongside D'Angelo Russell. 

Paschall, seemingly out of nowhere, took on that responsibility and is now averaging 16.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting. It's hard to expect Paschall to keep this up, but he'll have plenty of shots throughout the season. And if one thing is true about Jay Wright-coached players, is that they simply know how to play good basketball. 

Stats as of 11/19: 31.1 mpg / 16.7 ppg / 1.3 apg / 4.8 rpg

2. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

Nunn has been the NBA's biggest surprise so far this season. He was an undrafted free agent a year ago, spent last season with the Warriors G-League affiliate and was signed by the Heat this past April. He apparently made a good impression on the organization after dropping 40 points on them in the preseason. 

Once Nunn got his shot at NBA minutes, all he's done is score and help the Heat win. He's averaging 17.8 points, shooting 47 percent from the floor, 38 percent from three and is third among all rookies in NET rating who play at least 15 minutes a night. 

The Heat tend to find players like Nunn and they end up playing for a long time. We'll see if Nunn can take it to another level to become the favorite in the Rookie of the Year race. 

Stats as of 11/19: 30.7 mpg / 17.8 ppg / 3.2 apg / 2.5 rpg

1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

By far the most electric player in his rookie class so far, Morant is playing at a high level and he's still realizing his true powers at the point guard position. 

Williamson may have been the headliner of the 2019 NBA Draft, but the second pick that night is looking like a future All-Star. Morant is scoring 18.4 points, dishing out six assists per game and is shooting 47 percent from the floor and a very impressive 42 percent from three (11-26). 

It'll be difficult for Morant to hold onto the lead once Zion-palooza begins in December, but the Grizzlies must be thrilled with what they've seen out of their rookie guard. 

Stats as of 11/19: 27.2 mpg / 18.4 ppg / 6.0 apg / 3.3 rpg

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN:

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Coby White, Chicago Bulls
PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: