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Scott Brooks hints at changes for Wizards; here's what he can try

Scott Brooks hints at changes for Wizards; here's what he can try

What happened to the Wizards on the West Coast over the past several days was predictable in that they beat the Suns, easily the worst of their four opponents, and lost to the Denver Nuggets, L.A. Lakers and L.A. Clippers. The latter two may be the best teams in the NBA and the Nuggets aren't far down the list.

Drawing broad conclusions from those types of defeats isn't all that necessary when it could be viewed simply as really good teams beating up on a bad one. But the talk in the postgame locker room on Sunday night from head coach Scott Brooks and shooting guard Bradley Beal suggest some changes could be in the works.

Brooks said on the NBC Sports Washington postgame show he may need to play Isaac Bonga more and Beal hinted changes may be necessary now that the team sits at 6-12, matching their worst start to the season since 2012-13. They knew their defense would struggle, but so far it has been historically inept.

The Wizards currently hold the worst defensive rating in the league (115.7) and that has them on pace to have the second-worst in NBA history. Only last year's Cavaliers (117.6) have had a higher mark.

That is not good and Brooks can only do so much to shake things up on that end of the floor. It should first be noted, by the way, that Brooks has threatened changes in the past and thought otherwise before the Wizards' next game. So, don't count on something drastic to happen before the Wizards host the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

But, if Brooks does decide to shift things around, he only has so many options. The Wizards are like a baseball team that mashes homers but has a pitching staff full of guys with 5.00+ career ERAs. At some point, your personnel is your personnel. Thomas Bryant isn't going to become Rudy Gobert anytime soon.

Here's some ideas:

1. Brooks could start with playing Bonga more, as he suggested.

He has the second-best defensive rating on the team behind Moe Wagner. He also is tied for the team lead in deflections per-36 minutes and is fourth in contested shots per-36 minutes.

Most importantly, Bonga is a defense-first player. When he is on the floor, that is his focus and the Wizards simply don't have many guys with that approach. At least with his length at 6-foot-9, he can disrupt passing lanes and will give a consistent effort on that end of the floor.

Bonga's defensive ceiling is fairly high and he could someday not too distant in the future provide an impact like Jared Jeffries used to in the mid-2000s for the Wizards. Jeffries was like Bonga in that he was tall for his position and skinny with long arms. Jeffries had his best years in Washington when he was a scrappy defender.

2. Another change that could help is putting Ish Smith back in the starting lineup.

He is a better defender than Isaiah Thomas and the Wizards' best defensive moments this season have seemed to be with him on the floor.

Thomas has been a nice surprise this season, but his defensive shortcomings are more apparent when he's in the starting lineup because he has to defend first-string players. On Sunday night, he got switched onto Kawhi Leonard, who promptly cleared out for an iso play, backed Thomas into the lane and easily shot a midrange jumper over him for two points.

3. One other thing that could technically help is getting Ian Mahinmi back.

The veteran center has yet to play in a game this year due to an Achilles strain, but he might be an upgrade defensively down low. Even though he is arguably not even a replacement-level player at this point, his best attribute is defense.

Mahinmi can't move like he used to, but he does have active hands and he's another player who has six fouls to use. Plus, the Wizards need all the help they can get and especially with back-up center Wagner currently sidelined with a left ankle sprain.

The Wizards have many defensive problems, but arguably their biggest issue is protecting the paint. They allow more points in the paint (53.3) than any other team.

There is no easy fix for the Wizards and there really may be no fix at all. But Brooks has to try something and it sounds like he's close to doing just that.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo out against Wizards with shoulder injury

Giannis Antetokounmpo out against Wizards with shoulder injury

Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t play against the Wizards on Tuesday night after the Bucks announced that he’s dealing with shoulder soreness.

There was no indication from Antetokounmpo before the announcement that he was dealing with any sort of injury. He played in Milwaukee’s previous game, a 116-103 win over the Hornets on Friday, in which he scored 30 points and recorded 16 rebounds after playing 32 minutes.

Tuesday’s contest represents the Bucks’ first game since the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

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Wizards' history at the NBA trade deadline since 2000: More bad than good

Wizards' history at the NBA trade deadline since 2000: More bad than good

The Washington Wizards have been active participants just about every year at the trade deadline, at least in the last decade. After not making a deadline deal from 2001 to 2010, they have executed at least one in each of the last 10 years. Some have been minor, some have been franchise-altering trades.

This year's deadline is Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. ET. It will be the first for general manager Tommy Sheppard.

Here is a look at their recent trades going all the way back to 2000. The first deal was made by Michael Jordan when he was in the front office. The rest were executed by current team president Ernie Grunfeld. The trade information is from Basketball-Reference.com:

February 7, 2019: Traded Markieff Morris, cash and a 2023 second-round draft pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Wesley Johnson

Analysis: This was a salary-dump deal as the Wizards were aiming to get under the luxury tax. So, in that sense it worked out for them. But in terms of basketball value, it was a bad deal in that they had to bite the bullet and sell low on a player who when healthy would have gotten them more. Morris was dealing with a stubborn neck injury and because of that had little appeal on the trade market.

February 6, 2019: Traded Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls for Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and a 2023 second-round draft pick

Analysis: Though the Wizards also sold low on Porter, they technically did get some value for him in two players worthy of rotation minutes on a lot of teams. But by not keeping either Parker or Portis in free agency, this trade went down in the books as a disaster. Somehow the Wizards turned Porter, a third overall pick who played his way into a max contract, into what amounted to a second-round pick. That is not good business, but the Wizards were trying to hit the reset button and get out of salary cap hell and this helped them do that.

February 8, 2018: Traded Sheldon Mac and cash to the Atlanta Hawks for a 2019 second-round pick.

Analysis: This was such a minor deal it doesn't require much evaluation. The Wizards saved some money and cleared a roster spot that was being taken up by a player recovering from a torn Achilles.

February 17, 2017: Traded a 2017 first-round pick (lottery protected), Andrew Nicholson and Marcus Thornton to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough.

Analysis: Bogdanovic gave the Wizards some much-needed bench depth and at times he was a huge help down the stretch of the regular season. In the playoffs, though, he dropped off and wasn't consistent enough to turn their second unit from a weakness into a strength. Bogdanovic was only in Washington for a few months, as he left to sign with the Pacers in free agency. Unfortunately for the Wizards, he has become what should be one of their biggest regrets. He continues to get better and make the decision to let him leave look worse and worse.

February 18, 2016: Traded DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries and a 2016 first-round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns for Markieff Morris. (2016 pick is top-nine protected).

Analysis: Some (myself included) criticized this deal when it went down because the Suns seemed desperate to part with Morris after some off-the-court troubles, and it's never easy to give up a first-round pick. But Morris ended up becoming a solid citizen during his time with the Wizards and even became one of their most important players the following season. Injuries and a lack of athleticism made that peak short-lived, however.

February 19, 2015: Traded Andre Miller to the Sacramento Kings for Ramon Sessions.

Analysis: Miller was good in the short-term, but the Wizards decided to get younger almost exactly a year later. Sessions was a better scorer and ended up spending a full season with them the following year.

February 20, 2014: As part of a three-team trade, the Washington Wizards traded Eric Maynor and a 2015 second-round draft pick (Arturas Gudaitis was later selected) to the Philadelphia 76ers; the Washington Wizards traded Jan Vesely to the Denver Nuggets; the Denver Nuggets traded a 2016 second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers; the Denver Nuggets traded Andre Miller to the Washington Wizards; and the Philadelphia 76ers traded a 2014 second-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards. (2014 pick was protected and not conveyed)

Analysis: This one had a lot going on. Not only did the Wizards part with Jan Vesely, a major bust after being selected sixth overall, they brought in Miller who at 37 still provided an upgrade as a backup point guard. He didn't score much (3.8 ppg), but he ran the offense competently and was a decent distributor (3.5 apg).

February 21, 2013: Traded Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics for Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins.

Analysis: The Wizards felt compelled to trade Crawford and didn't get much in return. Barbosa had recently torn his ACL and ultimately restored his career, but that comeback didn't come in Washington. Barbosa never played a game for the Wizards, but later became a valuable piece for the Warriors and won a title in 2015.

March 15, 2012: As part of a three-team trade, the Washington Wizards traded Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers; the Washington Wizards traded JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to the Denver Nuggets; the Denver Nuggets traded Nene to the Washington Wizards; and the Los Angeles Clippers traded Brian Cook and a 2015 2nd round draft pick (Arturas Gudaitis was later selected) to the Washington Wizards.

Analysis: This was an important trade for the Wizards. They got rid of Young and McGee and brought in Nene, who added a veteran presence to the locker room and helped lead the Wizards to two playoff appearances.

February 23, 2011: Traded Hilton Armstrong and Kirk Hinrich to the Atlanta Hawks for Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round draft pick (Chris Singleton was later selected 18th overall).

Analysis: The trade looked much better when it happened than it does in hindsight. To acquire a first-round pick for what the Wizards gave up was no small feat, it just didn't amount to much in Singleton, who never realized his potential.

February 18, 2010: Traded Dominic McGuire and cash to the Sacramento Kings for a 2010 second-round draft pick. Sacramento did not receive the second-round draft pick because it was top 41 protected.

Analysis: This was a minor trade that saw McGuire leave after a disappointing tenure in Washington. He was a very good defensive player in college, but couldn't make it work in the pros.

February 17, 2010: As part of a three-team trade, the Washington Wizards traded Drew Gooden to the Los Angeles Clippers; the Washington Wizards traded Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers; the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Emir Preldzic and a 2010 first-round draft pick (Lazar Hayward was later selected 30th) to the Washington Wizards; the Los Angeles Clippers traded Sebastian Telfair to the Cleveland Cavaliers; and the Los Angeles Clippers traded Al Thornton to the Washington Wizards.

Analysis: In another trade to dismantle the mid-2000s Wizards, they sent Jamison to play with LeBron James in Cleveland. Ilgauskas never played for the Wizards, the first-round pick didn't work out and Thornton was out of the league soon after.

February 22, 2001: Traded Calvin Booth, Obinna Ekezie and Juwan Howard to the Dallas Mavericks for Courtney Alexander, Hubert Davis, Christian Laettner, Etan Thomas, Loy Vaught and cash.

Analysis: Howard was still getting it done at the age of 27 with 18 points and seven rebounds a game for the Wizards, but it wasn't translating into wins, so they traded him to Dallas in an eight-player deal. In return, they got some veterans and some intriguing young players like Alexander and Thomas, but the trade didn't ultimately amount to much. The Mavericks later shipped Howard to Denver in a deal for Nick Van Exel and others that helped them reach the conference finals in 2003.

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