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Turning over all options of Jabari Parker's future with the Wizards

Turning over all options of Jabari Parker's future with the Wizards

Jabari Parker’s presence creates debates and confusion.

The no. 2 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft joined the Wizards following the Feb. 6 trade with the Bulls that sent Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago. That lofty draft status combined with potent scoring skills in the body of a 23-year-old power forward leads to tantalizing thoughts about a future in Washington.

Instead, spend that time planning a summer trip or contemplating the Wizards’ upcoming five-game homestand starting with Monday’s meeting with the Kings.

Regardless of what the former Duke standout accomplished in his first 12 games with Washington or over the final 16, Parker will not play for the Wizards next season on his current contract.

The Wizards are declining his team option for $20 million. This is not a sourced fact, but something of an open secret and mostly a logical conclusion.

Stating such details bluntly is not intended as a slight or any kind of assessment on Parker’s performance in Washington. In fact, there are numerous positives with the 6-foot-8 forward’s play since the trade.

Now a full year removed from his return following a second ACL tear since entering the league, Parker is averaging 13.2 points in 26 minutes per game. He is shooting a robust 54.6 percent from the field and 65.5 percent over the last five games. His 7.0 rebounds rank second on the team to the other player Washington acquired in the trade deadline deal, Bobby Portis.

Parker also uncorks highlight passes and uses his athleticism to attack the rim.

“I knew when we got him that we needed to make him an attack player,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after last week’s game against the Mavericks.

Parker had 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the home win.

“The thing I didn't know is that he loves to pass the ball,” Brooks continued, “so I've been telling him to continue to do that but you got to see the basket. The basket's there for you, you're attacking. By attacking, he's explosive. He's as athletic as anybody his size in a long time."

“It's almost like [Charles] Barkley-ish the way [Jabari] can rebound the ball and take it (the) length of the court in his explosion to the basket.”

Before those daydreams return, understand none of this is to suggest the Wizards won the deal with the Bulls from a player perspective. That was unlikely from the jump, but most importantly, not the point of the trade.

The Wizards did not ship out a better player in Porter and his $26 million salary to take on Parker’s big number.

Washington needed cap space to field a competitive team next season after John Wall’s Achilles tear left the roster understaffed. The team used the remaining two-plus seasons of Porter’s four-year, $106 million contract to then create that space. Keeping Parker for $20 million wrecks such plans.

With Brooks primarily using Portis at center, Washington doesn’t currently have a single forward under contract next season. If the Wizards determine that the roster needs a fall-out-of-bed scorer, Parker could stay for a short-term deal with an annual salary far below $20 million. Should Washington decide to retool with a nod toward efficiency and steadiness, it may look elsewhere.

While Porter rarely committed turnovers, Parker loses possession with regularity.

He is tied with Bradley Beal for a team-high 3.1 turnovers despite playing 13 fewer minutes per game and handling the ball less frequently than then the two-time All-Star guard. Parker had five in Saturday’s loss at Minnesota including a crucial miscue in overtime.

According to NBA.com, Parker’s turnover ratio* of 18.0 since the trade is the NBA’s worst. He is fifth worst in the NBA this season at 13.7 among players averaging at least 25 minutes in a minimum 50 games.

While the passing gets wonky at times, the primary issue is on the bounce. In 1,042 minutes with Bulls, Parker lost the ball 19 times according to Basketball-Reference compared to 11 in 315 minutes with the Wizards.

(*TO Ratio is the number of turnovers a player or team averages per 100 possessions.)

Yet even within the turnover stat there’s reason to like what Parker’s doing with the Wizards.

Among the bottom 10 players in turnover ratio, a group including Ben Simmons and Draymond Green, only Parker’s net rating is positive (+3.1). His often ridiculed defense appears a tick more defensible than expected since joining the Wizards. He can certainly create points.

Maybe Parker drives the lane and delivers dimes next season for the Wizards. It just won’t be on his current contract, which means he’ll become a free agent over the summer. There’s no debating this even as we wrap our heads over the heights of Parker’s potential. 

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WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

The Washington Mystics and Elena Delle Donne finally get to play in the WNBA Playoffs after a week off due to a double-bye from winning the No. 1 seed. 

The Mystics will play the No. 4 seeded Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET. It begins a best-of-five series between two of the best teams in the WNBA this season. 

Midway through the year, the Aces were arguably the best team in the league. They were trading turns with the Mystics and the Connecticut Sun sitting atop the WNBA Standings. Led by MVP candidate Liz Cambage, one of the most dominating centers in the league, the Aces were squarely in the running for one of the top seeds and a double-bye.

Then they went cold, finished the season 2-4 and witnessed the Mystics and Sun continued success.

The Aces, honestly, should probably not be here after the incredible end-of-game sequence from the previous round. Dearica Hamby's steal and desperation shot are the only things that have the Aces here and not the Chicago Sky.

Much of the dominance from Cambage and A'ja Wilson has dissipated over the past several weeks. Still, they bring in one of the strongest defensive units in the league to try and slow down the most potent's in WNBA history. In the regular season, the Aces held opponents to a WNBA-best 43.5% from the field and the second-best from 3-point range (32.1%). 

Washington won the regular-season series against Las Vegas 2-1. Yet in the process, one game was postponed at halftime by an earthquake and another game delayed because of clock failures. The only game the Aces won was the one that Delle Donne missed. 

Washington finished the regular season with a franchise-best 26 wins. They set the WNBA record for made 3-pointers on the season (9.3 per game) and in a game (18), and fewest turnovers (11.3 per game) among a few.

While the Mystics have a much-needed eight days off before they play the Aces, one also has to be concerned if it was too much time off. They will have more time to recover in a series as opposed to the winner-take-all first and second rounds. However, there is not much wiggle room in a five-game series predicated on homefield advantage.

ACES VS. MYSTICS GAME 1:

Who: Las Vegas Aces at Washington Mystics

What: WNBA Semifinals Game 1

When: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

TV Channel: ESPN2

Live Stream: WatchESPN

MYSTICS vs. ACES WNBA SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE:

Game 1: Tue, Sept. 17: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 2: Thurs, Sept. 19: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 3: Sun, Sept. 22: Mystics at Aces, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 4: Tue, Sept 24: Mystics at Aces, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

Game 5: Thurs, Sept. 26: Aces at Mystics, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

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Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon in time for the semi-finals? Here's what you need to know

Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon in time for the semi-finals? Here's what you need to know

The Washington Mystics are set to kick off their playoff run on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm against the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Semifinals. You may have followed the entire journey to this point, or you may just joining in on the fun, hoping to hitch a ride on the bandwagon of a great team.

If you are in that second group, you're in luck. Here is what you need to know about the 2019 Mystics as they gear up for the postseason...

They are historically good: The 26-8 Mystics weren't just the best team in the league this season by their record, they were dominant to a degree rarely seen in the WNBA. Washington scored the most points per game (89.3), had the most assists (21.9), the fewest turnovers (11.8) and the highest field goal percentage (46.9). 

The Mystics had the best offensive rating (112.9) with an 11.3-point edge over the second-best team, the Chicago Sky. With the sixth-best defensive rating, the Mystics' 14.8 net rating was 10.7 points better than the next-best team, the Las Vegas Aces. 

Washington's offensive rating is the best ever, ahead of the 2000 Houston Comets who were at 109.1. Their 53.6 effective field goal percentage is also an all-time best. Basically, no one has ever scored as efficiently as this year's Mystics.

Delle Donne could be MVP: Mystics star Elene Delle Donne may take home her second WNBA MVP award. She had another monster season with 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while posting the first 50-40-90 season in WNBA history. She shot 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 97.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Delle Donne is also healthy this time around. Last year, she battled a left knee injury that limited her during the playoffs and contributed to the Mystics demise in the Finals.

They make lots of threes: The three-point shot has never been more important in basketball and the Mystics are better at it than anyone else in the WNBA. They led the league in three-pointers made and attempted, and were second in percentage this season. They hit 36.6 percent, second only to the Aces, on 25.4 attempts. Their 9.3 made threes per game were 1.8 more than the next team, the Connecticut Sun. 

The total numbers are impressive, but so is the Mystics' versatility of perimeter threats. Delle Donne is 6-foot-5, yet she hits her 43 percent on 3.9 attempts per game. Meesseman is a 6-foot-4 center who makes 42.2 percent on two attempts per game.  Then they have Myisha Hines-Allen, Tianna Hawkins, Aerial Powers, Kristi Tolliver and Ariel Atkins, who all shoot 35.7 percent or better from long range. 

Their defense is elite: It isn't just scoring and outside shooting that makes the Mystics great. They also have one of the best defenses with the athleticism and length to frustrate opponents. Washington was fourth in points allowed (77.3), sixth in defensive rating (98.1), fifth in turnovers forced (14.5), eighth in opponent field goal percentage (43) and seventh in opponent three-point percentage (34).

That led to both Atkins and Cloud earning second-team All-Defense this season. LaToya Sanders also drew consideration and, if you ask her teammates, was a glaring snub.

Run it back: The Mystics are on a mission to clear up some unfinished business. Last year, they made it all the way to the WNBA Finals, only to lose to the high-powered Seattle Storm.

The path is there for another deep playoff run, this time perhaps with a different result. 'Run it back' has been a mantra for the team all season. You will see it in hashtags on Twitter. They want to get back to the Finals and take home the first championship in franchise history.

Thibault could get a ring: Head coach Mike Thibault has enjoyed a long and distinguished basketball career that includes two NBA championships as an assistant with the Lakers in the early 1980s. He is the winningest coach in WNBA history.

But Thibault does not have a WNBA championship on his resume, at least not yet. He has lost in the Finals three times including twice during his days with Connecticut. Winning a title would represent a breakthrough for him and would make for a great story of someone finally reaching the mountaintop in their sport.

Toliver has been hurt: The biggest question mark for the Mystics going into the playoffs is the health of All-Star guard Kristi Toliver. She has been sidelined since Aug. 8 with a right knee contusion, an injury that forced her to miss 11 games. According to Thibault, she is "probably" going to play in Game 1 but if she does, she will be on a minutes restriction.

The Mystics closed the season well without her, winning 10 of the 11 games she missed. But Toliver is an important piece as a veteran leader and because of her three-point shooting and passing.

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