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Ways to jump-start the Wizards sooner than later

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Ways to jump-start the Wizards sooner than later

We’ve reached Tuesday, a game day. The Los Angeles Clippers and Marcin Gortat are in town. What timing. Their arrival and the contest itself aren’t the main focus, not after Monday's drama. What changes if any the Wizards make is.

In the short-term, think lineup and rotation. For the big picture, don’t start crossing names off the roster just yet.

Monday’s headlines included an ESPN report  that the Wizards “started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster -- including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal -- is available for discussion in trade scenarios.” It would be the surprise of all surprises for a trade to go down before Tuesday’s tipoff.

Despite the 5-11 start and contrary to the report, Wall and Beal have not been made openly available on the trade market, multiple league sources tell NBC Sports Washington. Despite the frustrating and taxing start, 66 games remain in the regular season. For a needed turnaround, Wall and Beal are the types of talented players required.

Yet something must change immediately. The Wizards have lost two in a row, both by at least 10 points. They trailed by 20 points in the first quarter and by as many as 29 in the second half during Sunday’s 119-109 setback against Portland. Head coach Scott Brooks called the effort and enthusiasm “embarrassing.” 

“There is no team in this league that can win games if you don't compete for your teammates,” Brooks said Sunday. "And I got to find five guys that are willing to do that.”

That comment alone doesn’t signal an impending change. Brooks has used such language often over the last two seasons yet the starting lineup remained the same outside of injuries. It’s possible Tuesday is different. Lineup changes are being explored ahead of the Clippers game, according to multiple sources familiar with the Wizards thinking.

There’s a possible cheat here. Center Dwight Howard exited Sunday’s loss in the first quarter with a reoccurrence of aggravated gluteal soreness. He did not practice with the team Monday. 

The simple solution means starting Ian Mahinmi if Howard sits, which is actually something he literally cannot do during games because of the soreness. Using Jeff Green for a smaller look is a tick more outside the box. Going with second-year player Thomas Bryant is next level.

Let’s ponder a Wizards roster with all intact.

For all the talk surrounding Wall, Beal, Otto Porter and, based on injury, Howard, Markieff Morris is the starter struggling the most. Never a strong rebounder, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward is averaging 3.6 boards in nine games this month.

Whether he’s slowed by an undisclosed injury or another factor, Morris isn’t providing needed energy and big man production. Those aspects are required when Brooks wants to deploy small-ball lineups, and use Morris as the 5-man. Morris, one of the eight players on the roster entering some form of free agency this summer, played only 19 and 20 minutes respectively in the last two games.

Green, Morris' primary backup, had 13 rebounds in 25 minutes against Portland. That level of board work is abnormal, but the 32-year-old’s athleticism has stood out all season. While the streaky shooter’s numbers are starting to trend the wrong way after a hot start earlier this month, Green is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor.

With Green starting, Morris could serve as the anchor for the second unit, or Brooks could manipulate his rotation so that the pair play together. Neither is a needed rim protector, but both provide more offense than Mahinmi.

Sliding Kelly Oubre Jr. into the starting lineup – for Morris, not Otto Porter – is another consideration. The Oubre-Porter pairing along with Wall, Beal, and Gortat was among the top net-rating lineups in the entire NBA over the last two seasons. Brooks hasn’t used a similar look as much this season.

Where Oubre offers clear help is energy. The 6-foot-7 forward flies around the court continuously even during games where teammates don’t. Defending opponent’s straight-on, even small guards, is another strength. Starting Oubre opens the door for using him against guards when Wall and Beal struggle to keep foes from penetrating.

This shouldn’t be considered a promotion if it occurs. Oubre remains prone to gaffes in team defense concepts. He is shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers. We’re talking about changing the Wizards’ trajectory. All options should be explored.

In either case, another way for more urgency in the lineup could come from using first-round pick Troy Brown Jr. or Bryant. Both were on the court as the Wizards rallied against the Blazers. Brown is an obvious Oubre replacement on the second unit if Oubre joins the starters with Mahinmi the likely odd-man out in the spot. Bryant has modern big man skills and appears aggressive on the boards.

Here’s the hope for the Wizards: Whatever anger was unleashed recently leads to the needed fix now that the expressions of frustration reached the public. Teams squabble. Feelings are hurt. There is no denying Washington isn’t right. Surely, other teams are checking in per usual, but with a bit extra interest since doors may be open. For now, that’s not the case.

It’s easy to say Washington would be wise to get its collective head straight, put forth a good effort against the Clippers and move forward from Monday’s show. We’ll see what happens. Based on the opening 16 games and Monday’s tabloid-esque headlines, we’ll see. Something must change. If it's not the roster, that leaves the lineup.

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Tomas Satoransky set to enter unpredictable free agent market for point guards

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Tomas Satoransky set to enter unpredictable free agent market for point guards

Of the Wizards' players set to hit free agency on June 30, one who has a good chance to return is point guard Tomas Satoransky. He and center Thomas Bryant are atop the team's priority list with Bobby Portis likely too expensive and Jabari Parker set to enter the market unrestricted.

Satoransky will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Wizards can match any offers made by other teams. And in talking to members of the Wizards' coaching staff and front office, they speak of Satoransky like he is part of their future.

Still, nothing can be assumed and especially in a year in which many teams have money to spend. As Kevin O'Connor of the Ringer noted this week, there is more cap room available this summer than the previous two combined. That could lead to 2016-level contracts where role players get paid like starters and average starters get paid like stars.

What will make Satoransky's market interesting, though, is the fact there are some much bigger names available at his position. At point guard, teams with the most money can go after All-Stars like Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and D'Angelo Russell. There is then a robust second tier that includes Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier and Ricky Rubio. Then you have Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison and Rajon Rondo.

It is a great year to be a free agent, but maybe not the best year to be a free agent point guard. The position class is absolutely loaded.

Satoransky, though, will still draw plenty of interest and among the teams expected to check in on him are the Mavericks, Pacers, Magic and Celtics, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Celtics have already been tied to Satoransky by Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. But they also have their sights set on some of the bigger fish at point guard with rumors linking them to Walker, in particular.

The Utah Jazz were also set to pursue Satoransky, but their trade for Mike Conley Jr. has taken them off the list. The Phoenix Suns could also emerge as a suitor, though they are being linked to higher profile free agents at this point.

Both the Wizards and Satoransky expressed interest in a contract extension midway through the 2018-19 season, as NBC Sports Washington reported, but those talks didn't get much further. The Wizards ended up putting a lot of things on hold once they drifted out of the playoff race and ultimately fired team president Ernie Grunfeld.

With senior vice president Tommy Sheppard serving in the interim, though, Satoransky has a big proponent calling the shots in the Wizards front office. Sheppard scouted Satoransky before the Wizards drafted him and was key in convincing him to leave Europe for the NBA.

Satoransky likes playing in Washington and recognizes an opportunity at point guard with John Wall set to miss most of next season due to Achilles surgery. But he also recognizes this as a chance to earn the biggest payday of his career.

How much money Satoransky will ultimately receive is hard to predict. Those in his camp are apprehensive to throw numbers out there because even they aren't sure.

One potential comparison could be Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who makes just over $9 million per year. Though VanVleet is arguably better, Satoransky is hitting the market with more money to go around. 

Many have tried to project Satoransky's market in the past few months. Soon we will find out just how valuable he is.

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Washington Wizards extend qualifying offers to Portis, Bryant and Satoransky, not Dekker

Washington Wizards extend qualifying offers to Portis, Bryant and Satoransky, not Dekker

The Wizards extended qualifying offers to three free agents on Wednesday: Thomas Bryant, Bobby Portis and Tomas Satoransky. Washington did now, however, extend a qualifying offer to Sam Dekker. 

The Washington Wizards reportedly extended a qualifying offer to Thomas Bryant after the center's breakout 2018-19 season, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. 

After he was picked up by the Wizards off the waiver wires from the Lakers, Bryant worked his way into the Washington lineup by late November. 

With the Wizards he averaged 6.3 rebounds and 10.5 points while he shot a league-high 68.5% on two-pointers. Bryant also shot 33.3% in the three-point range and 46.6% from three-to-10 feet. 

But Bryant also made a big impact with his energy and enthusiasm while the Wizards struggled to compete, making him a favorite amongst his teammates and Washington fans alike. 

Back in April, Bryant expressed a serious interest in staying with the Wizards. For that article, click here.

Washington also extended offers to Bobby Portis anad Tomas Satoransky, as reported by Chase Hughes and Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith.

Last season with the Wizards, Portis shot 39.3% and averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Like Bryant, Portis also expressed that he enjoyed playing in Washington, but also said he wanted to make more money. For that article, click here

Satoransky averaged 8.9 points a game in the 2018-19 season, while he shot 39.5% in threes. 

While Washington made qualifying offers to three of its free agents, the Wizards declined a qualifying offer on forward Sam Dekker, as reported by Chase Hughes. 

Last season Dekker averaged 6.1 points per game, while he shot 47.1% in field goals. 

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