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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga, Issuf Sanon

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Troy Brown, Jr. shares what life is like for Wizards inside the NBA Bubble

Troy Brown, Jr. shares what life is like for Wizards inside the NBA Bubble

Celebrating a 21st birthday usually requires a party with family and friends to commemorate the first (legal) taste of alcohol. 

For Wizards guard Troy Brown, Jr., a simple team dinner with a glass of wine did the trick. 

“Ian (Mahinmi) got me some wine, so we got to celebrate it,” Brown said on the Bleav in Wizards podcast. “They took me out to dinner and stuff and he got me some wine. So my man looked out for me for sure.” 

For Brown, his love for the game of basketball makes up for not getting a real chance to bring in the big occasion with a proper party. Brown said he was used to the sacrifice of giving up birthday parties for summer tournaments anyways. 

Still, given the current conditions under the pandemic, it would have been impossible for Brown to celebrate his July 28th birthday at the bar or with a large gathering even if the Wizards season was already completed. Instead, Brown celebrated with growth. 

Brown told Bullets Forever’s Matt Modderno and former Wizard fan favorite Larry Hughes his mindset going into the Orlando bubble was all about getting better and showing everyone what he could do. With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opting out, Brown’s role on offense increased and he’s shown flashes that he can be a player for the future with Washington -- even if the Wizards have been eliminated from the postseason and are without a win so far. 

The number of minutes hasn’t been the only thing to increase in Brown’s life, however. Premiering his video series titled “Ballin’ in the Bubble,” Brown’s YouTube page has soared to over eight thousand subscribers looking for an inside glimpse of life in the bubble. 

In each vlog, it’s easy to see Brown having fun with his teammates while still working hard to improve his game. The inside looks give Wizards fans access into what kind of personalities make up the locker room, making it that much more enjoyable to cheer them on.  

“We’re athletes and everybody always wants to know what we are doing on the court,” said Brown. “But off the court, as people, to be able to show our personalities and even to be able to show my teammates on that type of platform whether or not they’re just being themselves and they’re not just doing it because I’m holding a camera. It’s definitely dope and the opportunity has been great.”

Brown said when he was tweeting the idea of starting a vlog inside the bubble, the Wizards PR team partnered with him to edit his footage and make an appealing end product. Quarantined in those Disney hotels, this gives Brown more time to focus on his game. 

Despite the five straight defeats, Brown and his young teammates are focusing on long-term player growth as opposed to getting frustrated with the results. 

“I would say for me personally, my motivation is just the fact that I want to be a great player,” Brown said. “That’s the only motivation I need...From a team perspective, we’re really young and we have a lot of guys that just want to be great players. We know the odds are against us, but at the end of the day we want to prove people wrong.”

Whether it’s playing as a pass-first point guard or at the three, coach Scott Brooks is using their time in Orlando to figure out how to best utilize Brown’s skillset to win next year. Brown said veteran leaders like Mahinmi and Ish Smith have helped the younger guys focus on continued improvement in that respect. 

Starting the year off as a 3-and-D small forward, Brown’s role has evolved into a playmaker in recent weeks. Hughes gave Brown some advice on how to keep that going. 

“I would just encourage you to not hesitate, and don’t overthink the situation or play,” said Hughes. “Your talent is what the team needs, so now it’s time to hone in on that skill of figuring out how to play with Brad and John even though you like to handle the ball.”

Hughes, a former first-team All-Defensive member in 2005 when he finished the season leading the league in steals as a Wizard, told Brown that his defense will help him fit in with the likes of Wall and Beal next season. After a solid defensive possession, Hughes said if he’s able to get the rebound then he should continue to have that license to push the tempo. 

RELATED: Brown’s role as a playmaker doesn’t have to change when Wall returns

Sporting a stat line consisting of 10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 2.5 APG, Brown has shown repeated growth all throughout the season. Often asked to cover the opposition’s best player, Brown doesn’t limit his growth to the lines on the court.  

As Brown continues to document the end of the Wizards season in Orlando, he - along with his teammates - continues to get more likable. 

“It’s one of those things that nobody knows who I am as a person. They just know Troy Brown the basketball player, they don’t know me as a person and how I act,” Brown said. “This vlog was a way to show everybody that I’m more than a basketball player. People think of us as these commodities, but we’re regular people just like everyone else.”

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Damian Lillard and Paul George trade jabs on social media after Blazers-Clippers

Damian Lillard and Paul George trade jabs on social media after Blazers-Clippers

It's well documented that two of the NBA's biggest stars, Damian Lillard and Paul George, are not the best of friends.

Last May, Lillard's Blazers eliminated George's Thunder in five games, with the Portland star hitting a 37-foot game-winner over George to win the series. After Lillard hit the shot, he waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City bench as his teammates mobbed him in celebration. Following the game, George called Lillard's bucket a "bad shot." Lillard balked at that claim, asking how it was a bad shot if the ball went in.  

Nearly 15 months later, Lillard and George's beef has returned. On Saturday, Lillard had the opportunity to give Portland the lead over George's Clippers with just 15 seconds remaining. However, with the Blazers down just one, Lillard missed both free throws. Los Angeles would hold on and win, with both George and Clippers guard Patrick Beverley mocking Lillard from the bench.

After the game, Lillard was asked about Beverly and co.'s antics, and the Blazers star had quite the response.

"Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who, I sent him home before at the end of the game," Lillard said. "Paul George just got sent home by me last year. So, they know."

Bleacher Report reposted Lillard's quote on Instagram, which got both Beverley and George to respond. Beverley joked "Cancun on three," referencing that Portland's season would be over soon. George directly responded to Lillard's comment about sending him home, saying "And you getting sent home this year. Respect."

Of course, Dame wasn't going to let either one of them get the last word. Lillard responded to George's comment, calling out the star for continuing to change teams.

George, of course, asked to be traded to the Clippers this offseason to pair with star Kawhi Leonard just one summer after signing a long-term extension with the Thunder. Meanwhile, Lillard has spent his whole career thus far in Portland, turning the Blazers from an annual lottery team to a contender in the West.

George responded once more, saying he achieved more success with his first team, the Pacers, than Lillard has in Portland. That can be debated, but neither star has led their team any further than the conference finals.

The whole conversation was captured by many and has been reposted all over social media.

The two teams won't meet again this season unless they matchup down the road in the playoffs. The Clippers currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the West, while Portland is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.

However, the Blazers have looked as good as any team in the bubble thus far, in large part due to the return of big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. In a year where seeding doesn't really matter, there's always a chance these two teams play each other once again. And what a sight that will be if it happens.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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