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Wizards' biggest needs entering free agency now that the NBA Draft is over

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Wizards' biggest needs entering free agency now that the NBA Draft is over

Weeks before the NBA Draft, I outlined the Wizards' biggest needs as they evaluated players for their first- and second-round picks. I wrote that wing depth was arguably atop the list, given the void behind Bradley Beal at shooting guard and the help needed behind Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr. at small forward.

The Wizards appear to have filled that void by taking Troy Brown, Jr. with the 15th overall pick. He can play both wing positions and gives the Wizards extra insurance where they needed it.

The Wizards weren't able to address all of their needs in the draft and will now aim to do so in free agency. The problem is that they will have few resources to work with given their cap situation.

They can sign a player with the taxpayer mid-level exception, an allotment of about $5.3 million. Players can sign under that provision for up to three years. There is also the minimum salary exception, of which a player can be signed to two years.

The Wizards signed Jodie Meeks using their mid-level exception last summer and Mike Scott to a veteran minimum salary. Those signings are good comps for what the Wizards will be able to do in this year's free agency. Basically, not a whole lot unless they orchestrate some trades.

They have to do something, however. Brown will represent the 11th player under contract on their roster and NBA teams have to hold at least 13. That means they need to add two players one way or another, either through free agency or trades.

With that in mind, here is a look at the biggest needs the Wizards could address in free agency on bargain deals...

Frontcourt depth

The trade of Marcin Gortat has certainly changed some things. The Wizards now have an obvious hole in their frontcourt with only Ian Mahinmi, Markieff Morris and Jason Smith under contract at either the power forward or center position.

Washington needs to find a starter to replace Gortat or at the very least backups for Mahinmi and Morris. Ideally, they would find someone to help either stretch the floor or protect the rim.

Some free agent center options that won't cost a lot are Nerlens Noel, Zaza Pachulia, Jahlil Okafor and Salah Mejri. Possibly cheap power forwards would include Dante Cunningham, Quincy Acy and Noah VonlehDwight Howard could be considered a wild card.

Backup point guard

The Wizards ended the season with five point guards on their roster, but three of them - Ty Lawson, Ramon Sessions and Tim Frazier - are no longer under contract. The Wizards will need a third point guard, whether it's one of those guys or someone from outside the organization.

They have some insurance there with the acquisition of Austin Rivers, as he can play some point. But they may still want to carry another guy at the position.

Though Frazier is the only one with Bird rights, meaning the Wizards can exceed the cap to re-sign him, it seems unlikely he will be back given how he was out of the rotation come playoff time. The latter could be said about Sessions, who also lost his role to Lawson.

Lawson may be a decent option for the Wizards, as he will most certainly come at a bargain price. He appeared in six playoff games with the Wizards, but before that was in China. He is trying to restart his NBA career and could pay off much like Scott did this past season if given the right opportunity.

Some cheap free agents at point guard would include Mario Chalmers, Raymond Felton and Shane Larkin.

Bench scoring

The Wizards could use more offense from their bench in a general sense. Scott was arguably their best bench scorer last year and he may very well not be back. Rivers should help, but they can always use more.

The Wizards could address bench scoring in combination with either of the previously mentioned needs. They could find a backup big man whose strength is scoring, for example.

The Wizards may be able to fill this void in part from within. If Oubre takes another step offensively, that would certainly change some things. If Meeks can shoot at a higher percentage, that would be nice. He was brought in simply to score off the bench and, in theory, could do that in 2018-19.

Add it all up and the Wizards still have plenty of needs to address. We'll see what they can get done in free agency.


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Loss to Magic shows how Wizards have few ideal options on defense

Loss to Magic shows how Wizards have few ideal options on defense

Wizards assistant coach and defensive specialist Mike Longabardi referred to them as "dare shots" on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast. Head coach Scott Brooks said after the game the Wizards were "playing the percentages." Basically, they gave Markelle Fultz and the Magic distance when playing defense, asking them to earn respect for their range. Orlando, to be fair, entered the game shooting 29 percent from three, dead-last in the NBA, and Fultz is a career 20-percent three-point shooter.

But the whole plan backfired. The Wizards instead met an unintended consequence in their 125-121 loss to the Magic on Sunday night. Fultz and his teammates not only made threes early, they kept it up all night, apparently finding a rhythm as a result of taking what the defense was offering. 

Fultz, the former No. 1 pick maligned for his so-called broken shot, sank two from the perimeter to tie a career-high. The Magic as a team made 15 threes, tying a season-high, and shot 39.5 percent from long range.

The Wizards went under screens and played off of Magic players they felt were unlikely to beat them with outside shooting, and it cost them. On one hand, it is easy to kick the Wizards while they are down. They didn't properly respect an opponent that, after all, is still an NBA team. 

Even guys who supposedly can't shoot can make them if left open. Even non-shooters practice and make threes all the time outside of games. Show up early to any NBA game and watch warm-ups and you can see that for yourself. 

But in a sense, the Wizards' reasoning can be understood. Even against a team like the Magic, a team that entered Sunday night averaging only 100.3 points per game (29th in the NBA), they may have to get creative.

That is because the Wizards have been and likely will continue to be a bad defensive team. They currently rank 29th out of 30 teams in defensive rating (114.4) and are dead-last in points allowed (120.1/g.). 

Without prototypical defensive personnel, the Wizards will need to think outside the box to get stops. Overloading one way or the other based on percentages may be the answer on a given night. 

The problem is that the Wizards didn't do their job in other areas. In addition to giving up too many threes, they didn't shore up things on the backend, either. Even with their manpower shifted closer to the rim, they still couldn't protect it.

The Magic had 42 points in the paint and outrebounded the Wizards 52-38. That included Orlando center Nikola Vucevic pouring in 30 points to go along with 17 boards all by himself.

The early goings of this season have demonstrated how the Wizards have no easy answers on the defensive end. The good news is that they do have a high-powered offense. While their defensive rating ranks second-worst in the league, their offensive rating is the best of any team and they are third in points scored.

Right now, the only way the Wizards can win is if they score a ton of points, as even broken Metro cars make more stops than them.


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Bradley Beal becomes 5th Wizard to reach 10,000-point milestone

Bradley Beal becomes 5th Wizard to reach 10,000-point milestone

Bradley Beal joined an exclusive group Sunday night. 

His 34 points were enough to reach the 10,000-point milestone, climbing up to fifth in the all-time franchise scoring ladder in the process. 

He scored his 19th point in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points in that frame alone. He hit some smoothly-stroked 3-pointers in a comeback attempt that came short. After scoring 44 points in two straight contests, his 34 against Orlando came as no surprise. Now, only Elvin Hayes, Jeff Malone, Wes Unseld and John Wall have scored more points for Washington.

Beal's accomplishment comes one game after he passed Wall and Gilbert Arenas for the most 40-point and 10-assist outings in Wizards history with three. He fell two assists and six points shy of extending that record even further. 

Beal joins Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis from the 2012 NBA Draft class as players to reach the historic feat. He's taken the scoring load on his shoulders this season, and it wouldn't be shocking if he continues to climb the scoring charts. Given his long-term commitment to the team following his two-year max contract extension in the offseason, Beal certainly has a chance at scoring more points than any Wizard when all is said and done.