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Wizards have shown a need for speed since trading for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis

Wizards have shown a need for speed since trading for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis

In a way, the Wizards have for years been defined by speed, at least by reputation. Since 2010, they have featured one of the fastest players in the NBA in point guard John Wall. When healthy, he flies up and down the court, a blur in transition and often with a supporting cast designed to maximize that skill.

With Wall at the helm, the Wizards have often ranked in the top 10 of the NBA in pace, measured as possessions per 48 minutes. They were 10th in 2016-17, his last full season, and fifth the year before.

The past two seasons for Wall have been greatly affected by injury and especially the 2018-19 campaign. He was lost for the year in late December to what was ultimately diagnosed as a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has appeared in only 32 of their games.

In a counter-intuitive twist, the Wizards have become faster without Wall and especially in recent weeks since they traded for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Both are quicker up and down the floor than the players they essentially replaced in the rotation, Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris.

In the 14 games since Parker and Portis were added to the lineup, the Wizards have upped their pace by about 1.6 possessions per game. Their 103.98 pace factor in that span ranks fourth in the NBA. If it were carried over a full season, it would be the Wizards' fastest pace since 1978-79.

That is about five possessions faster than they played last season and four possessions faster than they did in the 2015-16 season, their fastest in a year when Wall played the majority of their games.

Playing faster has led to more scoring. Since the Parker and Portis additions, the Wizards have added five more points per game on average and rank third in the NBA during that span. They are second in the NBA in assists (28.9) and fifth in offensive rating (113) after previously ranking 16th.

With Wall out, the Wizards believe a run-and-gun style is their best bet to keep the offense churning.

"You have to always evolve and think of ways to score and play. I like how we're playing offense," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"There's only a few times in games where the ball becomes sticky and a guy doesn't make the extra pass. It's very rare now. It used to be where we were going to have some interesting film sessions the next morning. But now, very rarely do I even think that during a game."

"I think it's basically the easiest way for us to score," point guard Tomas Satoransky said of the super-charged attack. "It's just a lot of flowing on offense and trying to score as fast as we can."

Parker is the biggest difference, if you ask Brooks and his players. The former second overall pick is unusually swift for his size. At 6-foot-9 and with a wide build, he can run in straight lines like a guard and use his power to stomp through the lane to the rim.

He can also rebound, ranking second on the Wizards since joining them with 6.9 per game. And once he gets the ball, he has the greenlight to take off as a point-forward. 

"Jabari is as fast as anybody that I've seen at that position and that size," Brooks said. "The strength that he has and the force that he plays with, there aren't many guys in the history of the game that have played that way. We're giving him opportunities to do that. If you get the rebound, you're the guy to push."

"It's real fun because we've just got so many weapons," Parker said of running the fastbreak offense.

Parker has helped lead the Wizards to become much faster especially after forcing turnovers. Only two teams have forced more turnovers this season than the Wizards and now they are turning those into points on the other end in shorter periods of time.

According to Inpredictable.com, the Wizards lead the NBA since Parker and Portis joined the rotation in seconds per possession after turnovers at just 6.5 seconds. That's down from their previous number of 8.6 seconds, which was 13th in the league. With Parker and Portis, the Wizards average 1.30 points after turnovers compared to 1.17 previously.

Portis has helped by adding a second center with speed. The Wizards now have two centers in Thomas Bryant and Portis that are young and can run with some of the fastest big men in the NBA.

"When your two fives are running the floor, that opens up things for other guys," Portis said. "I was always taught just run rim to rim. Even if I don't get the ball on that possession, I might create something for my teammates."

The Wizards are a modest 7-7 since Parker and Portis showed up, but they have won five of their last eight. Offense has been the biggest reason and the extra speed has helped.

As for the defense, well, let's save that for another day.

"Someone told me the other day [our offensive stats]. I didn't look at the defensive numbers during that time. I was really excited with the offensive numbers," Brooks joked.


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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.


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Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

The Washington Wizards and Mystics join in on Nike’s NBA and WNBA Game Growers program. The Game Growers program is meant to provide eighth grade girls with the skills and assets they need in order to grow their participation in sports in their communities. 

With this new program, the Wizards and Mystics can contribute to expanding the game of basketball for young DMV girls. Along with that, the Washington Mystics just won the WNBA Championships, this is perfect timing for them to introduce the sport to the next generation.

Today, the Game Growers Program officially was put into action, on a YouTube video stream. The video stream had Las Vegas Aces forward A’Ja Wilson, actress Sky Katz, the Director of Operations for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association Terri Jackson featuring in it. They discussed the advantages of being an athlete beyond going professional and encourage girls to apply.

In order for the future basketball stars to get in on the action, they must apply to GameGrowers.com by submitting their ideas on how to grow the game of basketball in their communities. The application opened today and will close on November 15, 2019. The winners will be made public in December 2019. 

By January 2020 two girls will join alongside the Wizards and Mystics in going to Training Camp at Nike’s World Headquarters in Washington County, Oregon. This event won’t only be run by Nike and professional basketball players, but will also have GENYOUth (a youth empowerment organization) tag along as well. At the Training Camp, the girls will have an opportunity to polish up their ideas with Nike and NBA and WNBA teams. 

If lucky, some Game Growers teams will be chosen to exhibit their ideas at the 2020 WNBA Draft, which will be in New York City this April.