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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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An important summer of decisions for the Wizards, from free agents to Scott Brooks

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An important summer of decisions for the Wizards, from free agents to Scott Brooks

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 3: WHICH FREE AGENTS AND COACHES WILL RETURN?

The Wizards enter this summer with only six players under contract for the 2019-20 season and that includes Jabari Parker's team option worth $20 million that is certain to be declined. With Parker accounted for, that essentially gives them eight impending free agents to decided on.

Eight players is more than half of a 15-man NBA roster and that is not to mention Dwight Howard's player option worth $5.6 million. If he opts out, they could have nine open spots.

Whomever the Wizards choose to replace Ernie Grunfeld as team architect will determine who will stay and who will go. Before they make that call, and they remain relatively early in the process, it is difficult to project which players will be back.

If they promote senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard from interim general manager to long-term status, that will mean a different course than if they go completely outside of the organization. Everyone has their own philosophies and a brand new voice would have no ties to those currently on the roster.

The same could apply to the coaching staff. Head coach Scott Brooks was not assured of his return at the end of the season and owner Ted Leonsis indicated that would be up to the next GM.

As far as the players go, each will present pros and cons. Some have more upside while some are older. Some will be more expensive to retain while some might be worth bringing back based on their relative cost.

Some could also depend on what the Wizards accomplish in the draft. They have the sixth-best odds and could luck into a top-four pick. Most mock drafts have this year's class top-heavy with wings and forwards. A top pick could affect how they view others at the same position.

Here is a look at each of the Wizards' free agents...

Tomas Satoransky, PG (RFA): Satoransky has a good chance of coming back because he can be a restricted free agent and most teams would like to have a player like him. He's versatile, committed on defense and an unselfish passer.

If Sheppard assumes the full-time GM role, expect signing Satoransky before he hits restricted free agency to be a top priority. Even if an outside person takes over, Satoransky could very well still come back. But what could end Satoransky's time in Washington is his price tag. Will he get starting point guard money, or will he be had at a lower price?

Thomas Bryant, C (RFA): Like Satoransky, Bryant may be immune from a new GM wanting to move on and make change for the sake of change. The reasons to bring him back far outweigh the reasons not to. He's only 21 (he turns 22 in July) and has obvious potential. He's a young big man who gives an honest effort every night and has a great attitude. Those guys don't grow on trees.

Bryant also loves playing in Washington. But as a restricted free agent, he could field some nice offers and cash in on what was a breakout year. As a former second round pick with only two years of NBA experience, his contract situation could also be very complicated.  

If Sheppard takes the reins moving forward, signing Bryant will be a major goal. But even if someone from the outside comes in, it seems likely the Wizards will make an effort to keep him.

Jabari Parker, PF: Parker really genuinely enjoyed playing in Washington and would like to return. He proved a good fit offensively as a complement to Bradley Beal and has potential to get better at only 24 years old.

But Parker's price will be important and difficult to gauge until he starts talking to teams. Will anyone pay him $10 million-plus annually? It's really hard to tell based on how his stock has fallen and his injury history. Also, a new GM could choose to move on in favor of defense or something else.

Bobby Portis, PF/C (RFA): Portis is likely to be the most expensive of all of the Wizards' free agents to keep. The fact he can be a restricted free agent helps their cause, but he is reportedly looking for upwards of $16 million annually and it's just hard to see the Wizards paying that.

Now, Portis may also have the highest upside of any of these guys. He's only 24, is fast, can rebound and shoot. In fact, he can shoot very well for a big man and could turn into one of the more accurate stretch-fours in the league. But is that enough to pay him a big deal?

Trevor Ariza, SF: The biggest questions for Ariza's future center around price, whether the new GM wants to win now and whether Ariza wants to play for a contender. He made $15 million this past season which would be way too much for the Wizards to pay to bring him back. If that price comes down considerably for a guy who turns 34 in June, then maybe. 

But if a new GM wants to tear it all down and start over and sees missing the playoffs next season as not the worst thing, Ariza wouldn't help that cause. And Ariza may very well want to chase another ring this summer, something he couldn't do in Washington. That said, as he moves into his mid-30s, money may be the most important priority, as he only has so much time left to make an NBA salary.

Sam Dekker, PF (RFA): Dekker was in and out of the rotation, but overall played some of the best basketball of his young career so far during his four months with the Wizards. Helping his cause to return are a few things. For one, he is young and turns 25 in May. Secondly, he might be cheap and the Wizards will need some inexpensive players to fill roster spots next season.

Granted, a new GM from outside of the organization could want to clear out anyone that they can in order to start over with their own players. Dekker could be seen as expendable.

Chasson Randle, PG (RFA): For Randle, it is much of the same as Dekker. He's a young player with some upside to get better and he's not going to cost much. That is extra important for him as a point guard, it would seem, with John Wall set to miss most of, if not all of, next season due to injury. They can only apply so many resources to the position.

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How the Wizards' new GM could shape the organization's future this summer

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USA Today Sports

How the Wizards' new GM could shape the organization's future this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 2: HOW WILL THE NEW GM PUT THEIR STAMP ON THE ORGANIZATION?

Predicting which direction the Wizards will go this offseason when it comes to trades and free agency is a pointless exercise right now, as nothing can be projected until we know who will be in charge of the front office. Owner Ted Leonsis, with help from consultant Mike Forde, is still in the evaluation process of his organization, top-to-bottom. They have yet to begin interviewing candidates to replace dismissed team president Ernie Grunfeld.

Once Leonsis makes that hire, the future will become a little more clear, though any new GM may take time to truly make their mark. The Wizards have limited financial flexibility and only one draft pick. It may be a year or two before the roster truly feels like theirs.

That said, by the end of this summer, we should know plenty about what makes the new team architect tick. They will explain their philosophy at an introductory press conference and demonstrate it in decisions they make. 

The most telling in the short-term will be how they handle the large group of players set to hit free agency. That list includes Trevor Ariza, Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, Thomas Bryant, Jeff Green, Sam Dekker and Chasson Randle. There is also Jabari Parker, who has a $20 million team option for 2019-20 that is a lock to be declined, no matter who takes over.

If the Wizards move forward with interim GM Tommy Sheppard, who was Grunfeld's No. 2, that likely means Satoransky and Bryant are coming back. They are both restricted free agents and Sheppard was integral in acquiring them. 

He scouted Satoransky as a teenager and helped convince him to leave Europe for the NBA. He had a first round grade on Bryant when he came out of Indiana in the 2017 draft and took a strong stance in favor of claiming him as soon as the Lakers put him on waivers last summer.

Sheppard staying in place could also increase the likelihood Ariza, Parker and Portis return, though any of those three would have to be for the right price. A new GM could conceivably want to clear those players out and bring in his own guys.

Also telling will be how the new front office handles Bradley Beal's contract in the event he makes All-NBA and qualifies for a supermax. It projects to be worth about $194 million over four years, a ton of money to commit with John Wall already signed to a supermax that begins next season. If it comes to that, perhaps the new GM will determine a trade is the best course of action, to turn one player into multiple assets and rebuild for the future.

Also on the docket will be Ian Mahinmi's contract. The Wizards can either ride out the final year of his deal and shed $15.5 million off the books next summer, or use the stretch provision to spread that money out over the next three seasons and free up about $10.3 million more to work with this summer.

A major decision for the new GM will be the Wizards' first round pick this June. They have the sixth-best lottery odds and will know their selection on May 14. If they get lucky and land the No. 1 pick, there will be no mystery, as Zion Williamson is the clear-cut star of this class. But any other pick will require a difficult decision, including whether to draft a point guard with Wall under contract for the next four years.

If the Wizards do not find lottery luck and vault into the top four, it would probably be smart to trade back. They have a dearth of draft assets and a new GM will likely want more of them. This year's draft class doesn't appear to be a deep one. Trading back from eighth, for example, to pick up an extra first or a pair of second rounders might be the move to make.

There are other ways the new GM can shape the organization's philosophy, ones that will be less noticeable to the public. They could either invest more or differently in analytics, for example. 

Though they have a fairly robust operation led by VP of basketball analytics Brett Greenberg, a sharp, young Duke grad who may someday be a GM himself, and though they also use outside consultants, there are other teams (like the Sixers) that employ more people with that focus.

Also, Greenberg oversees salary cap management as well. Perhaps a new GM has expertise in that realm or adds staff with those duties.

Speaking of staff decisions, there will also be one made about head coach Scott Brooks. His status is currently in limbo.

Even with little resources to overhaul the Wizards' roster in a major way this summer, the franchise is about to undergo significant long-term change. The next few months will give everyone the first major signs of what is up ahead.

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