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Wizards take a step back, fall to last-place Atlanta Hawks as struggles vs. bad teams continue

Wizards take a step back, fall to last-place Atlanta Hawks as struggles vs. bad teams continue

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 113-99 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Same problems continue: Somehow, it happened again.

After beating the first-place Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, Wednesday offered a unique test for a Wizards team that has made a habit of playing down to lesser opponents. The Wizards failed that test. After netting arguably their best win of the season, the Wizards followed it up with one of their worst defeats.

This wasn't the blowout loss we saw against the Nets over the weekend, but it was bad. The Hawks entered this game with the worst record in the NBA. They let pretty much all of their best players go this offseason and are on a straight shot to the lottery. They are certifiably terrible, yet they overcame a 10-point first quarter deficit to win by 14.

The Wizards came into this riding a two-game win streak. They were feeling good about themselves and said all the right things. But 48 minutes later and the Wizards lost another game to a bad team.

The Wizards are now 9-10 against teams with sub-.500 records. Those 10 losses are more than any other NBA team and one more than they had all of last season. That is not normal for a team this talented.

That record against losing teams is countered by their impressive 10-6 mark against teams at .500 or better. That's the best record in the East. If they could only figure out how to beat bad teams, they will be fine. But we have been saying that for weeks.

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Wall and Beal weren't themselves: Wall finished with his third straight double-double, but he never found a real scoring rhythm. The Hawks did a good job keeping guys in front of him and playing help defense to limit his trips into the lane. There were times where Wall got right by Dennis Schroder and others, but they weren't as frequent as we are used to.

The numbers bear that out. Wall shot just 3-for-9 and was limited to 10 points to go along with his 11 assists. Wall did a good job setting others up, but what makes him great is his ability to also affect the game as a scorer. That impact wasn't there against the Hawks.

Bradley Beal was also off. He shot just 7-for-19 (36.8%) despite finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and three steals. Since Beal went off for 85 points in two games on Dec. 5 and 7, he's shot just 38.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three in 10 games. That's just not him.

Otto, Oubre and Keef stayed hot: This wasn't the best game for the Wizards, but they continued to see encouraging signs from forwards Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Markieff Morris. Porter had 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals. He wasn't great in his first game back, but has averaged 17.3 points in his last three games while shooting 57.5 percent shooting.

Oubre put in 11 points and hit 3-of-5 from three. He has reached double figures in 24 of 35 games this season. Last year he had 24 double-digit scoring nights in 79 games. Morris came out hot again with 10 points in eight minutes and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. He went 2-for-3 from three.

Morris, though, had four turnovers and another technical. Though he has only played in 27 of the Wizards' 35 games, Morris has seven technicals and leads the Eastern Conference. Only DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green have more. Cousins has nine and the other two have eight.

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Collins is impressive: Atlanta may have found a good one in rookie John Collins. The 19th overall pick, Collins affected this game in all sorts of ways despite being held to eight points, below his 11.7 per game average. He's very fast and agile for a 6-foot-10 forward. There were several sequences where he made plays at both rims back-to-back.

Collins finished as a +18 and also had eight rebounds. He got Beal twice on chasedown blocks and affected many shots along the way. The Hawks have a long road back to legitimacy after losing Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard and Tim Hardaway, Jr., but Collins is already proving himself to be a worthy building block.

Up next: The Wizards are off Thursday before hosting James Harden and the Rockets, one of the best teams in the NBA. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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