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Wizards top LeBron-less Cavs in preseason, lose Mac to injury

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Wizards top LeBron-less Cavs in preseason, lose Mac to injury

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 in NBA preseason action on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena.

How it happened: The Cleveland Cavaliers decided to rest basically their entire rotation, not just LeBron James and Dwyane Wade but even their secondary players like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert on Sunday afternoon. Those who paid the price of admission may have groused about it, but the goal in any preseason is to get out of it without injuries. On Sunday, the Wizards weren't as fortunate.

Second-year guard Sheldon Mac fell in a heap late in the second quarter after suffering a lower left leg injury. It could be something minor, it could be an ankle sprain, but this looked serious and required him to be carried off the court by trainers. Before he was lifted off the ground, the entire Wizards team surrounded him at midcourt as the crowd fell silent.

Mac will not receive many minutes for the Wizards this season, regardless of his health. But he is a key figure in one of the Wizards' biggest roster battles in preseason. He is fighting for a job with veterans like Carrick Felix and Donald Sloan and this throws a wrench into all of it. Felix (13 points, 4-6 FG) had another solid game and could be considered for a roster spot, especially if Mac's injury is serious.

As for the game itself, the Wizards had some unexpected trouble with a Cavaliers team comprised mostly of guys who won't see the floor this season. Offense, again, wasn't the issue. But the Wizards starters allowed 29 points in the first quarter and let this version of the Cavs go 3-for-5 from three. Their perimeter defense is something head coach Scott Brooks is aiming to correct this season.

What it means: The Wizards have played three preseason games and none of them have provided a true test worthy of a regular season warmup. We did, however, get to see some new lineups and may have learned more about the power forward competition.

Oubre started: After Brooks went with Jason Smith at power forward for the first three preseason games, Smith rested this one and Kelly Oubre, Jr. was inserted into the starting lineup. Otto Porter, Jr. was technically the four, though those two are mostly interchangeable. Oubre was even deployed to guard Kay Felder, the Cavs' point guard who is nearly a foot shorter than him. Oubre spent time checking Jarrett Jack against the Knicks on Friday and Brooks highlighted his ability to defend point guards before Sunday's game. 

Porter continues to have a rough time shooting this preseason. He finished 1-for-4 from the field in 7:27 of play. Oubre was the only starter who saw significant time. John Wall (6 points, 7:27), Bradley Beal (11 points, 9:20) and Marcin Gortat (5 points, 10:18) all had short nights.

[RELATED: BEAL, WALL HAVE A NICKNAME FOR CAPITAL ONE ARENA]

Mahinmi had a tough time: This wasn't Ian Mahinmi's best game. He had four rebounds and one point on a free throw, but also found himself on the wrong end of several Jeff Green dunks. Who knew Green could throw down like this?

Green did play a lot of games at Capital One Arena back when he was at Georgetown University. Perhaps that helped him turn back the clocks.

Three-guard lineup: Oubre certainly has a chance to take Markieff Morris' spot in the starting lineup, but in that case things get interesting on their bench. In this game Brooks decided to go with a three-guard lineup of Beal, Wall and Jodie Meeks once he subbed out Oubre, who picked up three fouls in his first 5:37 of play. Meeks had another good game, going 3-for-4 from three with 13 points. He's now 9-for-13 from three this preseason, by the way. 

Brooks then kept Meeks on the floor with Tomas Satoransky and Sheldon Mac. Regardless of the choices, it seems like Brooks will have no choice but to go even smaller with his second unit than he will with his starters when he goes with Oubre and Porter together.

Up next: The Wizards move on to Miami for their fourth preseason game. That one is on Wednesday. They will see the Heat, who could be their biggest threats to repeating as division champions.

[RELATED: WHO SHOULD START AT POWER FORWARD?]

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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