As we move into day four of free agency, it should come as no surprise thatany report linked to the local NBA franchise involves a perimeter player. Notsure if part of the new Verizon Center signage plan involves a "3-pointshooters welcomed" message, but that is the apparent mantra even afterdrafting Bradley Beal.In this space on Tuesday, I wrote about the Wizardschecking in with Cartier Martin, Washington's leading 3-point shooter lastseason at 39 percent. Obstacles remain - interest from other teams and playingtime, for example - but there some believe there is a "good chance"the swingman returns.One potential roadblock not discussed, the Wizards adding other wingplayers. Another one of the Wizards' free agents, Roger Mason, remains an option.According to one report, the soon-to-be 32-year-old also remainsan option for the New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder.Again, Mason makes logical sense since he offers accuracy from long range -38 percent from beyond the arc last season - and a veteran presence in anotherwise youthful backcourt. In addition, he comes with a cap-friendlycontract that would not demand excessive minutes.Showing interest in former Houston Rockets guard Courtney Lee, as reportedby Yahoo's Marc J. Spears, does not.Well, let me rephrase. The 26-year-old ranks higher on the overall freeagency list than Martin or Mason and is a solid option across the board and a40 percent shooter from 3-point territory. However, the Wizards are stocked atthe off-guard spot with Jordan Crawford and Beal. No point - none at all - in taking away playing time or growth opportunity from the emerging pair.Whereas roles for Martin andMason figure to be more precise, Lee averaged 30 minutes per game last seasonfor the Rockets, who withdrew their qualifying offer for the four-year veteranthis week.Based on money and potential minutes, Lee's best bets lay elsewhere. Interms of what the Wizards are building, so do theirs.
ATLANTA -- The first true shots fired in a seven-game don't come from the budding rivalry between Paul Millsap and Markieff Morris. It comes when the visiting team wins. That hasn't occured between the Wizards and Atlanta Hawks just yet as both have held serve on their own floors.
Saturday's 116-98 victory by Atlanta trims the series deficit to 2-1, with a pivotal Game 4 at Phillips Arena on Monday.
Sometimes to win on the road in the postseason, it requires winning ugly. The Wizards got half of it right with the ugly part, except they lost.
"We just weren't defending," said Bradley Beal, who had just 12 points on 6-for-20 shooting that included missing all six three-point looks. "We had a lot of great looks, a lot of missed shots but we still gave ourselves a chance to win defensively. We didn't do it. We got to be better. We know we got to defend in order to win."
Dennis Schroder had 27 points as he got into the paint on a regular basis. Paul Millsap had 29 points and 14 rebounds as he did all of his work in the trenches. The Hawks won the battle of rebounds (50-42), shooting (49.4%-41.6%) and forced the action as evidenced by foul shots attempted (32-20).
The Wizards have yet to play anywhere close to their best basketball in the series. Beal hasn't shot well at all. He's 27-for-68, or 39.7%. From three-point range, he's 6-for-27, or 22.2%.
There hasn't been anything unique happening to cause him to sputter. The Hawks aren't trapping him. They're soft on their coverages with the help off screens. They're more concerned about packing the paint to prevent finishes at the rim by Beal and John Wall.
It all goes back, however, to the lack of defense that plagued Washington in Game 3. Schroder, for instance, isn't a shooter despite his 6-for-8 start. He went 4-for-14 after the first quarter.
"We were doing our concepts. They were knocking down shots," Beal said. "We didn't necessarily think everybody would make it. We live with some. Some we don't. We have to know our personnel a little bit better. We got to do better pressuruing the ball. We weren't into the ball enough."
When the Hawks opened in D.C., they were hoping for a split in the first two games. Didn't happen. The Wizards will be content with a split, too, but if that doesn't happen they still will have the home-court edge.
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140
In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run
One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.
Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league. Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.
The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.
You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.
It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.
The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).
But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.
The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.
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