The Washington Wizards continued their losing streak in the NBA bubble, but their young core didn’t disappoint.
Maybe Stephen A. Smith was right. Maybe the Washington Wizards shouldn’t have been invited to the NBA bubble after all. After their 118-107 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Wizards are the only winless team remaining in the bubble. With three tough opponents remaining on their bubble schedule – the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks – it’s tough to see the Wizards leaving Orlando with a single win.
Not that they need it for anything more than pride. After yesterday’s loss, the Wizards were officially eliminated from the playoff race.
But the Wizards didn’t come to Orlando to win, per se. Leaving Braley Beal and Davis Bertans outside of the bubble made sure of that. Instead, they came to develop their young talent. Although they came up short against the Pelicans, another young bubble squad (without Zion Williamson), there were still some reasons to be optimistic.
Washington Wizards showed promise despite fifth-straight loss in the NBA bubble.
The bubble Wizards are young. Like really young. Five games into the bubble action and the only thee Wizards getting minutes in Orlando above the age of 25 are Ish Smith, Shabazz Napier, and Jerian Grant.
But among all the young talent, three players are separating themselves from the rest of the youth: Troy Brown Jr, Rui Hachimura, and Thomas Bryant.
In the bubble, these three are proving that if there’s any “young core” ready to help this team make the next step once John Wall returns, it must include them.
In the loss to the Pelicans, the Brown-Bryant-Hachimura trio combined for 65 total points. It was the first time since 2011 – nearly a decade – that three Wizards players under the age of 24 all had at least 20 points in a single game.
For Hachimura, his showing against New Orleans was a great bounce-back game after three lackluster games in which he was held to under ten points. He exploded for 15 first-half points and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 23 points. This game should serve as a nice confidence-booster for Hachimura as he finishes his rookie season.
Thomas Bryant continued to be the most impressive Wizards in the bubble. Bryant was only two rebounds shy of his fourth-straight triple-double (22 points, eight rebounds), and looked solid on the defensive end. He’s not evolving into a top tier defender yet, but Bryant needs to continue being at least playable on that end. The first three games in the bubble, he wasn’t. These last two, he was.
It’s evident that Bryant can score with ease. But maybe a few less three-point attempts. I know it’s tough out there without the shooting of Beal and Bertans, but perhaps the center shouldn’t lead the team with seven three-point attempts.
And it was another swiss army stat line for Troy Brown Jr: 20 points, ten rebounds, five assists, two steals. Brown has been flirting with triple-doubles throughout the bubble games and once again put his varied skill set on display. The most encouraging part was that the three-ball finally seemed to be dropping. After making just three of his previous 13 attempts in the bubble, Brown went made three of his five attempts from outside vs. New Orleans.
In the bubble, Troy Brown is proving he can quite literally do it all. Except make the three at a consistent rate. Remember, he’s still only 20-years-old. If he can unlock that three-point shot, he’ll be lethal. But for now, it’s obvious he’s best with the ball in his hands. With the playoff pipedream gone, can we finally see Brown run the point?
Despite losing their fifth-straight game, the Wizards “big-three,” if you will, of under-24 year-olds put out their best collective performance against the New Orleans Pelicans. The playoffs are now impossible. It’s time the Wizards get a little wacky with the lineups in these last three games. Lets’s relly see what these young Wizards can do when you turn them loose.
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