Wizards Game 3: Carmelo and Knicks put away the Wiz in the 4th

For the third game in a row, the Wizards found themselves locked in a tight game late in the fourth quarter. But the Wizards were unable to edge out the rejuvenated Knicks, marking the first loss of the year. Though the game was close throughout, the Wizards did not play particularly well. John Wall and Bradley Beal continued to carry the load, and Drew Gooden gave productive minutes off the bench with three putback tip-ins.

For the most part, the rest of the team struggled. Otto Porter finished with what a stat line that, if you missed the game, would look respectable, but he has shot poorly now in three consecutive games. Much of the Wizards ability to space teams out and run depends on the team’s ability to knock down 3’s. And right now, the only shooter that really worries teams is Beal. Maybe Otto is not a 40% 3-point shooter, like many optimists envisioned. He needs to be able to shoot over 35% though and knock down open corner 3’s – he had a couple against the Knicks with no one around that he missed.

The other two starters, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, offered almost nothing. It’s inexplicable for someone Gortat’s size to only grab five rebounds. At least four or five times throughout the game, either Wall or Porter drove and dished to Gortat in the middle of the paint, only for Gortat to miss or get swatted by Robin Lopez. Meanwhile, it’s time to seriously consider whether Kris Humphries is destined to be a guy who beats up on backups. You know, someone whose energy is his best attribute, who grabs a bunch of rebounds and scraps around. It’s intriguing seeing him stretch his game out behind the arc, but it also just doesn’t seem right seeing him primarily line up 25 feet from the hoop on offense. He is most effective as a banger down low – a guy who makes a living on garbage points and tough rebounds.  Continue reading

Wizards Game 1: Wiz win season opener in dramatic final minute against Magic

For the first time in the Randy Wittman, there is intrigue and excitement over how the Wizards will play. All preseason long, the Wizards have promised a “Pace and Space” approach – something a little closer to what the Warriors dominated the NBA with last season. It is a shift towards small ball, surrounding arguably the fastest player in the NBA, John Wall, with three shooters and a big man. This, rather than the conventional lineup with two big men, Marcin Gortat and Nene last season, both of whom do not have range extending to the 3-point line. It’s a game plan that, ideally, utilize’s John Wall’s blazing speed better. When shots go up, the wings leak out and Wall races down court, putting constant pressure on defenses and opening up for 3-point barrages from Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and whoever else fills the wing.

For all of the excitement surrounding the Wizards’ new look in the preseason, the season opener in Orlando felt like a preseason game. Both teams were sloppy. Beal opened the game with back to back turnovers, and then Kris Humphries followed suit with a turnover of his own. Though sometimes out of control, Wall mostly steadied the team through the first quarter, responsible for 14 of the team’s first 16 points, with eight points and two assists. The Wizards sprinted ahead to an 18-9 lead in part to hot shooting from deep from Bradley Beal, who finished the first quarter with 13 points off of 5-9 shooting. But the quarter ended with the Wizards holding a single bucket advantage, as the Magic rallied behind their latest two lottery picks, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. The second quarter showcased a little bit of the good and bad of the “Pace and Space.” Kris Humphries, who for his career is 2-6 from behind the arc, hit a corner 3! That is a new dimension to his game, as he knocked down 10-28 3’s in the preseason. The other bright spot of the second quarter was newcomer Gary Neal’s productivity. The career journeyman has made a living in the NBA as a scorer, and he knocked in three baskets off the bench to keep the Wiz above water. It’s clear that it will take time for the team to figure out when to push the ball and when not to. The Wizards had seven turnovers in the half, and the increased pace coincided with recklessness. That is a symptom of playing fast, though John Wooden said: “play quick, but don’t hurry.” The Wizards look hurried getting the ball down floor, and it will take time before Wall and the rest of the team figure out when the break is not on. Continue reading

Kevin Durant Should Go to the Wizards, But Not Because It’s Home

What I’m going to say will not be popular. And I will probably be derided as a deluded homer, just rationalizing fake reasons as to why Kevin Durant should sign with the Wizards in two years. But I’ll say it anyway: Kevin Durant should sign with the Wizards in a couple of years, and not because he is from Washington D.C. Of course, that it is home adds to the allure, but plenty of basketball reasons are more responsible for why Durant should come to D.C.

The Wizards will make a strong push to sign the hometown hero Durant.

The Wizards will make a strong push to sign the hometown hero Durant.

Mind you this could all change relatively quickly if the Thunder win a championship this upcoming season. Before explaining why Durant should sign with the Wiz in a few years, let’s first remember how unlikely that is, and how many things would have to go right (or wrong, for Thunder fans) for KD to end up in Washington. With LeBron out of South Beach, the pecking in the NBA looks like this: 1) Spurs, 2) Thunder, 3) Everyone else: Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Blazers, etc. The Thunder may even be 1B, ever so slightly trailing the Spurs. During the regular season, the Thunder were 4-0 against the Spurs, and if not for Serge Ibaka’s injury, the Thunder may have ended up hoisting the Finals trophy instead. Which is all to say, there is a very good chance that the Thunder win the title this season. And if that happens, there is just about a zero percent chance Durant leaves. Just for the sake of argument though, what if Russell Westbrook gets hurt again. Then what? Supremely talented as he is–easily one of the ten best players in the NBA–Westbrook has undergone three knee surgeries already at the tender age of 25. Each time, Westbrook has returned from injury just as effective as before, but how many more blows can he take?  Even if Westbrook does stay healthy, that’s no guarantee that the Thunder are going to win a title. It’s not like Westbrook and Durant are natural fits next to each other. There’s the constant subplot of whether they can coexist, always present just below the surface, adding tension after failed fourth quarters. Continue reading

The Best Player Left in Free Agency Is Delusional

Everyone expected the post-Steve Nash Suns to struggle. Last year, most people safely assumed the Suns would tank to get a top pick and land Wiggins or Parker. Little did anyone know Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe would form one of the league’s best backcourts, and that Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee would be real contributors. The Suns raked in 48 wins though, finishing just a game out of the Western Conference playoffs. The Suns have become one of the more attractive teams in the league, with a good, young nucleus and tons of cap space. But for some reason, they haven’t been able to lure top-tier free agents Phoenix. Aside from the Isaiah Thomas signing, the Suns have remained relatively quiet this offseason.

Their top priority heading into the offseason was to re-sign Eric Bledsoe, the 24-year old point guard, who in his first year as a starter, displayed borderline All-Star ability. Playing behind Chris Paul for the past few years in LA, Bledsoe was unable to show the wide range of his ability. But last year in Phoenix, Bledsoe had a very successful year. The only minor concern regarding Bledsoe was that he needed knee surgery last season. When healthy though, he was very productive, averaging a line of 18-6-5 on a nightly basis. Those are good, but not great numbers, even for a 24 year old.

The Suns offered Bledsoe a 4 year/$48 million deal, a very fair deal, identical to what Kyle Lowry got a few weeks ago. Lowry is definitely a better player at this stage, but Bledsoe is a few years younger. The Suns’ offer for Bledsoe is a bigger deal than what Steph Curry got a few years ago. Of course, it must be noted that Curry had some ankle problems at the time, and that is why the offer wasn’t a max. But still. Bledsoe is not the player Curry is. Continue reading

Why the Timberwolves Should Trade Kevin Love For Andrew Wiggins

It’s understandable that the Timberwolves are reluctant to trade All-Star power forward Kevin Love. He’s only 25 years old and averaged 26 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game, making him the NBA’s third leading scorer and fourth leading rebounder. Love gets killed by the media for having never made the playoffs, but he’s never had a teammate who made the All-Star game. Not even once. Right now, with one year left on Love’s deal–thanks to David Kahn, who decided three years ago to save Minnesota’s max deal for Ricky Rubio–the Timberwolves don’t have much leverage. If the Wolves hold onto Love, he will surely leave the team in free agency in the summer. The only thing Minnesota can really do is try to drive up Love’s price, pitting the Cavaliers and Warriors, who are firm in their refusal to part ways with Klay Thompson, against each other and creating a bidding war.

Even though David Kahn isn’t the Wolves’ GM anymore, it’s still hard to see them making the right decision here. Rumor is that they’re more interested in Thompson than Wiggins because they view Thompson as more ready to help them now. It might just be a rumor, but if it’s true, the Warriors are thinking about this all wrong. They aren’t winning now, period. And they sure aren’t winning with Klay Thompson as their best player. The T’Wolves need to realize that they are not going to win now, but they can still set themselves up very nicely for the future.andrew-wiggins-vertical Continue reading

The NBA May Have Finally Found a Cure To Tanking

Tanking is the biggest problem right now in the NBA, and it may be cured sooner rather than later. Per Grantland’s NBA robot Zach Lowe, the NBA has officially submitted a proposal that may be the solution to tanking. It boils down to this: evening out the odds of winning the lottery for all 14 lottery teams. Basically, why try to lose as many games as possible, if you will only have a minimally better chance at winning the top pick? Right now, here are the odds of winning the lottery for the four worst teams in the league, in order from worst team to fourth-worst: 25.0%, 19.90%, 13.80%, and  13.70%. The current lottery odds for each of the 14 teams is below. (Click to enlarge.)

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The new proposal would decrease the incentive to tank. Each of the bottom four teams would have an 11% chance at winning the lottery. And the team with the worst odds of winning the lottery would have a 2% chance under the new proposal, rather than a 0.5% chance. This evening out of the odds should decrease the likelihood of a race to the bottom by tanking teams. What’s the timetable for such a change to the lottery process? From Lowe:

The league could implement lottery reform as early as next season, though there are many hurdles to overcome before then. And it’s important to note that the league has kicked around several different proposals with varying weights; the 11 percent figure for the first teams is not universal among those proposals, sources say.

Continue reading

Wizards All In Next Year With Recent Moves

With the Eastern Conference opening up more and more by the day, the Wizards are one of the few contending teams in the conference actually getting better. The Bulls are the only other team near the top of the conference that has added significant pieces to their team. Think about it. The Heat lost LeBron. The Pacers lost Stephenson. The Nets lost Paul Pierce. The Raptors mostly stayed the same. And while the Cavs added LeBron, they still have a young, unproven roster around him that will take time to gel.

The conference really is up for grabs, perhaps more so than at any other time in the past decade. Of course that could shift if the Cavs get Kevin Love, but at the moment, the Cavs seem unlikely to trade Andrew Wiggins. No matter who wins the Eastern conference next year, the NBA champion will almost positively come from the Western Conference. But that’s not a reason to throw the towel in if you’re in the East. Especially for a team like the Wizards who have been so starved of any playoff success in the past 30 years.

The Wizards haven’t made any earth-shattering moves this offseason, but they’ve quietly made smart moves that will keep them flexible in the long-run and competitive right now. Letting Ariza walk in free agency was the right move. Not because $8 million per season is too much for him, but because it allows the Wizards to pursue hometown superstar Kevin Durant in the 2016 summer. Replacing his value with the aging, but still effective Paul Pierce was one of the more deft moves we’ve seen Ernie Grunfeld make in his tenure with the Wizards. Even more recently though, the Wizards have signed three big men who will be key contributors for the Wizards off the bench. Continue reading

Shabazz Napier’s Social Media Breakup With LeBron

Remember a couple weeks ago when the Heat selected Shabazz Napier with the 24th pick in the draft to appease LeBron? Shabazz wasn’t going to be the reason that LeBron would stay in Miami, but making the effort to trade up and get Napier would be a small gesture to LeBron. Not a big shiny anniversary ring or anything, but a small little gift as a token of their appreciation for what LeBron had done–just an example of the commitment they had to LeBron and his vision of the team. Pat Riley claimed he was a fan of Napier’s game anyway, and that the move was not purely to appease LeBron:

“I know LeBron tweeted something out in the NCAA [tournament] about him. Why not. If LeBron and I have the same taste in talent, so be it. But he didn’t call me on the phone, or he didn’t make a point to me about it.”

But everyone knew that was BS. Ever since the NCAA tournament, LeBron had been complimenting Napier’s game and ability to run a team. Napier seemed to be profoundly lucky. Not that he wouldn’t have already been selected in the first round of the draft, but to having the best player on the planet so fond of you is definitely good for pro prospects. Continue reading

NBA GMs are Wrong: The Cavs Should Trade Andrew Wiggins For Kevin Love

LeBron made what most people thought was an unforgivable mistake four years ago with how he handled his departure from Cleveland in the hour-long ESPN special, The Decision. It seemed unlikely that’d he ever return to play for his hometown. But he did.

And now that LeBron has returned to Cleveland, the biggest storyline of the NBA offseason will be whether Cleveland adds Kevin Love to the mix before the season starts. The Cavs would love to acquire Love, as long as they don’t have to part with last month’s top overall pick Andrew Wiggins. That’s where things get complicated. Minnesota is reluctant to deal the 25 year old Love, who averaged 26 points and over 12 rebounds per game last season. Even though Love only has one year left on his deal and is unlikely to re-sign with Minnesota in the offseason, the T’Wolves are still hesitant to ship off Love, unless they get a major haul in return. The hardest thing to do in the NBA, especially for a small-market team like Minnesota, is to land a superstar. And the easiest thing to do in the NBA, especially for small-market teams, is to trade away a disgruntled superstar for 75 cents on the dollar. That is precisely what Minnesota wants to avoid.

In a way, the T’Wolves have all the leverage. They know how badly the Cavs want Love. Yet, the Wolves also have zero leverage: everyone in the league knows that Love will be a free agent next summer, and has no interest in staying in Minnesota. Continue reading

Daryl Morey Keeps It Real, Offends Chandler Parsons

Most hardcore NBA fans know about Daryl Morey. The Rockets GM who is obsessed with advanced stats, who makes front office decisions like a fantasy football owner. He’s always looking to make another trade that will set the team up better in the long haul, or sign an unknown player that can contribute right away. Many fans and analysts call Morey a genius, but also think he’s too smart for his own good sometimes.

Houston will miss Parsons, but they had maxed out with him as their third banana.

Houston will miss Parsons, but they had maxed out with him as their third banana.

Recently, he had the plan of signing Chris Bosh once LeBron left Miami, and then quickly matching Dallas’ offer sheet for Chandler Parsons. Thus giving the Rockets a core of Beverly-Harden-Parsons-Bosh-Howard. Good luck finding a nucleus more talented than that. Once LeBron signed with Cleveland, it seemed like a sure bet that Houston would almost instantly transform itself into a top three team in the league. But the plan quickly blew up in Morey’s face. Bosh signed a max deal with the Heat. And then surprisingly, Morey decided to let Parsons go.

Morey didn’t think Parsons is a star, and according to Morey, once the Rockets missed out on Bosh, it was just not worth paying Parsons over $15 million per season. A trio of Howard-Harden-Parsons could not win a title, in Morey’s estimation. As Morey told SportsRadio610: Continue reading