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

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

Wizards Choose Unlikely Replacement For Trevor Ariza, Eye On Durant In Future

Coming off of a surprisingly successful second round exit in the playoffs, the Wizards had two players to re-sign: Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza. Having both guys be right in the middle of their prime and coming off of career years, it was predictable that they would get huge contracts in free agency. Most Wizards fans were a little queasy at the idea of re-signing, and likely having to overpay Gortat and Ariza, just to remain a good, but not great team.

They completed the first part, giving Gortat a huge payday, what he called “the best day of my life.” The deal for Gortat, worth $60 million over the next five seasons, seems like an overpay, especially on the back end, but was probably necessary to keep Gortat. Good centers are scarce in the NBA, and Gortat averaged a double-double last season. But, the real question mark was Ariza. Would he really get paid? And by paid I mean PAID. Don’t get me wrong: Ariza had a very good season last year. He was Washington’s best perimeter defender and shot 41% from 3, the best clip of his career from deep. But really, he’s just a catch-and-shoot corner 3 shooter. He benefitted from John Wall’s career year more than just about anyone else on the Wizards’ roster. He was the guy who got the open looks in the corner, off of Wall’s drive-n-kick dishes. That’s no fault of his, but it is to say that Ariza’s offensive production was largely the result of an All-Star point guard who created open shots for everyone else. He’s the type of player that can be replaced. He’s the ultimate ‘3 and D’ guy: he hits 3’s and plays good defense. Those are the kind of players you can find in free agency for cheap.

Ariza was a big piece of the Wizards' success last year, but he is replaceable.

Ariza was a big piece of the Wizards’ success last year, but he is replaceable.

Continue reading

Rockets Miss Out On Bosh And Parsons, Add Ariza

Houston’s mastermind plan of adding Chris Bosh and then matching the Mavericks’ offer sheet to Chandler Parsons ended up being nothing more than a pipe dream. The Rockets lost out on the Bosh, and then strangely, and somewhat surprisingly, decided not to match Dallas’ offer sheet to Parsons. It’s a serious blow to the Rockets, who many were starting to project as the second best team in the West, assuming they retained Parsons and added Bosh. Without those guys, the Rockets are left with a Howard-Harden duo and mediocre supporting players. It’s a team that is still in the playoffs, but decidedly less imposing. They couldn’t even make it out of the first round with Parsons.

The Rockets supposedly let Parsons walk for financial reasons. That’s somewhat understandable. Matching the 3 year/$46 million deal that Parsons got from Dallas would’ve been Houston’s way of saying they believed they could win a championship with a Howard-Harden-Parsons nucleus. Keeping Parsons would have hamstrung their cap for the next few years, and only given them minimal space to add other quality players. Is Parsons worth over $15 million per season? The Rockets didn’t think so. He’s only 25 years old. He has been a very productive player in the NBA so far, and is fairly versatile. His numbers might be a tad inflated playing on the up-tempo Rockets. Most fans think of him as purely a shooter, thus fitting the typical stereotype, but that really is not Parsons. He’s a good shooter, but his game is much more versatile than that. Parsons is good at putting up shot fakes and scoring off the bounce. And he’s a much better passer than he gets credit for. It’s tough to find quality footage on YouTube of Parsons’ game in college, other than the pair of buzzer-beaters he hit and general highlight clips. But in college, he basically served as a point-forward for Florida. He has great vision for a player of his size, especially one who’s primarily a scorer. Continue reading

Eastern Conference Pecking Order With LeBron In Cleveland

With the news of LeBron rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, the East was shaken to its core. No more was the Heat’s reign over the rest of the conference, a reign that included four straight Eastern Conference titles. No more was the Cavs’ reign of lottery king, getting the top overall pick in three of the last four years. But, are the Cavs going to instantly turn into Title contenders, like Vegas thinks? That seems pretty unlikely, even if the Cavs do manage to get Kevin Love. After all, the Cavs only won 33 games in the depleted East last season. With the addition of LeBron, they should easily flirt with 50+ wins, but expecting them to beat any of the top teams in the West is premature.

But what about the rest of the East? Are the Pacers still going to try and shop Roy Hibbert? Will they make sure to re-sign Lance Stephenson, no matter what, realizing the East is wide open now? What about the Wizards–will they be able to keep Trevor ‘Plan B’ Ariza, and build on last year’s success? And the Bulls: will Derrick Rose be able to stay healthy and be an All-Star caliber player again? What if the Bulls get Carmelo–would they be the favorites in the East then? (Probably, yes.) And will the Raptors take another step forward and win 50+ games next season? Crazy to imagine them seriously contending for a Conference title, but wouldn’t they?

Let’s do a way-too-early power ranking of the top eight spots in the East and sort this mess out:

1. Indiana Pacers
Hard not to laugh at this, given how they finished last season. This team will win a lot of games in the regular season, but right now they just don’t have the mental makeup of a championship team. They have to decide whether they’re going to pay Lance Stephenson, but given the LeBron news, it’s hard to see them letting him walk. And it’s hard to see them trading Roy Hibbert now too. Keep the core together, hope to rejuvenate the bench, and pray that Lance Stephenson can stay motivated after getting paid. The Big 3 is no longer in your way, Pacers. Continue reading

Grading the Deals Made on the First Day of Free Agency

Nearly all of the focus on this free agent season surrounds the Heat. How much less money will Wade and Bosh take? Is LeBron really going to take the max? Are they going to add some second-tier free agents? For now, all we really know is that their roster will look significantly different next season. For now, let’s focus on the deals that have been made. There were three deals today worth examining.

1. Wizards re-sign Marcin Gortat for 5 years/$60 million.
Washington had its hands tied. They had been so irrelevant since the departure of Gilbert Arenas, until last season. Reaching the second round and taking two games from the Pacers, the Wizards finally had a taste of success. The Wiz pretty much had to re-sign expiring Gortat in order to keep any momentum going. Gortat is firmly in his prime right now, 30 years old, and complements Nene well. And the East is weak enough to make plenty of barely-above-average teams feel like contenders. The Wizards are not winning an NBA championship with a Wall-Beal-Ariza-Gortat nucleus. They can contend in the East, but that is much different than contending for a title, as we saw in the Finals when San Antonio whooped Miami. This may be a deal that looks pretty bad on the back end when Gortat is 33 or 34. Right now though, good centers are hard to come by, and Gortat is one of the few guys who can do this. Are the Wizards deluding themselves into thinking they’re a legitimate threat to the title? Yeah, probably. Is this a move purely to stay falsely relevant? (Nodding nervously.) But, if the move keeps the Heat from poaching Gortat, then I’m all for it. Continue reading

Lottery Breakdown

Ahh, it’s that time of the year again. The time of the year when the most incompetent franchises in the NBA pray that they’ll be gifted the absolutely unearned right to draft a great player. The draft is supposed to be a plac

e to get promising players who are very cheap. Unfortunately, many of the same teams find themselves in the lottery year after year, and are either hindered by bad luck or by delusional incompetence. (See: 2008-2009 Washington Wizards) This a useful example, if only because it is so absurdly idiotic and illustrates why every Wizards fan feels like this whenever Ernie Grunfeld is about to make a decision. It would not surprise me if some fans have in fact “lost their eyes,” being forced to watch the likes of Oleksiy Pecherov and Jan Vesely in the past few years. Anyway, the 2008-2009 Wiz give us a textbook example of a GM and team that are impatient and ridiculously delusional. We’re talking about a team coming off a 19-63 campaign. What does a 19 win team look like you ask? Well, we’re talking about a team 1) whose best player was bringing guns into the locker-room, 2) had a soon-to-be convicted murderer, and perhaps the worst indictment of all, 3) started Darius Songaila.  We’re looking at a historically dysfunctional team that needed to be dismantled ASAP. So what did manageme

nt do when it had the 5th pick in the draft and the chance to draft Stephen Curry? They did what any competent team would do: they traded the pick for two mediocre role players, Randy Foye and Mike Miller! The Wizards may have been 19-63 and the punchline of the NBA, but they were going all-in next season! What’s the point of this example? The point is that patience is key and trading away top picks is rarely worth it, unless it’s possible to acquire a franchise player in return. Sort of like how the Wizards had a chance last year to trade the #3 pick used on Brad Beal for JAMES HARDEN, one of the ten best players on earth. This year’s draft has been called one of the weakest of all time, and while that may be true, there will inevitably be very good NBA players somewhere in this draft. Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios for each of the lottery teams in this draft whose top prospect is a 206 pound center with a torn ACL!

e4701g88mmn7ehz2baynbs6e0 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Best-Case Scenario: Victor Oladipo
Worst-Case Scenario: Nerlens Noel

Continue reading