Every summer, the Basketball Insiders team calls dibs on their home markets and goes through the draft one pick at a time to get a sense of how the first round of the draft may actually play out. This mock is different in that it represents many ideas and many voices instead of just the thoughts of a lone individual trying to think for all 30 teams. The actual draft is this Thursday, but this should help hold readers over until then. Enjoy!
1. With the 1st pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz, a point guard from the University of Washington.
“The Sixers address their biggest area of need with the best player available. Adding Fultz gives them a legitimate scoring guard who can play off the ball, pairing perfectly with 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons.” – Dennis Chambers
2. With the 2nd pick in the pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the L.A. Lakers select Lonzo Ball, a point guard from UCLA.
“Lonzo potentially represents what the Lakers have been desperate for: a star that fans get excited for, makes the team better and returns the Lakers to past glory. Magic 2.0? Great vision, good feel for the game and outstanding passing help Lonzo stand out. Substantive criticisms of his game include an unorthodox jump shot, average defense and, so far at least, an unwillingness or inability to get to the rim, but for now he’s the Lakers’ best bet at pick number two.” – James Blancarte
3. With the 3rd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Boston Celtics select Josh Jackson, a forward from the University of Kansas.
“The Celtics made the trade to get the guy that most embodies the Celtics’ DNA. He’s tough. He is gritty. He is a good team guy and he has exactly the kinds of tools the Celtics gravitate toward. In time, he could be one of the brightest of the bunch, but from day one he fits a team that almost won the East.” – Steve Kyler
4. With the 4th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Phoenix Suns select De’Aaron Fox, a point guard from the University of Kentucky.
“The Phoenix Suns have had multiple starting-caliber point guards in recent seasons but are still in search of their point guard of the future. De’Aaron Fox has a nice combination of length, skill, athleticism and upside. He may not have all of the tools that Markelle Fultz has or the hype of Lonzo Ball, but he is a talented prospect who could develop into the Suns’ franchise point guard. However, he needs to work on his jumper and grow into his frame sooner rather than later if he is to have any real impact in his first few seasons in the league.” – Jesse Blancarte
5. With the 5th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Malik Monk, a guard from the University of Kentucky.
“Once upon a time, Eric Bledsoe lived in the shadow of John Wall, the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Bledsoe went 18th to OKC, and joined Avery Bradley as the only players picked in the second half of 2010’s first round that remain significant rotation players. Like Bledsoe, Malik Monk had to sacrifice to play a role complementary to a more highly-touted guard prospect. Like Bledsoe, the NBA will give Monk the platform to emerge from that shadow.” – Buddy Grizzard
6. With the 6th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Orlando Magic select Dennis Smith, a guard from North Carolina State University.
“New Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said recently that the team will be looking to draft the best available player on Thursday night, rather than draft based on need. If Smith is available, he could check both boxes for the Magic. Smith could be the best player available for the Magic when they make their first of four selections on draft night and he figures to be able to immediately come in and give the team a boost at the point guard position. The team has sorely lacked an offensive-minded point guard and Smith could be that guy for the Magic.” – Cody Taylor
7. With the 7th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Frank Ntilikina, a point guard from Strasbourg, France.
“I’ve got the first reach! Because they really already have loads of talent, the Minnesota Timberwolves in my opinion will trade this pick if they can. But if they keep the pick, there’s no immediate need for polished talent with an up-and-coming roster like theirs. With Ricky Rubio’s difficultly fitting into Tom Thibedoau’s system and Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones still learning the ropes, the organization takes a stab at correcting the point guard position with Frank Ntkilina.” – Spencer Davies
8. With the 8th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the New York Knicks select Jayson Tatum, a forward from Duke University.
“I certainly did not expect Jayson Tatum to be on the board at No. 8. As a result, this was an extremely easy choice. The worst-kept secret in New York is that Phil Jackson and the Knicks desperately want to trade Carmelo Anthony. In Tatum, they get a player that many pundits agree is the closest facsimile to Melo in the 2017 draft. Tatum, like Melo, is 6-foot-8 and is known for his polished offensive game. Like Anthony, he excels in isolation due to his array of moves and rare combination of size, strength and skill. His defense needs work, but he has the physical attributes to be a plus-defender. New York can search for its point guard of the future in free agency or in subsequent drafts because with Tatum in tow, the Knicks now have two solid foundation pieces they can build around. Today, Phil and company celebrate Tatum landing in their lap. Tomorrow they go point guard hunting.” – Tommy Beer
9. With the 9th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Lauri Markkanen, a forward from the University of Arizona.
“Markkanen is a great shooter. He’s long and at 7-feet tall he can get up and shoot over almost anyone. He’ll make for a nice frontcourt addition with Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel (if they re-sign him). Once Dirk retires, Markkanen could step into his role of the shooting/scoring PF/C almost immediately, with high upside on the defensive end as well. And, obviously, he’ll be or has already been compared to Dirk, so why not have him learn from Dirk?” – Shane Rhodes
10. With the 10th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Jonathan Isaac, a forward from Florida State University.
“Due to health concerns, Skal Labissiere fell all the way to 28th and became the steal of the 2016 NBA Draft. The Kings weren’t expecting to be so lucky as to have Jonathan Isaac fall to 10th this year. Isaac is built for the modern NBA, and his perimeter skills make him the perfect third big to add to Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein.” – Buddy Grizzard
11. With the 11th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Luke Kennard, a guard out of Duke University.
“As the lottery selections wind down Charlotte adds arguably the best shooter in the draft to pair in the back court with All-Star caliber point guard Kemba Walker. This duo projects as a high scoring pairing for years to come.” – Dennis Chambers
12. With the 12th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Detroit Pistons select John Collins, a forward out of Wake Forest.
“Detroit, not sold on Reggie Jackson, but with the elite point guards of the draft off the board, selects John Collins. Head coach Stan Van Gundy loves high motor physical frontcourt players, and Collins has the tools to etch out a nightly role as a rookie in a Pistons rotation needing more depth.” – Lang Greene
13. With the 13th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Denver Nuggets select Donovan Mitchell, a guard from the University of Louisville.
“The Nuggets have high-level prospects at every position, so there’s no significant area of need. Mitchell is the best player left on the board, with great upside on both sides of the ball.” – Ben Dowsett
14. With the 14th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Miami HEAT select Zach Collins, a center from Gonzaga University.
“Somehow, Collins dropped to No. 14 in our mock draft, so selecting him on behalf of the Miami HEAT is a no-brainer. The HEAT could be looking for a big man with their lone draft pick come Thursday, and Collins would be a great pick should he fall in their lap. He’s projected by most to be taken in the 10-12 range so there’s a chance he’ll be off the board by the time the HEAT select. Collins could give the HEAT insurance at the backup center position should they lose Willie Reed in free agency. Collins looks to be a good fit in the HEAT’s system with his ability to impact a game on the defensive end.” – Cody Taylor
15. With the 15th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Jarrett Allen, a center from the University of Texas.
“The Portland Trail Blazers have a nice mix of young, versatile talent. However, they also have limited cap flexibility, so bringing in prospects who fill an area of need is essential. Jarrett Allen may not be ready to be a rotation player on day one, but he gives the Trail Blazers a long, physically gifted athlete at center. Jusuf Nurkic anchors the middle for Portland, but Allen is a springy athlete who can run the floor and finish lobs. He isn’t a perfect fit, but his athletic abilities and upside make him a nice addition to Portland’s frontcourt.” – Jesse Blancarte
16. With the 16th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Chicago Bulls select OG Anunoby, a forward from the University of Indiana.
“While it stinks that Anunoby probably won’t play until 2018 because of his ACL rehab, he would have been a sure-fire lottery pick if he were healthy, and the Bulls do love a good value pick regardless of where they are drafting. Anunoby is a complete player on both ends and would have been one of the most physically and mentally prepared players in this draft. The Bulls just have to wait a bit to actually see how he fits.” – Joel Brigham
17. With the 17th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select T.J. Leaf, a forward from UCLA.
“The Bucks are kind of loaded at every position and may be creating something of a logjam at the forward positions, so I decided to add a stretch big to the group in UCLA forward T.J. Leaf. He can shoot and score, which always is a plus for a younger team like the Bucks.” – Moke Hamilton
18. With the 18th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Indiana Pacers select Ike Anigbogu, a center from UCLA.
“The Pacers need to go into full rebuild mode, and Anigbogu, with his other-worldly athleticism and sky-high defensive potential, could be a really fun fit alongside Myles Turner. Anigbogu is the youngest player in the draft, so there could be some waiting on him, but you’ve got to love the kid’s ceiling.” – Joel Brigham
19. With the 19th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Derrick White from the University of Colorado.
“Although it was tempting to grab Harry Giles here, the injury concerns were hard to ignore (i.e. Leon Powe). At 6-foot-5, Derrick White offers the versatility to play multiple positions and possesses the playmaking traits that new Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk looks to add, similar to the Golden State blueprint where he spent 12 seasons.” – Lang Greene
20. With the 20th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Terrence Ferguson, a guard from Adelaide in Australia.
“The young shooting guard is not ready to be a contributor at the NBA level, but with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner already on the roster, that’s not a huge issue. Ferguson has talent and potential on both sides of the ball. His biggest issue is his thin frame, but a season or two of training should help there. Should a player like Crabbe or Turner be moved in the near future, Ferguson will be there to step in and show what he can do.” – Jesse Blancarte
21. With the 21st pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Semi Ojeleye, a forward from Southern Methodist University.
“In need of another playmaker alongside Russell Westbrook, as well as somebody that can shoot the basketball from deep, the Oklahoma City Thunder nab Semi Ojeyele from SMU. His size and versatility will do wonders as both an athletic small forward and in some cases, as a stretch four.” – Spencer Davies
22. With the 22nd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Brooklyn Nets select Harry Giles, a center from Duke University.
“For the Nets, there may be no lottery ticket better than Harry Giles. Despite his serious injury history, Giles firmly represents the type of prospect the Nets should take a swing on — particularly so without a first round pick in next year’s draft. With Brook Lopez set to enter unrestricted free agency in 2018 as well, selecting the risky Giles makes sense across the board.” – Ben Nadeau
23. With the 23rd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Bam Adebayo, a center from the University of Kentucky.
“Bam Adebayo is one of those project players that can eventually yield a big payoff. An athletic defensive presence, he could end up being the type of big man Dwayne Casey covets if/when the Raptors move on from Jonas Valanciunas.” – David Yapkowitz
24. With the 24th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select Justin Jackson, a forward from the University of North Carolina.
“While the Jazz don’t feel like Jackson is a legitimate possible replacement for a player as good as Gordon Hayward, he does offer another modest-upside prospect on the wing in case Hayward does go elsewhere over the summer.” – Ben Dowsett
25. With the 25th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Orlando Magic select Justin Patton.
“Selecting Patton at No. 25 definitely fits the bill as drafting the best player available. It remains to be seen if he’ll ultimately drop this low on draft night, but Patton has perhaps the highest upside of any player left in the draft. Measuring in at 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Patton has great athleticism for his size. He possesses great skills on the offensive end and proved to be an efficient scorer during his one season at Creighton. With other big men on the roster in Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo, Patton may not be needed to come in and make an immediate impact, which could allow him to develop at his own pace and learn from the two guys ahead of him” – Cody Taylor
26. With the 26th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select D.J. Wilson, a forward from the University of Michigan.
“Portland has a few versatile forwards who can stretch the floor but none has all of the physical tools and upside of Wilson. He is nowhere near ready to be a regular contributor, but if all goes right in his development, he could be a valuable stretch big with versatility on both ends of the court. That would be a pretty nice addition for the capped-out Blazers, especially this late in the first round.” – Jesse Blancarte
27. With the 27th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Brooklyn Nets select Isaiah Hartenstein, a center from Zalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League.
“Isaiah Hartenstein has dropped down draft boards as of late, but the Nets are more than happy to scoop him up at No. 27. His potential as a floor-stretching center is a perfect fit for Kenny Atkinson’s trigger-happy three-point shooting side. He may not come to the NBA immediately, but the Nets are in no rush. Alongside Giles, Hartenstein would give the Nets a much-needed boost of young talent in the frontcourt.” – Ben Nadeau
28. With the 28th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Tyler Lydon, a forward out of Syracuse University.
“Lydon is a capable prospect with a variety of talents on the offensive end. He finds various ways to score, which are rooted in his notable shooting abilities. Place Lydon on a ball movement-based offense that coach Luke Walton wants to build and he will likely find a way to be a positive contributor. This should be a fairly reliable, modest upside pick for the Lakers.” – James Blancarte
29. With the 29th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Jawun Evans, a point guard out of Oklahoma State University.
“Evans is a good fit for the Spurs given the clouds surrounding Tony Parker and the uncertainty of Patty Mills returning. He is a great playmaker who can run the pick and roll and at least fill Mills old role off the bench. He is also pesky on defense and one of the quickest players in the draft as well.” – Shane Rhodes
30. With the 30th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select Frank Jackson.
“The former local high school standout shows immense promise on both ends, and while Jackson needs work as a full-time ball-handler, his shot-making could be a valuable asset down the line for a Jazz team always in need of spacing.” – Ben Dowsett
What did you think of your team’s pick? Reach out to our writers on Twitter and of course be sure to check out the actual draft this Thursday. Stay plugged into Basketball Insiders for all the latest news and rumors in the last couple of days leading up to it!
Bobby Portis’ Time to Shine
Bobby Portis talks to Basketball Insiders about his increased role on offense, the Bulls’ young core of talent and more.
When the Chicago Bulls acquired Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in the summer of 2016, it was assumed that they were gearing up for another strong season and a playoff appearance. Fred Hoiberg had just finished up his first season as head coach and the team ended with a decent 42-40 record, albeit missing the playoffs.
They struggled the following season, however,but snuck into the postseason as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 41-41 record. They put a brief scare into the Boston Celtics in the first round, but Bulls management ultimately decided to move in another direction. They traded franchise cornerstone Jimmy Butler, bought out Wade’s contract and allowed Rondo to sign elsewhere.
The departure of their veteran players opened up minutes and opportunities for the younger guys on the team, in particular, Bobby Portis. Currently, in his third year with the Bulls, Portis was surrounded by veteran guys during his first couple of years in the league. It’s a different type of environment now in Chicago.
“We went from a veteran-led team, very experienced team, to now having guys on the team here who have never played in the playoffs,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a different team, but at the same time we’re gonna grow together and get better together.”
A McDonald’s All-American coming out of Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, Portis was one of the best college basketball players in the nation during the 2014-15 season. He was named the SEC Player of the Year and he declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season at the University of Arkansas.
He was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft but having joined a team that had serious playoff aspirations, he saw only sporadic playing time as a rookie. His second year in the NBA, he started seeing increased playing time, but he still had a string of DNP’s throughout the year. His role changed this season when the Bulls front office started heading down the rebuilding path.
“I’m just playing more minutes and actually having a defined role on the team. I don’t have to come in worried if I’m gonna play or not, I know I’m gonna play,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “That’s the biggest thing for me. Also, the coaching staff having the utmost confidence in me to go out there every night and do what I do.”
This season, he’s emerged as one of the young Bulls most dependable reserves. He’s averaging a career-best 21.3 minutes per game while putting up 13 points on a career-high 10.7 field goal attempts and shooting 47.5 percent from the field. He’s also improved his outside shooting, connecting on 34.7 percent of his attempts from the three-point line.
With many of the Bulls top scoring options gone, Portis has had to take on a much bigger role in the Bulls’ offense. On Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, he dropped a career-high 38 points on 57.7 percent shooting and 6-9 shooting from beyond the arc. In the Bulls’ 22 games since Jan. 1, he’s only failed to reach double-figures in scoring in seven of those games.
“I always say my role is to bring energy and toughness off the bench. Now I feel like my role has changed a little bit,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “I have to be more aggressive on the offensive end, even more so than last year. Going out there and trying to make my teammates better, moving the basketball, sharing the basketball, trying to lead by example.”
Although he’s been playing better personally, he’s also seen a change in the team as a whole as the season has progressed. The Bulls dug themselves into a hole to begin the season, losing 17 of their first 20 games. They had a much better stretch during their next 20 games, winning 11 of them, including seven consecutively.
“We’re learning how to close games out, learning how to finish games. That’s something we didn’t do earlier in the season, we let other teams come back and win,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “We’re learning some of each other’s tendencies with the basketball. Having chemistry on the court is always big.”
And as the Bulls move forward with their rebuilding project, they seem to have found at least one player in Portis who can be a part of that. He still has another year left on his contract before he can become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. He likes what he sees from the Bulls’ young core, and it’s something he’d like the continue to be a part of.
“Guys are going out there and getting minutes,” Portis told Basketball Insiders. “That’s the biggest thing in this league, you play more minutes you get more experience. It’s having an opportunity.”
NBA Daily: Jimmy Butler’s Potential Absence Could Doom Minnesota
Should Jimmy Butler miss an extended period of time, the Minnesota Timberwolves could lose footing quickly in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
Say it ain’t so, Basketball Gods.
In his first game back from the All-Star break, coincidentally after logging zero minutes in the glorified exhibition game, Jimmy Butler left Friday night’s game with an apparent knee injury.
If the worst comes to fruition — a season-ending injury — Butler would join a laundry list of players whose seasons have been cut short.
Butler’s Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of battling for position amongst their Western Conference peers for playoff spots. At the time of Butler’s injury, seeds three through nine are all separated by one game in the loss column.
Calling it a tight race out West would be a vast understatement. With a few more than 20 games to play, the seeding could land in a different order on basically a nightly basis. And for a team like Minnesota, losing their All-Star and veteran presence could be catastrophic.
But, not all hope is lost.
David Aldridge reported Friday night that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
MRI Saturday will give final word, but there is some optimism in @JimmyButler camp that he may have at least avoided the worst—an ACL tear—on Friday.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 24, 2018
Given how tight the race is amongst the conference, losing Butler for any extended period of time is going to be a big blow to the way Minnesota operates. Very literally, Butler produces a drastic improvement on both ends of the court his team.
On the surface, Butler’s averages are good. They don’t blow you away, but it’s clear that his presence is felt on a nightly basis. 22.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists with a 59.3 true shooting percentage is more than worthy of an All-Star selection. But to the naked eye, it doesn’t scream that he’s the team’s most valuable player by a long shot.
So, let’s dig a little deeper.
When Butler is on the court, Minnesota benefits from a 116.3 offensive rating. Houston and Golden State have 115.7 and 115.4 offensive ratings for the season, respectively. The addition of Butler creates more free space for the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to play with.
Speaking of those two, with the addition of an established superstar like Butler, they’ve been able to focus more on playing basketball than leading a locker room, allowing for growth in their games — Towns especially.
Truly coming into his own as one of the league’s best big men this season, arguably nobody on Minnesota’s roster benefits more from Butler’s performance on the wing than Towns does. On the court together, Towns sports a pretty 114.1 offensive rating, which produced a satisfying 9.3 net rating. That’s winning basketball.
Take Butler away, though, and things get ugly. Fast.
Because of his vast arsenal of offensive versatility, Towns’ offensive rating doesn’t suffer when Butler isn’t in the fold. But his defense? Well, it falls off of a cliff. Towns’ defensive rating balloons to 120.9, bringing that once impressive 9.3 net rating all the way down to -6.5. Butler alone accounts for a 15.8 point swing in Towns’ net rating. The levels of codependency from Towns to Butler in relation to effective basketball are incredibly concerning if the latter is lost for an extended period of time.
Basketball isn’t just a two-man game, though. So, while Minnesota’s younger All-Star benefits greatly from his elder counterpart, maybe the rest of the roster isn’t in such bad shape without him, right?
In fact, as you could probably assume, the production for the Timberwolves as a whole plummets when Butler grabs a seat on the bench. Shooting percentage, net rating, assist rate, rebound rate, finishing at the rim, defending and just about any other conceivable statistic you can find is worse for Minnesota when Butler isn’t on the floor.
Beyond all of the stats though, Butler represented more to the Timberwolves this season. He was the star to get the team over the hump. The veteran two-way impact player that could take just enough of the load off of the two budding studs in Towns and Wiggins to make Minnesota a threat night in and night out. Tom Thibodeau brought Butler over from Chicago because he knew the level of work ethic and leadership he would bring to a team that had talent, but needed guidance.
Up until Friday night, the pieces were falling into place.
The state of Minnesota will hold its collective breath while waiting for the results of Butler’s MRI. For the sake of Timberwolves fans, the organization and most importantly, Butler himself, hope for a clean scan.
Without it, and without Butler, the team could find itself in a free-fall amid this clustered Western Conference playoff race.
Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards Aiming For Consistency
Spencer Davies has a one-on-one talk with Otto Porter about the Wizards’ up-and-down season and why they’ve been clicking over the last few weeks.
When a team loses an All-Star point guard after dropping four out of five games while other teams continue to improve and climb up the standings, it’s usually a sign that things are headed south.
But the Washington Wizards have debunked that thanks to a commitment from literally every man on the roster to step up. Since John Wall went down with injury, they’ve won eight out of their last 10 games and are a half game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the number three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Why that is, is simple—there’s a balance.
“Everybody eats” is the mantra that Wall’s backcourt partner Bradley Beal came up with when the tide started to turn and the D.C. family has been living by it for weeks now.
The setback has definitely forced them to alter their style of play, but it hasn’t been a bad thing so far, according to Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.
“It’s definitely a challenge missing one of the best guards, one of the best players in the league,” Brooks said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “We’ve had to change definitely the way we play a little bit. We couldn’t expect our point guards to play like John. His speed you just don’t come by often.
“We have to play a little different. I think guys have stepped up defensively. We’ve played well. We definitely had some favorable games go our way with the scheduling, but the challenge is ahead of us now. We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up, but we just have to still keep playing and focus on each game.”
Otto Porter has been somebody who’s really kicked it into gear at a higher level and looks like himself again after a tough start to the New Year. Since January 30th, he’s averaging 18.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and over a steal per game. On nearly 14 attempts per game during the stretch, he’s shot above 52 percent from the field.
When asked how Washington can best fill the void of Wall while he’s on the sidelines, he said it’s not possible to. Rather than focusing on that specific facet, it’s a responsibility of the group collectively to keep trending in the right direction.
“You don’t,” Porter told Basketball Insiders. “I mean you just have to, next man up. You really can’t. X-Factor is everybody steppin’ up. With the guys that we have, it’s very simple. Just go out there and play for each other.
“Getting out in transition. Getting stops. Creating points. Threes. The ball going from side to side. That’s how we play. We goin’ through adversity, so we took the challenge.”
Mind you, this is a Wizards team that was once reportedly divided in the locker room. There were rumblings of disdain among certain players. Tweets, Instagram posts, and on-air interviews fueled the fire even more as the losses continued to pile up.
However, we all know the solution to any sort of rough patch is winning games. As soon as the victories started to come, the noise started to quiet down more and more.
“That’s with any sport for real,” Porter told Basketball Insiders after inquiring whether the negativity was overblown.
“I mean you gon’ have your ups and downs. You gon’ have that. But we’re gonna stick together no matter the wins or the losses. We’re gonna stick together. We’re not gonna let anything break us apart. That’s just how we feel.”
The All-Star break came at a good time for Porter, who admitted to Basketball Insiders that he was playing through with nagging injuries in the first half of the season and getting a week to see family and recuperate “was what I needed.”
In the meantime, he kept in contact with Beal, who was experiencing his first All-Star weekend in four years, except this time around he was selected by Team LeBron as a part of the big game.
“All-Star, he said he was mad busy,” Porter told Basketball Insiders of Beal’s hectic three days in Los Angeles. “That sucks ‘cause you know you really wanna—I mean All-Star is cool, but the guys all busy during All-Star. Seeing people, events, stuff like that, so you don’t really get a break. He enjoyed it though.”
Porter raved over the season Beal has had and what it’s meant to Washington. There hasn’t been a change in mentality at all, but the improvements are evident.
“He’s always been motivated,” Porter told Basketball Insiders. “Each year he’s adding bits and pieces to his game every year that make him a threat and it shows this year.”
Another teammate of Porter’s that has taken on the challenge is Kelly Oubre. This month hasn’t been kind to him so far as a shooter, but taking the season as a whole, the third year forward is hitting a career-high 36.9 percent of his threes and averaging close to 12 points per game.
Not only that, but Oubre is always locked in defensively with an in-your-face method of guarding his opponents. It’s a physical style that constantly bothers opponents and most of the time, it works.
“He’s been improving,” Porter told Basketball Insiders. “He’s been putting in a lot of work. I’ve seen him put in so much work this offseason on his shot improving his mechanics and it’s paying off.
“Aggressive defensively, getting his hands on a lot of balls, deflections, steals. That’s what we want from him every game.”
Brooks has rewarded Oubre and Porter’s efforts by giving them a ton of playing time, something that he doesn’t see changing anytime soon considering the job they’ve done with the extra load.
“They’re gonna have to keep playing a lot of major minutes and keep getting better along the way,” Brooks said. “Otto’s really steady, solid. He’s started to make some shots again.
“And Kelly, he hasn’t shot the ball well in February, but we need him to break out of that and start shooting the ball better. With Kelly to me, it’s always how he’s locked in and focused on the defensive end.”
In order for the Wizards to continue scaling the ranks in the East it’s going to come down to consistency, a hurdle that they’ve tried to clear in past years and have a goal of leaping this season.
“We have to,” Brooks said. “Firstly, just takes that consistent effort to win games. This is not an easy league. Nobody feels sorry for you. Nobody gives you wins. You’ve got to go out there and earn it.
“I like the spirit of our team. We’re willing to accept the challenges. We know it’s not gonna be easy, but I like how we’re playing.”
Porter’s personal goal is to make it through 82 games healthy, but he agrees with his head coach about Washington’s top priority as a team.
“Right now yeah, it’s consistency,” Porter told Basketball Insiders. “And just sticking to what we do, sticking to our character. We know what type of players we are. We know how to play the right way and play Wizards basketball, so that’s what we’re gonna focus on.”
So far, so good.
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