Washington came into Tuesday night’s game with a pathetic record of 5-11. They were down by as many as 24 points. Boos rained upon them on the court. It appeared as though it was curtains for these Wizards.
Even with all the crap that they had gone through, both on and off the court, Washington managed to do the impossible: Facilitate a comeback. Through the efforts of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Jeff Green, the Wizards toppled the streaking Clippers. Given how well LA has been playing, and that Washington started Thomas Bryant at center, that is an impressive win.
Maybe this victory is what turns things around for professional basketball in the nation’s capital. A 6-11 record, as underwhelming as it looks, puts the Wizards only 10th overall in the Eastern Conference, and two and a half games in back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed. The Wizards are down, but they’re not out, so things should be looking up, all things considered, right?
Well, after beating the Clippers, Markieff Morris had this to say to Candace Buckner after being asked if it was nice to get the win.
“Not really. It’s f***ed up what’s going on,” Morris said. “The comments that’s coming from the locker room is f****ed up. That don’t happen in locker rooms.”
Whatever kind of circus is going on with the Wizards, there’s nothing stopping it. If you’ve been in the loop, you know what’s been going on. What’s appalling is that nobody is pulling their punches. Props to Morris for being candid, but even in rare positive moments like beating a good team, we just get more and more proof that the Wizards are beyond the point of no return.
Yet, with all the talent they have, things shouldn’t be this bad. That’s the sad part. Beating the Clippers shouldn’t be a milestone for this team. But it is, because things are this bad.
The upshot for the Wizards is the talent they have. Together it appears that John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. can’t form an elite team. Separately though, they could help form others should they find new teams.
Now that the Wizards are entertaining trade offers, it’s time to look what their top three players could fetch back, and who might be interested. First, let’s start with the one who would get back the most.
As one of the league’s more respectable scorers and most elite shooters, Bradley Beal’s services would be very useful to just about every team in the league. If Beal is on the open market, he should easily fetch back the most value out of the three since his contract is the shortest and the most affordable.
His numbers have been down so far this season. 21.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting including an uncharacteristically low 34 percent from three this season does not help his trade value. In his defense, his statistical drop off may stem from the tense locker room he has to take part in. Teams should know that at 25 years old, and having put up better numbers in the past, Beal’s best stuff is probably yet to come.
The most realistic interested parties would be ones who have young talent while also believing they are one piece away from contender status. Teams that come to mind are Denver, Utah and the Lakers.
Beal is really suited for a No. 2 type role rather than an alpha dog. All of the teams mentioned have designated superstar on their team already that just need the second banana. Jamal Murray, Dante Exum and Lonzo Ball is not a king’s ransom in a trade for Beal, but if that’s the best they can get, then they may not have a choice.
Another intriguing option would be Portland. Everything is going the Trail Blazers’ way right now. They currently sit atop the Western Conference, and one of the main ingredients to their success has been their familiarity. They would have a good package for Beal if they got CJ McCollum involved. McCollum is a fantastic player, but Beal is an upgrade. Throw in Zach Collins, who’s been awesome his sophomore year, and maybe there could be a framework for a deal.
Nobody would blame Portland if they stood pat. Still, don’t be surprised if they make some inquiries.
The real X-factor to a potential Beal trade would come down to who would be willing to take Ian Mahinmi’s contract with him. If the Wizards rebuild, they’ll want to carve out some salary cap space. The first team to agree to absorb Mahinmi’s contract may be the winner in the Beal sweepstakes.
Much like Beal, Porter’s numbers have also dipped this season, which again can be attributed to the hostility in the Wizard’s locker room. 10.6 points on 46 percent shooting including 36 percent from three is not great from someone who is getting paid over $26 million.
Again, like Beal, we know that Porter is capable of much more. The man has shot 40 percent from three for his career and has a reputation for being one of the elite three-and-D players in the NBA. If he’s put on the right team that can help him pick his spots, then he should return to the terrific player he’s been for the Wizards over the past couple of seasons.
Reportedly, New Orleans is interested in Porter, which makes a lot of sense because they’ve sorely lacked a player like Porter on their team. The Pelicans may be hesitant to offer Julius Randle, whose proved to be a bargain, for Porter, who is overpaid for what he brings. Besides that, they don’t have much else to offer.
One team to keep an eye on would be Houston. After losing out on Jimmy Butler, the Rockets may try to woo Washington with an offer similar to the one they proposed for Butler. They have picked up on defense since moving on from Carmelo, but Porter would be the Trevor Ariza replacement that they’ve needed. If not, more so.
Porter’s skill set could help many teams in this league, but for what he’s being paid, teams may not willing to be in the luxury tax for him. His next destination may hinge on who is the most desperate for his services.
To think, John Wall is designated as the Wizards’ best player, has been a multi-time All-Star, is only 28, and yet, many believe that by next year he’ll have one of the worst contracts in the NBA.
This time next year, Wall will be paid $37.8 million, and that number will steadily rise by three million each year when his contract extension kicks in. Because of that, trading Wall is going to be a tough task.
Still, he’s John Wall. Though both his numbers have dipped and his ego has manifested itself over the past couple of years, getting him while his trade value is arguably at its lowest is a rare opportunity. The man finished seventh in MVP voting just two years ago, and perhaps he just needs a change of scenery in which he could play for a team that suits his style.
That $40+ million is a steep price to pay, but there are teams already paying a hefty price who could use an upgrade from their current point guard situation. Teams like Miami and Detroit fit that bill.
Miami could use Wall because they’re paying a hefty tax bill as it is, and Wall has much more left of his prime than Goran Dragic. Miami also has decent young talent in Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo. The one qualm is that Washington may be hesitant to trade in the same division.
Detroit could use Wall because he’s an upgrade over Reggie Jackson and they made a similar trade for Blake Griffin last season, but they have no good assets to offer at all.
Washington may also look to teams who need a point guard, period, like the Phoenix Suns. Given that they are 3-13 and one of the youngest teams in the league, getting Wall wouldn’t be very wise. Another team deprived of a talented point guard is Orlando, who is currently fighting for a playoff spot. Wall could solve their problems, but it would depend on what the Magic would be willing to trade for him.
Wall is certainly not playing up to standards, but he has plenty of good basketball left in him. While it may be too late for him to bring a title to Washington, there’s plenty of time for him to be a vital player to a championship team.
The one common pattern between these three is that all of their numbers are down, which hurts their trade value. What’s worse for Washington is that the teams who would be interested in their three best players will probably be teams who don’t have much young value to offer.
If there’s one team Washington can learn from in this sticky situation, it’s Minnesota.
The longer this drama drags out, the worse things get.
NBA Daily: Luguentz Dort – A Different Kind of Point Guard
The point guard position is a clearly-defined one – perhaps the most defined – in the modern NBA.
At the one, you are either an elite shooter (both inside and on the perimeter), ala Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, an elite passer, ala Chris Paul, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, or some combination of the two.
Luguentz Dort doesn’t exactly fit that bill.
The 20-year-old combo-guard out of Arizona State University didn’t shoot the competition out of the gym – Dort managed a field goal percentage of just 40.5 and hit on a meager 30.7 percent from downtown. And he wasn’t exactly the flashiest passer, as he averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Sun Devils.
He’s different. But, according to Dort, he has what it takes to run the point at the next level.
“I know that I can become a really good leader on the court and create for my teammates,” Dort said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.
Confidence and an “I-will-outwork-you” competitive attitude are at the center of Dort and his game. Those two aspects drive the engine that has made Dort one of the more intriguing prospects in the back end of the first round. He may not be the most talented player in this class, but Dort is hyper-competitive and can out-hustle anyone on any given night.
“When I play,” Dort said, “I’m really going at people to let them know it’s not going to be easy.”
There is a hunger in Dort – a desire to win that is evidenced in his game. An aggressor on both offense and defense, Dort’s motor is always going. His primary selling point is his defensive ability; built like an NFL defensive end, Dort can bring energy and effort to any defense. He has more than enough speed to stick with smaller guards on the perimeter and more than enough strength to bump with bigger forwards in the paint.
Dort has also shown a knack for jumping passing lanes to either deflect passes or outright steal the ball; Dort was fourth in the Pac-12 as he averaged 1.5 steals per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes.
Dort has made it a point to put that defensive ability and intensity on full display for potential suitors. At the Combine, Dort said he wanted to show teams “how tough I play on defense” and “how hard I play and the type of competitor I am.”
Offensively, Dort is an impeccable cutter. At Arizona State, Dort averaged 1.289 points per possession on cuts, according to Synergy Sports. When he goes to the rim, Dort used his size and power to his advantage in order to get to the basket and either drop it in the bucket or draw a foul. He isn’t Irving with the ball in his hands, but Dort can make a move with the ball to create space as well.
Dort isn’t a superb passer, but he has a solid vision and can make, and often made while at Arizona State, the right pass as well.
But can Dort overcome the inconsistencies that plagued him at Arizona State? Dort was, at times, reckless with the ball in his hands. Whether he drove into a crowd just to throw up an ill-fated shot attempt or forced an errant pass, Dort’s decision-making must improve. His shooting is suspect and his touch around the rim – two skills critical to the modern point guard – weren’t exactly up to snuff either.
There were lapses on the defensive end as well. Sometimes Dort would fall asleep off the ball or he would be too aggressive one-on-one. If he is too handsy or unaware, NBA veterans will take advantage of every chance they get against him.
But, according to Dort, he has worked on those issues.
“My decision making got a lot better,” Dort said. “My shot, my free throws, everything. I really worked on all that this season.”
But in order to truly make an impact at the next level, he’ll have to continue to work and refine those skills further.
More work has never been an issue for Dort. However raw he may appear, he has the look of and the work-ethic required of NBA-caliber talent. Dort’s ultimate goal for the Combine, other than draw interest from NBA teams, was simple: “learn about everything, get feedback and go back to Arizona and continue to work on my game.” Whether or not teams view him as a point guard, shooting guard or something else entirely is a matter for debate, but, standing at just over 6-foot-4, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and high motor, Dort has the versatility and ability to stick at, and is willing to play, a variety of different spots on the floor.
“I want to play any position a team would want me to play,” Dort said.
He may not be the prototypical point guard, but with that kind of willing, team-first attitude, Dort, at some point or another, is almost certain to make it to and have an impact at the next level.
NBA Daily: Brandon Clarke Working From The Ground Up
Because of the unusual path he’s taken to get here, Brandon Clarke has established himself as one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, writes Matt John.
When the draft time comes along, teams who have the higher picks usually look for guys who have the highest ceiling. Because of this, they usually decide to take players on the younger side because they believe those who have less experience have more room to improve.
This puts Brandon Clarke at a slight disadvantage. Clarke is 22 years old – and will be 23 when training camp rolls around – and only just recently came onto the scene after an excellent performance for Gonzaga in March Madness this season.
Competing for scouts’ attention against those who are younger and/or deemed better prospects than him would be quite the challenge, but because of what he’s been through, said challenge didn’t seem to faze him one bit at the combine.
“It was a different path for me,” Clarke said. “ I’m 22 and there are some guys here that are only 18 years old. With that being said, I’m still here.”
The Canadian native has clearly had to pay his dues to get to where he is. Clarke originally played for San Jose State, a school that had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in its program’s history – the most recent entry being 1996 – whose last alum to play in the NBA was Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Props to you if you know who that is!
Playing under a program that didn’t exactly boast the best reputation wasn’t exactly ideal for Clarke. In fact, according to him, it was disheartening at times.
“There were definitely times that I felt down,” Clarke said. “When I first went there, I was kind of freaking out because I was going to a team that had only won two or three games prior to me getting there.”
No tournament bids came from Brandon’s efforts, but the Spartans saw a spike in their win total in the two seasons he played there. The team went from two wins to nine in his freshman year, then went from nine wins to fourteen his sophomore year. Clarke’s performance definitely had a fair amount to do with San Jose State’s higher success rate, but the man praised the program for the opportunity it gave him.
“We did some really big things for that college so I’m really grateful for the stuff I could do for them,” Clarke said.
After spending two years at SJS, Clarke then transferred to Gonzaga where he redshirted for a year before getting himself back on the court. When he did, he put himself on the map.
Clarke dominated in his lone year with the Bulldogs, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds – including 3.1 offensive boards – as well as 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The man clearly established himself as a high-energy small-ball center at 6-foot-8 ¼ inches, and it paved the way for Gonzaga to get a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight.
Brandon loved the experience with the Bulldogs, both for the opportunity they gave him and for what he was able to do for them on the court.
“It was a great year,” Clarke said. “I got to play with some of the best players in the country… It was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’m going to miss it a lot. From a personal standpoint, I was just really blessed that I was able to block shots… I felt that I was really efficient too and I really helped us on the offensive end taking smart shots.”
Both his age and the small sample size, unfortunately, go hand in hand so that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly Brandon Clarke will be taken in the draft. The latest Consensus Mock Draft from Basketball Insiders has all four contributors disagreeing where he will be selected, ranging from being picked as high ninth overall to as low as 21st.
Where he will get selected will all depend on who trusts what could be his greatest weakness – his shotty jumper.
In a league where spacing is so very crucial to consistent success, Clarke’s inability to space the floor hurts his stock. His free throw shooting at Gonzaga saw a drastic improvement from San Jose State, as he went from 57 percent to almost 70. That’s not as much of a liability but not much of a strength either. His three-point shooting in that time took a dive in that time, going from 33 percent to almost 27, which definitely does not help.
To be a hotter commodity at the draft, Clarke had to prove he could shoot the rock from anywhere, which is what he set to do at the combine.
“That is my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. So I’m hoping that they can see that I can actually shoot it and that I have made lots of progress on it, and that they can trust me to get better at it.”
The journey that Clarke has been on to get to where he is had made him all the wiser as a player. With him expected to enter the NBA next season, he had a simple yet profound message to aspiring young ballers everywhere.
“Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. Trust everybody around you that you love… Make the best out of the situation that you are in.”
NBA Daily: Nassir Little’s Climb Back up the Draft Boards
Nassir Little’s measurements and personality shined through at the Combine, leading many to believe he may be better suited for the NBA than he was for the NCAA, writes Drew Maresca.
From highly-touted prospect to reserve player and back, Nassir Little’s path to the pros has been an unusual one.
Little was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect. And yet, he didn’t start a single game in his lone season at North Carolina.
He demonstrated the ability to take over a game at times – averaging 19.5 points per game through UNC’s first two games in the NCAA tournament. He also broke the 18-point barrier in six games this past season. But he also scored in single digits in 18 of the Tar Heels’ 36 games, resulting in him being labeled inconsistent by many professional scouts.
Luckily for Little, his skillset is highly sought after by NBA personnel. He is a 6-foot-6, 220 pound forward. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as UNC’s sixth man, demonstrating the versatility to switch between both forward positions fairly seamlessly.
And he very well may be one of the few players better suited for the modern NBA game than he was for the NCAA.
Little told reporters at the NBA combine that much of his struggles can be attributed to the hesitancy he developed in his own game through the lack of clarity provided to him by the North Carolina coaching staff.
“The coaching staff didn’t really understand what my role was, especially on offense,” said Little. “So it created a lot of hesitancy, which didn’t allow me to play like myself.”
But Little assured reporters that he’ll look more like the five-star recruit we saw when he was a senior at Orlando Christian Prep.
“Throughout the year I didn’t feel like I played like myself. The guy that people saw in high school is really who I am as a player,” Little said. “And that’s the guy that people will see at the next level.”
Not only does Little expect to be back to his old self, he sees greatness in his future.
“I feel like I am going to come in as, like, a second version of Kawhi Leonard and be that defensive guy,” Little said. “Later on in the years, add [additional] pieces to my game.”
And while a Leonard comparison represents a tall order, Little’s physical tools have fueled discussion about his defensive potential – which has resulted in his climb back up draft boards. Little measured in with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and posted an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump (second amongst all 2019 participants), a 3.09-second shuttle run (third) and a 3.31-second ¾ court sprint (fourth) – all of which translates perfectly to the NBA.
While his physical prowess will certainly help him gain additional visibility throughout the draft process, Little claims to possess another attribute that everyone else in the draft might not necessarily have, too.
“A lot of guys talk about skill set, everyone’s in the gym working on their skillset. But me being able to bring energy day in and day out is something a lot of guys don’t do.”
To Little’s point, he projects extremely well as an energetic, defensive pest. He is an aggressive and physical defender who has drawn comparisons to guys like Marcus Smart and Gerald Wallace – both of whom are/were known for their high-energy play and dedication on the floor. While his athleticism and potential can open doors, his personality will ensure that teams fall in love with the 19-year old forward. Little came across as extremely likable and candid, which should factor into the overall process, especially when considering that other prospects with less personality project to be more challenging to work with. Moreover, the fact that he was named to the Academic All-ACC team speaks volumes to his discipline and dedication.
Little alluded to the fact that he already sat through interviews with 10 teams as of a week ago, including one with the San Antonio Spurs, which makes the Leonard comparison all the more intriguing.
“Each team has different needs,” Little said. “But they like my [ability] to score the basketball in a variety of ways and my defensive potential to guard multiple positions, they really like that. And my athleticism to be on the court and finish plays.”
If Little is lucky, he’ll be selected by the Spurs with the nineteenth pick. And if that happens, he would be wise to pay close attention to the advice given to him by Coach Gregg Popovich – and not only because he sees similarities between himself and former Popovich-favorite, Leonard. Coach Popovich has a long history of developing lesser known draft picks into borderline stars – Derrick White being the most recent example.
Considering Little’s physical tools, academic achievements and easy-going personality, he has everything one would need to have a long NBA career. Just how successful he ends up being is mostly up to him.