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NBA PM: Memphis a Frontrunner to Land Green?

The Memphis Grizzlies are pursuing Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green and talks are reportedly “heating up.”

Joel Brigham

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Memphis Emerging as Frontrunner to Land Green?

This afternoon, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics are having discussions about a Jeff Green deal and that the talks are “heating up.” Nothing is imminent, but the report suggests that the Grizzlies are serious in their pursuit of the veteran forward.

Memphis is one of the more intriguing suitors for Green, and this is definitely a situation worth watching. Some reports have indicated that the framework of the deal would be Tayshaun Prince’s expiring contract and a draft pick for Green. The Grizzlies have traded their own draft picks for this year and only own the less valuable of the Toronto Raptors and and Dallas Mavericks’ second-round picks. They can trade a future first- or second-round pick, though.

This comes just one day after Stein reported that the Grizzlies want to add a veteran small forward, with Miami HEAT forward Luol Deng being mentioned as a possible option in addition to Green.

Now that the Celtics have traded Rajon Rondo and are clearly rebuilding around their young core, it’s no surprise that Green may be the next Celtics player traded.

Green will turn 29 years old in August and can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason by opting out of the final year of his contract worth $9.2 million. This may complicate things a bit, as he could just be a rental player (which could cause teams to hesitate about giving up significant assets for him). With just $41 million (that doesn’t include the full five-year max deal they plan to offer pending free agent Marc Gasol this summer) in guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2015-16 season, the Grizzlies should feel confident in their ability to re-sign him if they were able to acquire him and he declined his player option. Even with a new max deal for Gasol the Grizzlies, thanks to inheriting Green’s Bird rights, would be able to ink him to a new pact without going into the luxury tax.

Green is playing very well this year, so Boston shouldn’t have any trouble finding potential suitors for him outside of Memphis if they want to gauge interest elsewhere around the NBA. According to sources, the Los Angeles Clippers have shown interest in him in the past.

It makes sense for the Celtics trade Green before the Feb. 19 deadline and get something in return for him rather than risking losing him for nothing this summer. It’s unlikely that he would re-sign with Boston at this point in his career since he likely want to join a team that’s closer to winning.

UPDATE: Reports have indicated that the two sides have agreed to the deal and it’s expected to be finalized tonight. Memphis will land Green while Boston will land Prince and a future first-round pick.

Oh, How the Odds Have Changed

If daily fantasy sites like Draft Kings have taught us anything, it’s that sports fans enjoy gambling on the NBA more than they ever have, and one of the easiest ways to go about that gambling is to make a preseason wager on the team you think is going to win the championship.

Of course, the odds have changed quite a bit over the course of the last three months, as injuries, trades and unexpected succesess and failures have made some preseason odds look like rip-offs and others look like steals. Here’s a peek at some of the most dramatic changes between preseason and current betting odds, courtesy of OddsShark:

The Best Bets

Golden State Warriors
Preseason: 25/1
Now: 5/1
Everybody liked the roster coming into the season, but nobody was 100 percent sure how quickly Steve Kerr would figure out this whole head coaching thing. Turns out Kerr is pretty good at it and players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are having career-best seasons. Stephen Curry could even win MVP, leading the Warriors to the best record in the NBA by a wide margin. All that said, 5/1 might be a rather generous line.

Portland Trail Blazers
Preseason: 40/1
Now: 18/1
The Blazers have owned the Northwest Division this year and have the second-best record in the NBA behind the efforts of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. With this output, should it continue and everyone stay healthy, 40/1 odds looks like highway robbery. After a strong showing in the first round of last year’s playoffs, many people expect some kind of jump from Portland, but not a jump this big.

Toronto Raptors
Preseason: 50/1
Now: 16/1
Kyle Lowry is having a career-year and the Raptors just keep on winning, even with DeMar DeRozan missing significant time. This is one of those feel-good stories where a team with tons of talent sees it all come together and of course the wins follow shortly after. Perhaps those 50/1 odds before the season were unfair for a team that had just won the Atlantic Division, because here they are, winning it again.

Atlanta Hawks
Preseason: 100/1
Now: 12/1
Nobody saw the Atlanta Hawks leading the Eastern Conference in wins nearly halfway through the season, but that’s where we are and in this weak a conference, it’s hard to believe they will ever fall too hard, even if they hit a slump and Chicago, Toronto or Washington makes a run at the top seed. Like Portland, the Hawks are 27-8 right now, and have the second-best championship odds in the East, behind only the Bulls.

The Worst Bets

New York Knicks
Preseason: 50/1
Now: 5000/1
Welp. There was some preseason sentiment that the Knicks wouldn’t be that bad, but things just haven’t come together for Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and the ragtag bunch of NBA players that have only managed to slap together five wins this season and are in the midst of a 14-game losing streak. Odds don’t go much lower than this, but if Carmelo Anthony officially shuts it down for the season, it could be ∞/1 and nobody would make the bet.

Indiana Pacers
Preseason: 50/1
Now: 300/1
Believe it or not, that 50/1 number came out after Paul George was pronounced out for the season and Lance Stephenson had signed with Charlotte, so the original number appears abnormally high in the first place. Still, even if they were more like 100/1 to kick things off, the drop to 300/1 would be a pretty precipitous one. Injuries crippled this team to start the season, and they’ve been only mediocre since getting guys like David West and George Hill back in the lineup. They aren’t out of the playoff picture, but it’s hard to see them being competitive unless George makes a miraculous comeback at the perfect time and somehow manages not to miss a beat.

Charlotte Hornets
Preseason: 66/1
Now: 500/1
And speaking of Lance Stephenson, his failure to launch in North Carolina was a huge reason for their slow start, and while they have won four in a row and Kemba Walker is really starting to emerge, they’re still 10 games south of .500. Despite that, they’re only 2.5 games out of the playoff picture with 44 games left to play, so at 500/1 they’re actually not the worst bet in the world. Still, it’s quite a drop.

Brooklyn Nets
Preseason: 66/1
Now: 200/1
Nobody really expected the Nets to compete for a championship, so the 66/1 odds were a bit generous to start the season. The Lionel Hollins hiring probably had a little to do with that, but the talent there just looks run down and they’re going nowhere fast, hence the massive drop in odds.

L.A. Lakers
Preseason: 66/1
Now: 750/1
While it’s not as dramatic a fall as New York, the Lakers do have some of the worst championship odds in the league at this point after starting the year among the top half of the league. This is a case, though, of oddsmakers setting a line that isn’t realistic but will draw bets from a strong fan base. It’s the same reason the Dallas Cowboys are 7/1 to win the Super Bowl. They aren’t the second-best team in the NFL playoffs, but those odds will get the millions of Cowboy fans to bet. For the Lakers, though, the odds have settled in where they probably should have been all along.

At this point in the season, it takes something pretty dramatic for the odds to change in any sort of noticeable way. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made two trades this week to better themselves, are 13/2 favorites to win the championship, and that includes all their struggles early in the season.

A big trade or a big injury can shift things, but otherwise these odds seem to have settled in. Hopefully, if you’re the betting type, you made the right bet at the right time.

Former Commissioner David Stern Embraces Data Revolution

There’s no question that enhanced data has completely changed the way that players, coaches and even fans watch and appreciate sports. In the NBA, specifically, a revolution has taken place over the course of the last decade, with more and more teams turning to advanced analytics to assemble game plans and find ways to be more effective on the court.

Former NBA commissioner David Stern recently told Big Think he believes that, more than anything, teams will use this data to alter substitution patterns.

“You’ll have an assistant coach on the bench that’s going to be looking at the game, the video, everything else, and you’re going to know exactly at the end of the game that the opposing team is going to go to this player 82 percent of the time for that shot. Let’s defend it,” Stern said.

Knowing that information, teams can substitute in the defender most capable on that side of the floor or in that kind of situation and hopefully have the most success making a stop on the play.

Theoretically, that’s how it would work, and the same ideas could be applied on the offensive end.

“The coach has to understand—and they will, because they’re smart and they’re adaptive—it’s one thing if a player shoots 50 percent, but if he shoots 60 percent on the left and 40 percent on the right, you better get him the ball on the left,” Stern said. “You can use the data to tell you that.”

Not all players obsess over this information; in fact, very few give it all that much consideration, especially when they’re on the floor moving a million miles a second and trying to survive against the biggest, strongest defenders on the planet. They’re not always thinking, “I need to get to that spot on the floor instead of that other spot on the floor,” particularly if the opening comes in just a split second and isn’t in the preferred region.

But teams are still figuring out how to use all this information, as Stern points out.

“If you want to have four trillion facts, you can go to NBA.com/stats, and the SAP HANA program will give you all those statistics. You’ve got the SportVU statistics. You’ve got a high-speed arena network that brings the video back from every arena for replay, but once it’s back for replay you can splice it, chop it, tweet it, you name it,” he said.

“The age of analytics is upon us, and we (the NBA) wanted to be ahead of it. That’s an example of things being available to us that weren’t available to us before. A decade ago we were primitive compared to where we are now, and in another decade I think we’ll see how primitive we are now. We’re so much further advanced. It’s amazing.”

As teams hire more and more people to read and figure out how to use this data, the game will change. Already GMs like Daryl Morey in Houston are purposefully going after certain types of players to play a certain type of game that takes advantage of teams that aren’t doing much with these stats. To a degree, it’s working, and it probably isn’t long before it’s working for 29 other teams, too.

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Nuggets, Analysis and Predictions for This Year’s All-Star Festivities

Bobby Krivitsky shares his analysis, noteworthy nuggets and predictions for this year’s All-Star festivities.

Bobby Krivitsky

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This year marks the 70th edition of the NBA All-Star Game, an event that began in 1951. Atlanta, for the third time and first since 2003, is set to host the festivities; one of the league’s more memorable All-Star games, the Eastern and Western All-Stars combined for more than 300 points as the East prevailed 155-145 in the lone double-overtime game in the contest’s history. Despite the awkward circumstances surrounding the event, here’s hoping the 2021 iteration can be just as eventful!

So, without further ado, here’s a primer on this year’s All-Star Sunday, featuring noteworthy nuggets, matchup analysis and predictions.

Slam Dunk Contest, 3-Point Shootout and Skills Challenge Predictions

Let’s start with the festivities taking place before and at halftime of the All-Star Game, beginning with the Skills Challenge. It’s always fun to pick a dark horse to win the obstacle-course competition that tests players’ dribbling, passing, agility and three-point skills — of the group, Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic and Robert Covington (the lone non-All-Star participant) of the Portland Trail Blazers best fit that description.

But who has the best chance to come away with the award? It would seem Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks’ wunderkind, would be best suited to take home the hardware versus the field.

Later, the Three-Point Contest is expected to be a flurry. Among the participants is a former champion: Stephen Curry, who won the contest back in 2015. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Boston Celtics’ two young stars, are entrants this year, as is Donovan Mitchell, who’s shooting a career-high 38.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. With Devin Booker, another former champion, expected to miss the contest due to a left knee sprain, Mike Conley has been tabbed to replace him. In a crowded field, Curry, inarguably the greatest shooter the game has ever seen, is deservedly the favorite. That said, this writer is backing first-time All-Star Zach LaVine, who’s shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from three — the highest mark among this season’s participants — on well over eight attempts per game.

For the Slam Dunk Contest, which is set to take place during half time of the main event, the three participants are all taking part in the event for the first time. New York Knicks’ rookie Obi Toppin evokes comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire, thanks in large part to leaping off two feet to throw down the thunderous dunks when he rolls to the rim after setting a screen.

There’s a difference, however, between being a powerful in-game dunker and one whose pageantry can captivate the audience and earn the top spot in the competition. 

Trail Blazers’ guard Anfernee Simons stands at six-foot-three, making him the shortest participant in this year’s contest — some might argue that an advantage, given the added excitement of jams from smaller entrants. That said, Indiana Pacers rookie Cassius Stanley should be considered the favorite; Stanley registered a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches at the 2020 NBA Draft Combine, tied for the third-highest mark since 2000. And, at six-foot-five, the elevation he gets on his dunks will still stand out – case and point:

 

Noteworthy Nuggets

  • The Phoenix Suns are the fourth franchise Chris Paul has been named an All-Star for; the only other NBA players to accomplish that feat are Moses Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. 
  • LeBron James is making his 17th All-Star Game appearance, the third-most behind Kobe Bryant (18) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (19). Odds are, three years from now, there will be a new record holder.
  • At 20-years-old, Zion Williamson will become the fourth-youngest player in league history to not only participate, but start in an All-Star Game. Bryant, James and Magic Johnson are the only players who took part in an All-Star Game at a younger age.
  • LeBron wisely chose Giannis Antetokounmpo with the first pick in this year’s All-Star draft. The two-time league MVP has the highest scoring average in All-Star Game history, producing 27.3 points per game over his first four appearances. By the way, LeBron’s 385 points are the most in the event’s history.
  • A record six European players got selected to this year’s All-Star Game: Antetokounmpo (Greece), Doncic (Slovenia), Rudy Gobert (France), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) and Nikola Vucevic (Montenegro).
  • There are a record nine international All-Stars, while five were voted starters, also a first: Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Gobert, Jokic, Sabonis, Vucevic, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
  • The Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats are the two universities best represented at this year’s event, with three alums from both schools earning a spot in this year’s matchup. The former Blue Devils — Tatum, Irving and Williamson suit up for Team Durant along with former Wildcat Julius Randle. Booker and Anthony Davis, the other Kentucky products, are both out due to injury. Six All-Stars — Curry, Sabonis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Damian Lillard — did not play at a Power Five school.

Matchup Analysis

Unfortunately, Embiid and Simmons join Davis and Booker, though the Philadelphia 76ers duo is out due to contact tracing, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Their health — and the health of the greater All-Star group — is what matters most. But how could their absence affect the game?

On the surface, it’s a devastating blow for Team Durant, who will now play without their starting center and defensive anchor. Expect Team Durant to experiment with units exclusively composed of guards and wings. Expect Williamson, who was moved into the starting group in Embiid’s absence, to play heavy minutes at center, too. On offense, expect Leonard, Irving, Bradley Beal, James Harden and Donovan Mitchell to shoulder the load.

As for Team LeBron, expect more of a group attack. James’ group is made up of the NBA’s elite facilitators — Doncic, Jokic, Paul, etc. — and should be able to easily find the open man for the easy basket. Further, James snagged some of the league’s best from distance, including Curry, Lillard and George. Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, is a matchup nightmare himself; expect Team Durant to have their hands full with him.

Team LeBron projects to be more cohesive and dynamic than Team Durant, which is why they should be considered the favorite.

The Return of the Elam Ending 

Last year’s festivities sparked a new trend where the fourth quarter is untimed and, in honor of Kobe Bryant, 24 points are added to the leading team’s total after three quarters to establish a target score. It made for a thrilling final frame and, to little surprise, the Elam Ending is back this season.

Nick Elam created the alternate ending in 2007; the idea was born from a determination to see more action at the end of games rather than the trailing team fouling to extend the contest, the leader stalling to protect a lead and or players launching low-quality shots out of desperation.

Who Wins the Game? MVP?

LeBron James is 3-0 since the NBA switched formats to have the two All-Star captains draft their rosters. Sizing up this year’s respective rosters, he seems poised to earn his fourth-straight victory.

James has put together what should be considered one of the greatest passing teams in the event’s history; he’s flanked by Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Chris Paul. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo James’ first pick, has the highest scoring average in the history of the All-Star game: 27.3 points per game. Adding to his team’s dynamic composition is a bevy of lethal three-point shooters such as Curry, Lillard and Doncic. When it’s time for the final frame and the intensity ramps up, Team LeBron would seem able to get a bucket by any means, a fact that should easily position them to emerge the victor.

As for All-Star MVP, James taking over in the game’s final stages is a distinct possibility. The same could be said for Antetokounmpo, who has yet to earn the award in his five appearances. Doncic, dazzling with his passing and long-range prowess, or Jokic, delivering dimes with surgeon-like precision and scoring from all levels of the floor, could also come up big and earn the honor. 

That said, the prediction here is a hot shooting performance from Curry should earn him the award for the first time in his career, while also leading Team LeBron to the win.

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NBA Daily: Sixth Man of the Year Watch — March 6

With the All-Star break upon us, the Sixth Man of the Year award would appear to have a heavy favorite. Ariel Pacheco examines.

Ariel Pacheco

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With the All-Star break upon us, it’s a good time to take a look at the candidates for Sixth Man of the Year. In comparison to other award races, the race for the Sixth Man is a lot more clear-cut in terms of the favorite and their competitors. 

There are certainly plenty of players that are having great seasons off the bench but, due to a variety of reasons, are out of contention for the award. Still, their play is deserving of recognition: Terrence Ross is averaging 15.5 points per game for an Orlando Magic team that has fallen out of playoff contention due to terrible injury luck. Montrezl Harrell, last year’s winner, has seen his numbers dip significantly with the Los Angeles Lakers this season — he’s still productive, but his 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game just won’t cut it this season. Tyrese Haliburton has been a surprise, but the rookie and his 13.2 points, 5.4 assists and 43.3 three-point percentage off the bench has been a bright spot for an otherwise bad Sacramento Kings squad.

That said, while they’ve performed well, none of those players — and many others — have a real chance to compete for the award. In fact, barring a major mixup in the season’s second half, the race to the award might come down to just three individuals.

3. Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of what is currently the longest losing streak by any team this season. They’ve lost 13 in a row and have completely fallen out of the playoff picture. Houston’s poor record hurts Gordon’s case, but the 32-year-old is still putting up big numbers and, despite a hefty salary over the next few seasons, may even be a guy teams look to add at the trade deadline.

Gordon is averaging 17.8 points per game, the second-most by any bench player this season. He hasn’t been as consistent from beyond the three-point line as in years past, or when he won the award back in 2017, but Gordon’s still more than capable from distance and has been one of the league’s best at attacking the rim. Gordon has also provided some excellent on-ball defense.

Gordon has become a perennial candidate for the award — and for good reason. Still, at this point, it’s hard to justify him over the other two candidates in these rankings.

2. Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

The opposite of a household name prior to the 2020-21 season, Boucher has burst onto the scene and been a revelation for the Toronto Raptors. His play has been a needed spark for a team that struggled mightily out of the gate but has since turned their season around. So far this season, Boucher has, by far, been Toronto’s most consistent and important big — and he’s been so despite the fact that he plays just 23.8 minutes per game.

Averaging 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, Boucher has slid nicely into a role similar to what Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol fuflilled a season ago. And, despite a janky-jumper, Boucher has made his presence felt on the outside, hitting 44.5 percent of his 3.8 three-point attempts per game and clearing major space down low for Toronto’s offense.

In almost any other season, Boucher would have a strong case for the top spot on this list. But, as it stands, may not even garner any first place votes for the 2020-21 iteration of the award.

1. Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

Because Jordan Clarkson has just been that good.

This year’s runaway favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year award, there just aren’t many arguments that stand up to what Clarkson’s been able to do this season. He’s scoring the most of any candidate and doing so on great efficiency. Further, he’s proven the offensive fulcrum for the bench of the best team in the NBA.

Clarkson is averaging 17.9 points with a true shooting percetnage of 58.1 percent. He’s been consistent yet forceful offensive punch for the Jazz and their second unit, scoring in double digits in all but one of Utah’s games this season, including a 40-point outburst agaisnt the Philadelphia 76ers’ top-tier defense and 10 games with 20 or more. While All-Stars Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley deserve a lion’s share of the credit for the team’s success this season, Clarkson has also played an integral role.

Were the vote cast today, Clarkson’s selection for the Sixth Man of the Year award would likely be unanimous — again, he’s been that good. Utah recently gave him a four-year, $52 million deal and, if Clarkson can continue to play at this level, he’ll prove that deal a steal for the Jazz in short order.

For now, this is where the race to the Sixth Man of the Year award stands — but anything could happen in the second half of the season. With that in mind, keep on the lookout for Basketball Insiders’ next peek at the race.

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NBA Daily: Washington’s Positionless Rebuild

Drew Maresca explains why the Washington Wizards’ are closer to legitimacy than you might think

Drew Maresca

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Upon first glance, the Washington Wizards look like an absolute train wreck. They traded away a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick to swap out John Wall for Russell Westbrook – whose contract will haunt them through the end of 2022-23 – and they are on the verge of chasing away their 27-year-old, thirty-point per game scoring guard, Bradley Beal. So insert your “Washington can’t get their stuff together” comment here while you can, because the opportunity won’t be here for long.

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, it’s worth acknowledging that the Wizards have, in fact, botched the opportunity to build a winner around Beal thus far. But, when John Wall opted to have heal surgery and subsequently ruptured his Achilles, the door shut on that option, anyway.

There is an obvious silver lining – Beal is signed through the end of next season with a player option for 2022-23. Given what the Milwaukee Bucks gave up for Jrue Holiday last offseason, one could assume that the Wizards would get more than enough to jump-start a rebuild in exchange for Beal.

But a look closer at Washington’s roster would reveal they’ve quietly laid a foundation for the future. Specifically, the Wizards’ last two lottery picks, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, embody position-less basketball, as versatile, highly skilled players who can be plugged into almost any lineup. Both were recently named to the Rising Star challenge — although it won’t be played due to inherent limitations in the arrangement of the 2021 All-Star Weekend, NBA coaches clearly agree. Sure, there’s international appeal given Hachimura’s Japanese background and Avdija’s Israeli heritage, which one could surmise was a major motivator in naming one or both to the team, but coaches aren’t known for playing politics.

So let’s take a closer look at the young Wizards hoping to lead Washington into the future.

Avdija is a top-flight, Israeli prospect who played on for EuroLeauge’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv – alongside former pros Amare Stoudemire and Omri Casspi – as a teenager for the past two seasons. He entered the NBA as a highly-touted playmaker, capable of playing and defending multiple positions. Somewhat surprisingly, Avdija fell to the Wizards with the ninth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, as he was rated as the fourth-best prospect by the Wizards’ front office prior to the draft, according to sources.

The comparisons between Avdija and Luka Doncic were inevitable, as both are big, point forward types with a flair for the dramatic. That put obvious pressure on the young forward and, while he’s struggled for much of his rookie season – Avdija is averaging just 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while connecting on 35.6% of his three-point attempts – his ceiling is obviously sky-high. He’s shown flashes of his greatness, like in a game in early March in which he recorded 10 points, 7 rebounds; or an early January game in which he collected 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Further, no one should be discouraged by Avdija’s struggles. First, he shot just 27.7% on three-point attempts last season in the EuroLeague – so his three-point percentage this season should come as a huge relief. Further, Avdija is averaging just 21.4 minutes per game, often deferring to Beal and Westbrook (and, to a lesser degree, Hachimura and Thomas Bryant). So, as much as everyone wanted him to be the next Doncic, the opportunity simply hasn’t been there.

But the potential is.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks explained some of what’s went wrong for Avdija’s thus far: “It’s normal to have some good moments and some tough moments. Every player, every single player in this league. I’m sure Michael [Jordan] had a couple of bad games in his rookie year. Every player. Russell [Westbrook], I coached him his rookie year. He’s had a handful.”

“Deni’s gonna be a good player,” Brooks continued. “For all the rookies in the league, it’s never happened where you had no Summer League, really no training camp and then with the safety protocol, he missed three weeks in the middle of the season. That’s hard to overcome.”

To Brooks’ point, the lack of preparation has definitely made the transition for Avdija even harder. What’s more, it’s not just Avdija who’s struggled; Obi Toppin (New York) and Devin Vassell (San Antonio), two of the more refined prospects, have also struggled to get carve out a consistent role.

Further, Avdija isn’t the first lanky foreigner who needed more than a third of a season to acclimate to the NBA; Dirk Nowitzki averaged just 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes per game as a rookie; Manu Ginobili averaged just 7.6 points in 20.7 minutes per game; Danilo Gallinari averaged just 6.1 points in 14.6 minutes per game. The list goes on.

Once he gets an actual opportunity, Avdija’s bandwagon should fill up quickly.

If Avdija is Washington’s future facilitator, then Hachimura is its finisher. And, while questions plague Avdija’s performance, Hachimura is being praised for his.

To be fair, Hachimura is farther along in his development, with one NBA season already under his belt (and three years at Gonzaga). Hachimura, already 23, is a bit more refined and it shows in his output: 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists this season.

That said, a closer look at Hachimura’s play shows room for improvement – with a below league-average 12.9 PER and a 29.2% three-point percentage serving as his most glaring weaknesses. But, like with Avdija, the upside is clear as day. We’re talking about a second-year player who scored 15 or more points 11 times so far this season – just 26 games. He’s strong, polished and bouncier than advertised prior to the 2019 draft.

Further, a closer examination of his shooting numbers reveals that while his three-point shooting clearly needs work, his mid-range game is spot on. Hachimura is connecting on 41.2% of his shots from between 16 feet and the three-point arc – better than noted midrange expert Carmelo Anthony (37%) and just hair behind All-Star forward Jayson Tatum (42.9%).

But Hachimura’s offensive abilities have been known for what feels like forever, partially due to the ridiculously long 2019-20 season. What’s surprising, though, is how he’s continued to improve on the defensive end – so much so, in fact, that Brooks specifically called out his defensive development after a recent game.

But no one should be that surprised. Hachimura’s combination of speed and strength, along with his high motor, is tailor-made for defensive success. And, again, like Avdija, the 6-foot-8 Hachimura’s versatility is his major selling point. He boasts size, dexterity, touch and handle. And, while his skill set has become far more common in the NBA, plug-and-play guys of Hachimura’s build are still relatively rare. And, most importantly, they allow teams to get creative in roster construction, enabling the addition of players whose deficiencies could be covered up by players like Hachimura.

Ultimately, neither Avdija nor Hachimura is a guarantee. Both possess serious upside and could grow into perennial All-Stars, but neither is a sure thing. Their attitudes and approaches will be a major determining factor in their success, or lack thereof.

The Wizards could look very different as soon as next season. But, as of now, Washington looks ready to tackle its rebuild — and, between these two, they may already have a headstart.

Blink and you might just miss their entire rebuild.

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