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NBA PM: Wizards’ Porter Ready to Contribute

After a disappointing rookie season, Wizards small forward Otto Porter is determined to bounce back and contribute.

Alex Kennedy



Wizards’ Porter Ready to Make an Impact

Expectations were high for Otto Porter when he entered the NBA last season after being selected with the third overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. After a successful two-year collegiate career at Georgetown, Porter was seen as the Wizards’ long-term solution at small forward. At last year’s media day, Porter was posing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal in pictures and it seemed like Washington had a trio of potential stars to serve as the cornerstones of their franchise moving forward.

However, Porter’s rookie season didn’t go as planned. He suffered a hip injury and hamstring injury, and he didn’t make his professional debut until December. Then, once he did get on the court, he was limited physically and behind the curve since he missed summer league and training camp. His transition to the NBA was rough, and he ultimately played in just 37 games while averaging 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds.

Now, Porter is determined to bounce back and have a much more successful sophomore campaign. This was the first offseason in which he was able to work out and play in summer league, which is always important for young players. During summer league Porter was impressive, averaging 19 points and 5.8 rebounds. He was often Washington’s best player on the floor, and he scored 25 or more points in two of the six games.

“I’m thankful to be playing at 100 percent and getting better,” Porter said. “I’m trying to play hard each and every time I step onto the court and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”

Porter has also been very effective in Washington’s preseason games. Through six games, Porter has averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He looks much better than he did last season, and it seems like he could actually emerge as a contributor for Washington this year. Last week, in the Wizards’ exhibition game against Maccabi Haifa, Porter totaled 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block. Porter played the most minutes of anyone on the team and was Washington’s leading scorer.

Porter’s teammates have been impressed with his growth as a player. It’s easy to forget that Porter is just 21 years old so he still has a lot of room to grow and it’s far too early to write him off as an NBA player.

“He’s day and night,” Kevin Seraphin said of Porter’s improvement. “I told him that yesterday. I’m proud of him. He’s really stepped up. He has more responsibility this season. He’s really stepped up right now. He’s more confident in everything. I love his game.”

His teammates have also noticed that he’s much stronger this season. That’s because Porter spent much of the summer with the team’s strength and conditioning staff, determined to bulk up and get stronger.

With Trevor Ariza leaving Washington this past summer via free agency, Porter could be called upon sooner than later to be the answer at small forward. Over the offseason, the Wizards signed Paul Pierce to a two-year deal (with a player option in year two), but he’s clearly just a short-term fix rather than a long-term solution since this very well could be the 37-year-old’s final contract.

Porter knows that he must continue to improve so that he’s ready when it’s time for his role to expand.

“Each game I try and improve on something,” Porter said. “It’s a process. Each game I continue to try and attack and find my shots and take them. It’s something I look to do each game.”

Head coach Randy Wittman has also experimented with Porter at shooting guard. With Beal sidelined for the near future due to a broken wrist, Porter could help fill the hole at two-guard if he’s able to successfully transition to the new position. Porter has been spending time at two-guard during practices and reports have indicated that he may start a game at shooting guard at some point.

Regardless of what position he’s playing, it seems that Porter could have a much bigger impact this season than he did last year in Washington. Now that he’s at full strength and no longer playing catch up, Porter is ready to show what he can do and finally start living up to the lofty expectations that were set for him when his name was called third overall.

Caldwell-Pope May Be Poised for Breakout Year

Detroit Pistons shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope seems poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. After averaging 5.9 points per game during the 2013-14 season, his production should increase under new head coach Stan Van Gundy, who has been very impressed with the 21-year-old.

“I think he’s playing really well, he plays really hard all the time,” Van Gundy said of Caldwell-Pope. “He wants to get better. He’s a very committed guy and you know we have them, in our work and in our lives, guys you see and they kick up your own energy. He’s like that for our coaching staff. You walk in the gym and he’s upbeat and ready to go. He works hard, he brings an energy every day. Those are the guys you want in your organization and build good teams around.”

Caldwell-Pope turned heads during the Orlando Summer League, when he averaged a tournament-high 24 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals. His most impressive outing was a 30-point, 12-rebound performance against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Then, in Detroit’s first two preseason games, Caldwell-Pope continued to play well. He averaged 19 points and shot 54.2 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range.

“I’m very comfortable,” Caldwell-Pope said. “My first year was just kind of up and down, which is what rookies go through, but I just feel more comfortable with my game now. My confidence was always up, but now I’m just to the level that I’m feeling more comfortable playing and shooting.”

In the third preseason game, Caldwell-Pope had totaled 12 points when he went down with a knee strain. He has missed all of Detroit’s preseason games since suffering the injury, but he’s expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

He should see big minutes with Jodie Meeks sidelined for two months due to a stress reaction in his lower back and Will Bynum recently traded to the Boston Celtics. Caldwell-Pope spent the offseason working on his ball-handling and becoming more consistent, so he feels he’s ready for an expanded role if his number is called.

“Every day, we’re just going to compete,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re all looking for spots and minutes; we’re just going to compete. Whatever happens, happens. We just have to continue to work together as a team.”

Caldwell-Pope likes the makeup of the team and how the group has come together, and he is determined to do whatever he can to help Detroit improve on last year’s 29-53 record.

“If you look up and down [the roster] we’ve got good players, good teammates,” Caldwell-Pope said. “It’s all good in the locker room, and now we’re just coming together and just building chemistry. I’m just all about the team, man. It’s all about coming together and getting wins.”

Caldwell-Pope has enjoyed playing for Van Gundy and likes the head coach’s style of play.

“It’s great,” Caldwell-Pope said of Van Gundy’s system. “I mean, the way he’s spacing the floor and the offense we’re running, you get wide open shots and you just have to knock it down. … He’s brought a lot. He’s made some good changes.”

Many Pistons fans are excited to watch the development of the second-year shooting guard who seems to have a high ceiling, but he’s focused on the present rather than worrying about his potential.

“I’m really not worrying about if I can be an All-Star or not,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I mean, if I do [eventually become an All-Star], that’s great, but I’m just trying to continue with my career and keep playing because I love to play.”

This could be a huge season for Caldwell-Pope; don’t be surprised if he becomes an important contributor for the Pistons very soon.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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NBA Daily: Are The Kings Destined For The Playoffs?

As the season starts up again after the All-Star Break, Jordan Hicks looks into the Sacramento Kings and what it will take for them to end their playoff drought.

Jordan Hicks



Sacramento Kings fans should be incredibly happy regardless of how this season ends.

For the first time in what seems like forever they have a promising young team that is not only winning games, but maintaining a certain form of consistency doing so. With the foundation of youthful stars like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Marvin Bagley III, how can Kings faithful not be hyper-optimistic?

The Kings are geared for success over the course of the next few years, but could their time come sooner than that? Do they actually have a shot at making the playoffs this season? The trade deadline acquisitions of Harrison Barnes and Alec Burks, two vets that can make an instant impact, make it seem like they believe their time is now.

Breaking things down, the question becomes – what actually needs to happen for the Kings to make the playoffs this season? The simple answer is to win games.

What have they been doing thus far to put more ticks in the W column? Shooting the three efficiently jumps out. They are currently fourth in the league in three-point percentage at 37.7 percent. While this number is oddly similar to last season’s percentage, they are shooting about seven more threes per game.

Sacramento is also playing incredibly quick basketball. They are second in the league in pace (the number of possessions per 48 minutes). Some could argue that this doesn’t always translate into a positive outcome, but for Sacramento it does. They are leading the NBA in fastbreak points at 21.7 points per game and are sixth in the league at points in the paint. Their defense is translating into offense as well, as they are second in the league at points off turnovers.

While their strengths are definitely elite, they clearly have weaknesses, too. They sit in 18th for both offensive and defensive rating, good for a -1.2 net rating. They are an abysmal 28th in free throw shooting.

Apart from Willie Cauley-Stein – who likely isn’t a major part of their future – they lack an elite rim protector. This leaves their defense prone to giving up more points in the paint. They are currently 26th in the league at opponent points in the paint. The lack of rim protection clearly correlates with their inability to grab defensive boards. They are tied for last in the league at opponent second-chance points.

One would assume that if the Kings simply tighten up their defensive focus that they would be able to close out strong and make the playoffs. They are currently ninth in the West, only one-and-a-half games behind the Clippers who just traded away their best player in Tobias Harris and two-and-a-half games behind the Spurs, who are somehow putting together a strong season despite losing Kawhi Leonard via trade and Dejounte Murray to injury.

As the season gets deeper, however, the Kings won’t be the only team tightening things up for a final playoff push. Every other team will likely be doing the same thing. While the Kings are just a small shot from the playoffs, both the Lakers and Timberwolves are nipping at their heels as well.

The Warriors, Nuggets and Thunder have done enough to separate themselves from the pack, to a degree at least. So that essentially leaves eight teams fighting for the remaining five slots. You can likely write off the Clippers, as they traded away their star player for future assets, and quite possibly the Timberwolves, as they may not have enough depth on their roster. This leaves the Kings and Lakers. If history has taught us anything, it’s that LeBron James likes to play in the postseason.

Sacramento has 24 games left to play this season. Their next two are at Oklahoma City and Minnesota. If they can somehow manage to squeak out one win in that stretch that will keep them above .500 and still fighting for a spot. After that stretch, 11 of their final 22 games are against teams projected to make the playoffs. Apart from two games against the Knicks, one against the Suns, and one against the Cavaliers, none of the remaining 11 games not against playoff teams will be “gimmes.”

Their final three are away against Utah, home against New Orleans and away against Portland. For sure they will be battling with two (and potentially three) of those teams for playoff positioning.

As far as the Lakers – who after their head-to-head win Thursday are a game behind Sacramento and two games out of the playoffs – their schedule isn’t much easier. 15 of their final 24 games are against projected playoff teams. That victory over Sacramento at Staples could actually end up being incredibly important for who makes the playoffs and who loses out.

Whether or not the Kings make the playoffs is anyone’s guess. If Fox and Hield play elite ball to close out the season, that will definitely increase their chances. Strong play from deadline acquisitions Burks and Barnes will also play a huge role in the Kings’ final push.

Like previously mentioned, Kings’ fans should be happy either way. This is the brightest the team’s future has been in well over a decade.

But the Kings likely won’t settle for “promising” or “up-and-coming.” They want success now, and making the playoffs will give them the reward that they’ve been working so hard for.

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How The NBA Became The Most Betting-Friendly League In American Sports

Basketball Insiders



The NBA has become synonymous with betting conversations during the Adam Silver era, with the league frequently being at the forefront of those discussions. Compared to the other professional sports leagues in the United States, the NBA has not only appeared to be the most progressive with regard to the topic, but it has also looked like the league that is the most likely to get further involved in the industry.

Of course, the league has placed a focus on sports betting, given that they have a vested interest in the continued legalization of that. They have mentioned that they would like a cut of NBA wagers placed, with the industry’s growth in the United States being something that the league could see improving the bottom-line.

Whether or not the NBA gets a piece of the action from a financial perspective, it is still surprising to see a major professional sports league in the United States willing to entertain the conversation at all. By comparison, the NFL has been largely afraid to discuss sports betting, while Major League Baseball has banned its all-time leading hitter for life for gambling-related offenses.

And it isn’t as if the NBA is only interested in gambling in the context of betting on NBA games. The league has relationships in the daily fantasy sports industry as well, with visibility for brands in that space seen in NBA arenas as well. And the NBA-subsidized WNBA is also a part of this betting-friendly basketball landscape, most notably in the form of a team named after a casino.

The Connecticut Sun is that team, as they play in the home of a popular casino in their area. Both the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury play in a venue named after a casino as well. And it is the casino industry that the NBA may conceivably expand into as their relationships in the betting industry appear to be growing in both quality and quantity. With the growth of online casinos, it isn’t impossible to envision the NBA encouraging its fans to compare the best casino bonuses to increase its market share in this growing industry.

Of course, with the betting renaissance that is going on in the United States at this time, the league is making sure that everyone knows that its integrity is not to be questioned. The league has made clear that they are going to ramp up the enforcement of its betting policies, to make sure that players aren’t compromising the game’s integrity. That move by the league is a smart one, as it makes sure that fans know that there is no reason to question the sport even if the league embraces betting.

The NBA is seeing progress across the sport, from its on-court evolution that prioritizes ball movement and long-range shooting, to its off-court stances on betting. Unlike the other major American sports, that willingness to evolve is part of what has caused the popularity of the NBA to skyrocket in recent years.

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NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca



Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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