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NBA Rookie Extensions: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is reportedly seeking a maximum extension. Does he have the leverage to get it?

Nate Duncan

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The 2014 rookie-extension class is one of the most interesting in several years due to the high number of quality players entering their fourth seasons. As most readers likely know by now, teams have until October 31 to reach extensions with first-rounders entering their fourth season or the players become restricted free agents next summer. This year, many of these players fall into the fascinating middle ground between total busts and obvious max outs, and their negotiations are further complicated by the unknown effect of the league’s recently-announced new TV deal.*

*Teams and agents may also be waiting for additional clarity as the league and union discuss how to avoid too much shock to the system from the new money.

Due to the rising cap, it is useful to think of new deals in percentage terms. For example, a $10 million contract under the $58.044 million cap in 2012-13 was 17.2 percent of the cap. For the 2016-17 season, assuming the cap is $80 million for that year, an equivalent contract would be $13.8 million.

Klay Thompson

Age: 24 (February 8th, 1990)

Draft Position: 11th

2013-14 PER: 14.32

2013-14 ORPM: 2.20

2013-14 DRPM:-0.17

2015-16 Cap Hold: $7,689,700

Thompson’s negotiations have some similarities to Kawhi Leonard’s, which we covered in this space last week.  With the maximum deals in restricted free agency for Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons this year, the market is seemingly set for Thompson next summer if he is not extended.  Most would probably consider Thompson the superior player to Hayward or Parsons due to his deadeye shooting and superior defense. While there is a reasonable argument that Thompson is not worth a maximum extension in a vacuum, the market clearly thinks that he is.  Moreover, both sides know that Warriors have essentially committed to him and have no way to replace him since they will very likely be capped out. The Warriors famously retained Thompson rather than trade him for Kevin Love, and his star continued to rise with an outstanding performance at the World Cup.

Thus Thompson is a cut above Hayward and Parsons on the market.  That may sound like one of them good problems, but in reality it may make gleaning an offer more difficult since competing teams know there is almost no chance the deal will not be matched.  In fact, the Warriors may welcome a traditional four-year max offer sheet because it would limit the contract to only 4.5% annual raises.  Throw in the fact that the Warriors could avoid having to take on the risk of an injury or failure to improve this season, and they would seem to have little motivation to extend Thompson early unless he offers them a bit of a discount.

Like most restricted free agents, Thompson has little leverage to force a maximum extension now.  Clearly a five-year designated player deal has not yet been offered, as he would take that in a second.*  One would imagine he’d have bitten on a four-year maximum deal as well.  Without such an offer Bill Duffy, Thompson’s agent, has been pulling out as many arguments as he can. Marc Stein has already reported that Thompson could sign a Parsons style three-year offer sheet with a third-year player option.  Such a pact would raise the unpalatable prospect of Thompson and Stephen Curry reaching free agency simultaneously in the summer of 2017.  But again it is unclear if any team would bother with such an offer knowing Golden State would surely match.  Nevertheless, this is a fear for Golden State– Parsons, Dan Fegan and Mark Cuban did all restricted free agents a huge favor by pioneering that sort of deal as a way to provide at least some modicum of leverage.

*The Derrick Rose rule, which came into play for the Paul George and Kyrie Irving extensions, is not an issue here.  Recall that the Rose rule allows an extendee to receive a larger maximum extension if he is voted in as an All-Star starter twice, makes All-NBA twice or is named MVP once prior to the extension kicking in.  Thompson could only possibly meet the criteria as MVP this year, and that’s not happening.

Threatening to take the qualifying offer next summer is another potential way to create leverage.  But it is an idle threat unless Thompson truly has reservations about playing for Golden State long-term.  Playing through his fifth year without an extension just doesn’t make sense otherwise, considering Thompson would be taking on two years’ worth of risk of performance decline or injury while sacrificing an eight-figure salary in the fifth year for the piddling qualifying offer.

Aside from the risk of a Parsons-style offer, Thompson is just going to be dependent upon the Warriors’ largesse if he wants a maximum extension.  While extending Thompson now and keeping him happy may have some nebulous benefits in eliminating distractions, the Warriors’ cap and tax situation makes them more likely to hold out than people might think.

If Thompson were given a maximum extension now, the Warriors would be right at the luxury tax next summer before accounting for key restricted free agent Draymond Green’s new contract.  Green is an extremely underrated contributor as a burgeoning stretch four with a nice passing eye and the ability to guard all five positions in a pinch.  With the amount of cap room around the league and the cap set to explode in 2016, Green could receive an offer starting as high as $8 million per year in restricted free agency.  If the Warriors max out Thompson and retain Green on such a deal, they would be deep into the luxury tax.

KlayDrayExt Tax Payment

That is over $14 million in luxury tax payments for 2015-16 assuming a $67 million cap, which is the league’s most recent estimate.  Sure the tax may not be so bad for the Warriors; the tax level could rise more than projected, Green may not cost as much, salaries could be dumped.  But keep in mind that is before the Warriors make any additions via the tax-payer mid-level exception or veterans’ minimum, or address restricted free agent Ognjen Kuzmic. Once they exceed $10 million over the tax, the Warriors would be paying an additional $2.50 per every $1.00 of salary added.  Moreover, as a tax team the Warriors could not engage in any sign-and-trades.  Warriors’ ownership has never completely ruled out paying the tax, but $14 million or more might be a lot to swallow even with the potential for a new TV deal after the 2014-15 season.*

*As noted in July, the tax situation was another great reason to trade Thompson and David Lee for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin–they would have reduced the 2015-16 bill if Love re-signed.

What’s worse, re-signing Thompson and Green might make it difficult to add to the team even in the vaunted summer of 2016.  That year, David Lee comes off the books and the cap should rise to at least $80 million.  But the Warriors would be scheduled for at least $69 million in salaries committed, plus cap holds, another first-rounder, and anyone signed in the 2015 offseason.  With Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Lee aging quickly, the Warriors will want to add another major player, likely a power forward.  It seems unlikely they will have the space to do so unless the cap goes up all at once into the high $80 millions with no “smoothing.”   If it becomes clear after this year that the current core cannot compete for a championship, the Warriors will have few mechanisms to improve until the summer of 2017.  And if the Warriors have stagnated by then, the possibility of Curry leaving for a potentially better team becomes all too real.

All of this means that every penny will count for the Warriors with Thompson’s extension.  If they can get him under contract for even just $2 million less each year or get lower annual raises by matching a contract in restricted free agency, that could be the difference in adding pieces or avoiding the tax later on.  They have little impetus to agree to an extension now without some concessions by their star shooting guard.

Like the Spurs with Leonard, an even bigger reason for the Warriors to wait is Thompson’s and Green’s relatively small cap holds in the summer of 2015.  The Warriors are not currently slated to have any cap room next summer even without new contracts for those two, but that could change if management gets aggressive.  Golden State could potentially bribe a team like the Sixers, Magic or Jazz to take Lee and Shaun Livingston, perhaps by including Harrison Barnes and future picks. Lee’s $16 million per season expires in 2016, and Livingston is only $3 million guaranteed for 2017.  The going rate in the past has been a first-rounder per $10 million in salary, but as more teams amass cap room perhaps that price will go down a bit.  If the Warriors jettison Lee, Livingston and Barnes next summer, they would have near maximum cap space–if they do not extend Thompson and can avoid immediate offer sheets to him and Green.

GSW LeeLivingston Trade

*Note that cap holds for Green, Thompson, and Kuzmic are in green.

This amount could change depending on the ultimate cap level, the specific moves made, whether Nemanja Nedovic’s third-year option is exercised and a host of other factors.  But the Warriors can get to the point where they can make an offer to pretty much any major free agent next summer–if they are willing to pay the heavy price to excise salary.  Punting more draft assets is certainly a terrifying prospect for an organization that has already surrendered 2014 and 2017 first-rounders to the Utah Jazz to clear space for Andre Iguodala.  But if management believes it can make a splash in 2015 free agency, when power forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge* or Paul Millsap (both excellent fits stylistically) might be available, they may want to pull the trigger.  Other big man free agents could include Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe, David West, Thaddeus Young, Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler.  Making a move may prove necessary if Lee declines precipitously or the current group does not appear to be a true contender.

*Aldridge has been vocal about staying in Portland after last year’s surprise season.  But it’s worth remembering he was unhappy in bleaker times, and the rules require him to actually become a free agent to get the most money and years on his next contract.  Portland was unable to really improve this offseason, and are forecast for a regression by many this year, including this writer.  If Portland misses the playoffs or peters out as a low seed, Aldridge could revisit the idea of leaving.

Signing a player like Millsap or Aldridge would probably be worth giving up draft assets and Barnes if the right deal can be found.  The Warriors would be fairly thin, with only their 2015 first-rounder, Green, Festus Ezeli, whomever they can sign with the $2.8 million Room Exception and minimum guys on the bench.  But the top-end talent would be tremendous.

Nevertheless, this scenario is relatively unlikely despite the Warriors’ willingness to roll the dice by offloading salary with draft assets in the past.  But maintaining flexibility for next summer is another motive to wait on an extension.  Unless Thompson is willing to move off his demand for a maximum salary, the only real incentive the Warriors have to acquiesce now is the threat of a Parsons-style offer sheet that may not actually be forthcoming from another team.  It remains to be seen whether that will be enough.

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney. He writes regular features for Basketball Insiders and chats weekly at 11 Eastern on Tuesdays.

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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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