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NBA Sunday: Paying Otto Porter

As the Washington Wizards have risen to the third-seed in the East, Otto Porter’s stock has risen.

Moke Hamilton

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The Washington Wizards have already proven themselves to be a dominant home team, but it’s their ability to win games away from the District of Columbia that may eventually help them become a contender in the increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.

That and the continued thriving of Otto Porter—whose improved play nicely coincides with his pending restricted free agency this coming summer—have seen the Wizards improbably rise back toward the top of the Eastern Conference.

Owners of the third seed and the lead in the Southwest Division, entering play on February 5, the Wizards have won five of their last seven roads games. Although they’re just 8-14 on the road as a result, that record is much better than the 3-12 record that they had turned in before the previous hot stretch.

Among the things that have changed have been Porter’s dependability. As he appears to have taken the step forward that many were expecting, the question that the Wizards must determine, in short order, is whether they are willing to heavily commit to him.

What we have seen in the Eastern Conference this season is that with one win streak or losing streak, we could see a team move up or down four spots. For that reason, at any given time, it can be difficult to truly measure where a team ranks.

For the Wizards, though, Porter is leaving little to question.

* * * * * *

With Tuesday night’s 117-101 win over the New York Knicks, the Wizards finished the month of January with a 12-3 record. They enter play on February 5 having won seven consecutive contests and 14 of their last 16 games. The questions as to whether or not John Wall and Bradley Beal can be effective together or whether Otto Porter or Markieff Morris can be impactful players on an everyday basis are a distant memory. At least for now.

LeBron James may be in the midst of an unprecedented run as the conference’s dominant force, but even he has realized that his reign atop won’t last forever. That’s why he’s been so vocal about his desire for the Cavaliers to address their point guard situation. James is currently playing in his 14th season and has seen both his minutes and playmaking responsibilities trend upward this season. Although still clearly the cream of the East, it’s fair to wonder not only how much longer the Cavaliers will dominate, but which teams will have an opportunity to eventually knock them off of their perch.

Along with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Wizards appear to be a team worth mentioning.

Despite turning in a rather disappointing 41-41 record last season (and missing the playoffs), the Wizards have continued to be a highly-regarded team that most believed to be capable of accomplishing greatly. Now that it is known that they are at least capable of playing at a consistently high level, the question as to what they are still missing becomes the most obvious inquiry.

Recently, the Wizards have been limited by injuries, especially on the part of Bradley Beal. Having missed a combined total of 46 games over the course of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, the first and most obvious improvement for the Wizards has been the relative health of Beal. He’s missed just four games this season, and the Wizards have lost three of those four contests.

What makes the Wizards an interesting case, however, is the fact that they are a team with young pieces and long-term contracts. And while it’s nice to have players whose better days are ahead, there is also a lot of value in maintaining flexibility. The Wizards currently have $103 million in salary commitments this season and have about $97 million on their books for the 2017-18 season. That $97 million, however, doesn’t include salaries for Porter or Trey Burke, both of whom will hit free agency this summer.

Wall, Beal, Markieff Morris, Ian Mahinmi, Marcin Gortat and Andrew Nicholson each have contracts that run through at least the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, with Beal actually not ending until after the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Those six core players represent about $320 million in salary commitments and re-signing Porter at his market rate this summer will only add to the ledger in D.C.

In some regards, though, the Wizards appear to be a success story. Gone are the days where the public wondered whether Wall was mature enough to be a top-flight point guard at the NBA level or whether Beal could become the dynamic scorer many believed. Along with Porter, with Kelly Oubre, Jr. also having emerged as an impactful player for the club, the Wizards are a team that can fairly boast an organic growth process. In that regard, re-signing Porter for a sum of $20 million per year seems like an easy call to make. Still, doing so would fully commit the team to a core of players that many probably wouldn’t think capable of supplanting the Cavaliers as the top team in the conference over the next few years.

The alternative, however, flies in the face of the idea of building and competing at the NBA level. Having surprisingly emerged as the NBA’s three-point percentage leader this season, Porter has shown a fairly smooth all-around game that many around the league believe could command maximum money this offseason. One scout recently told Basketball Insiders that Porter had the makings of being a go-to guy, but wasn’t getting that type of opportunity because of the other mouths that need to be fed on the Wizards. Think James Harden.

With about half of the NBA’s teams capable of clearing $30 million under the cap this coming summer, there are going to be several teams that will have the ability to bid for Porter’s services. His well-timed performance this season and the Wizards having already made huge commitments to the other auxiliary pieces on their roster make for an interesting dilemma.

Re-signing Porter at $20 million or more per year would be an interesting call to make mainly because he would be paid to remain the third, perhaps even fourth option on the offensive end. And while all NBA teams will be required to spend upwards of $90 million on their payrolls, it is difficult to imagine the Wizards paying Porter and still managing to avoid being luxury tax payers.

* * * * * *

The last time Porter spoke with Basketball Insiders was at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. He had just turned in an 18-point effort and drilled four of his five three-point attempts. Porter recalled his year of tutelage under Paul Pierce and remained steadfast in his belief that he would be granted the opportunity to prove that he could be a difference maker.

He’s seized it fully. And this summer, either by the Wizards or another team, he will be paid like it.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies

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No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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