Allow us to welcome this week’s special guest, Basketball Insiders’ own Alex Kennedy into the ‘Shop. Alex called his shot in advance and already let Lang know that he had better bring his A game, so let’s go ahead and strap Sir Managing Editor into the chair for this week’s discussion. We’ll be back later this week with another ‘Shop discussion on Saturday.
Jabari: Alex, thanks for joining the mix this week. Let’s go ahead and start off in Washington, because I’d love to get your opinion on why they continue to struggle and whether you think it will ultimately work out for John Wall as a Wizard? Scott Brooks was brought in specifically because of his experience with turning things around in Oklahoma City, but part of me wonders whether his star players will have quite as much patience with that process given they aren’t first- and second-year players as was the case when he took over the Thunder.
Alex: Thanks for having me, guys. After being on the editing side of these the last few weeks, I decided I wanted in.
The Wizards have been a huge disappointment for me early in the season. I really thought that the Scott Brooks hire would be great for them and they’d get back to looking like the team from two years ago that was so close to advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But after this start, I really wonder what is going on with this squad behind closed doors. I didn’t think much of the reports about John Wall and Bradley Beal having beef when they first emerged, but the more we see them struggle together and then seeing Wall making some comments about it on the record, it wouldn’t surprise me if things are pretty ugly behind the scenes. That’s where having Coach Brooks can help, because one thing he did really well in Oklahoma City was get everyone to buy in and create a family atmosphere as well as a winning culture. The question is, will he be attempting to create that environment with the team as currently constructed or do they make some kind of blockbuster trade?
Wall isn’t going anywhere. He’s a superstar on an excellent contract and you can build around him. Also, one thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is that he is friends with a TON of players. His relationship with Kevin Durant was well-documented, but what a lot of people don’t realize is he has A LOT of relationships like that with guys around the NBA (and in the college ranks). I used to do a ton of stories on top high school prospects and almost all of them would mention that they were friends with Wall or that he mentored them or that they viewed him like a big brother. And I’m not talking about this happening a couple times. It happened over and over and over. I’m calling it now: I don’t know who or when, but Wall will recruit at least one star to play with him before his career is over. He has the kind of friendships that lead to the formation of a super-team.
So, anyway, Wall isn’t going anywhere. But could the Wizards look to move Beal or Otto Porter or other key pieces? Absolutely. I’d be gauging interest in everyone but Wall and seeing what trade options are out there. Lang, what do you think? Do you think they should break up the core before the trade deadline in February?
Lang: Welcome to the Insider Shop, AK. Appreciate the visit. Before I get into the Wizards, let me go on record to say that you won’t be winning the Basketball Insiders’ Fantasy Football League. The trophy will be coming here to the ‘Shop. For the Hoop Freaks that don’t know, Alex is currently in first place in our league (yours truly is in second) with only one loss to date. When you get a chance on Twitter, ask Alex what team took away his 0. Ha.
Alex: Psh, it was a Week 1 loss and I’ve won 11 straight. I’m feeling good. Shout out to Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliot (it’s a two quarterback league). I’ll tweet out a picture of the trophy as soon as the season is over.
Lang: Back to the Wizards. No way they entertain trading John Wall, based solely on the strength of what Alex mentioned earlier: Elite player, reasonable contract and well connected/respected among his peers. That’s a trio of goodness right there.
But let me say this, playing Devil’s Advocate: That may be exactly WHY the Wizards should explore trading him. With all of those contacts, Wall hasn’t been able to lure any other elite guys into D.C. just yet. The Wizards’ roster is currently a collection of drafted players and band-aid type trade acquisitions. They’ve been unable to move the needle via free agency and if you look around the league, the contenders have been able to complement their drafts and trades with major free agency moves over the past few years. Let’s take a brief stroll through the major players…
Cleveland: LeBron James (2014)
Golden State: Kevin Durant (2016)
San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge (2015)
Heck, you can even throw in the Los Angeles Clippers’ retention of DeAndre Jordan last year as a major free agency win after they convinced him to leave Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks high and dry. So while I know the Wizards won’t entertain the thought, with a team this disappointing all options should be being seriously evaluated.
Jabari: I can see where both of you are coming from, but think it could be somewhere in the middle if I’m “in the room” in Washington. To Alex’s point about Wall being a top player (with league connections – I’m thinking Boogie, by the way), I agree that you can’t just let them get away without exhausting every single measure to make it work. I also agree with Lang in the sense that you also can’t be totally myopic and completely ignore the warning signs of a disgruntled employee that means so much to any potential success you may have as a franchise.
So, here’s where, as a franchise, you have to have real and honest conversations with Wall and find out where his head is at. If it is a relationship that can be salvaged, then obviously (like Alex mentioned) you do whatever it takes to continue building around him. Trouble is, unless he’s finally able to attract a buddy or two (BBN stand up), I think you have to seriously consider all options before the situation winds up spiraling to a point where you are painted into a corner.
Alex: I see what you guys are saying, but it’s so hard to land an elite, face-of-the-franchise talent in this league. Unless some team makes an amazing offer that Washington can’t pass up, I’m looking at mixing up the supporting cast and gauging interest in everyone else before I part ways with Wall.
Lang: Staying in the East is another situation that is rapidly developing: What in the hell is going on with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee? Here’s a guy who was considered one of the most sought after free agents in 2015. He turned down offers from the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks in order to join the youth movement in Milwaukee with Jason Kidd running the show from the sideline. But it hasn’t panned out – I mean, like, at all. He recently had a four-game stretch in which he played just 17 minutes – combined. Combined, I say. Oh, and this includes a DNP-CD. Greg is seemingly in his physical prime and Bucks need help on the interior. We’re talking about a 15/8 guys when given minutes. I’m wondering, what went wrong?
Jabari: The Greg Monroe situation is peculiar for sure. Makes me wonder if bringing him in was a management/ownership decision rather than one Kidd was in favor of? Obviously, that’s just me speculating, but it seems odd that he’s getting paid so well ($17 million this year, $17.9 million next) simply to wear a dark jersey in practice and get up the occasional tippy-toes dunk on a random fastbreak here and there. Part of it has to do with the fact that Milwaukee’s defense seemed to suffer when they added Monroe and Jabari Parker into that starting lineup.
Parker has actually improved as a defender as he’s added a bit more strength and agility, but Kidd’s reluctance to play Monroe does seem to still be related to that side of the court. So, Alex, do you see a realistic landing spot for Monroe if they were to seek a trading partner? Realizing he’s a “15/8ish” guy as Lang mentioned, part of me wonders if the league’s continued shift in style and tempo make Kidd look at Monroe’s potential production as sort of “empty numbers” since they would come at the expense of the defense and perhaps even the preferred flow of the offense.
Alex: I think you just hit the nail on the head, Jabari: The league is shifting away from big men like Monroe. Milwaukee was an elite defensive team the year before he arrived, and they just take a huge step back on that end when he plays. Not to mention, teams are also going away from back-to-the-basket bigs who can’t hit threes.
As far as his trade value, they have tried to move him and clearly don’t like any of the offers they’ve received. Monroe’s value has plummeted due to what’s happened in Milwaukee. It doesn’t help that, as Lang mentioned, his minutes and (as a result) his production are way down this season.
I will throw one potential destination out there: What about Washington? As we just talked about, this is a team that is struggling and may be looking to mix things up. Also, it’s worth noting that the Wizards’ front office expressed interest in trading for Monroe several times when he was with the Detroit Pistons, so they have liked him for awhile. I have no idea what they currently think of him, but they’re looking for change and they have trade assets, so it’s worth throwing out there.
Lang: Good stuff guys. I want to change gears one last time and talk a little about The Brow. There’s no denying Anthony Davis is one of the 10 best players walking on this earth right now, but his injury woes have to be concerning for the New Orleans Pelicans’ fan base. He’s never played 70 games in a season and while his injuries haven’t been career-threatening types, you get the sense every time he falls, lands, jumps into the crowd or sets a screen that Pelicans fans are holding their breath – much like Chicago Bulls fans used to with Derrick Rose. Alex, do you think The Brow will ultimately overcome these nagging small ailments and put together a string of 75-78 games played campaigns? Or is his destiny going to remind us of Marcus Camby (health wise)? On you, bro.
Alex: I really hope his injuries are a thing of the past. Davis is one of the most exciting NBA players to watch and I’d hate for him to be limited in any way going forward. With that said, it is somewhat scary that he’s had so many injuries because it doesn’t get any easier for a big man to stay healthy as they get older.
I’d like to see him connect with P3 or one of these other training facilities that monitor a player’s body, use various tests to see where that individual is vulnerable to injury and then strengthen those areas. A lot of guys are doing this in the offseason and these places have had some success with that method, predicting some injuries and helping prevent others. I’d also love to see a second star in New Orleans, giving him some help and reducing his usage rate, but that’s obviously easier said than done.
We’d like to thanks Alex for stopping through to talk shop with us this week. Make sure you join us on Saturday where we’ll talk the latest and greatest around the league. If you’re not following us on Twitter please do so in order to keep the conversation going: @JabariDavisNBA and @LangGreene. Later, Hoop Freaks.
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