NBA Lottery: Let the debate begin, Wall or Turner for Wizards?

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Thumbnail image for eturner.jpgThis one won’t be a no-brainer.

John Wall is a near consensus #1 overall player. His vision, athleticism, natural skill and length have drawn lofty phrases as strong as “best draft prospect since Carmelo Anthony.” And now the Wizards have the opportunity to select him with the first overall pick. Only problem? They already have a former All-Star point guard and star power that they’ve kind of committed to, even with his rampant off-the-court (in-the-locker-room) issues.

The Wizards made a public show of support of Arenas, saying they planned on him returning to the team following his suspension for the whole guns in the locker room thing. If they plan on standing by that pledge, they’ve got an interesting set of scenarios to debate as they head towards June.

The formula essentially breaks down into four options. 1. Choose Wall and jettison Arenas. 2. Choose Arenas, draft Evan Turner, a stud prospect in his own right. Or 3. Keep Arenas and trade the top overall pick. Or 4. Choose Wall, keep Arenas and move him to shooting guard. The fourth option is the easiest selection, obviously. It allows you to draft the best player available, keep the best talent involved, not have to clearance sale all those Arenas jerseys, and focus on rebuilding your frontcourt. But what’s the best option? Let’s start with the easy option and go backwards.

The issue with drafting Wall and keeping Arenas is the fact that both players will need the ball in their hands. Arenas had a usage (estimated percentage of possessions used) of 32.00 last year, good for tops on the Wizards and eighth highest in the league. You’re now asking Arenas who likes to shoot and have the ball in his hands before he shoots, to move off the ball and give control of the offense up to a rookie. That could be problematic. Similarly, you’ve got the concern that Arenas has never revealed himself to be a great leader and you don’t want Wall to enter a poisonous situation. The upside is that if Arenas does adapt, Wall and he would provide killer scoring potential and it takes the pressure off Arenas to create which feeds into his bad habits.

Keeping Arenas and trading the pick is the riskiest of all options. It’s simply a nightmare scenario trying to garner enough of a package to pull the value of a top pick, even in a weak draft, much less one with Wall and Turner. The only good alternative might be to try and use the pick in a sign and trade for a major free agent. But then, why not just use the overall pick as a draw for one of the free agents to sign without the sign and trade? You can’t trade this pick, unless you get an offer for a top player in this league you can’t sign in free agency. And there are maybe five of those players.

Now, keeping Arenas and drafting Evan Turner out of Ohio State is certainly an option. There are people who believe that Turner will end up being the better prospect. Turner is a scintillating prospect and would give Arenas a scoring option to share the offensive load. Versus Caron Butler, who acts as a versatile Swiss Army Knife, Turner can act as a machete. And he brings an athleticism upgrade over Arenas following his knee surgeries. Turner would also be more comfortable as a number two option and wouldn’t challenge Arenas’ ego. If you really still believe Arenas can be part of a championship contender, this might be the way to go.

Drafting Wall and putting Arenas on the block is bold, but would send a message. It means a clean break from not only the shenanigans of last year, but a revitalization of the team under a banner of youth. Wall isn’t just a potential star, he’s a potential brand in and of himself. He’s a draw for free agents. After the last three years of Arenas’ career, you cannot say the same. You can rebuild a chemistry-centric team around Wall without questioning his alpha status. Trading Arenas may not garner much, but if he does, wouldn’t that be a great way to move up quickly? You can build a young core by moving for more picks, use your cap space carefully and really build from the ground up, as opposed to trying to force something awkward. Gilbert Arenas can still be a good player. But building around Wall could mean the start of a team like Arenas’ were supposed to be.

Tough decisions will have to be made, but the good news is, there’s not really a bad option. As dark as the times were five months ago, light has come to the Wizards, and not a moment too soon.

Mike Conley does not crush Knicks free agent dreams, says everything on table

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) gestures after making a 3-point basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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When you talk about the most underrated players in the NBA, especially with the casual fan, Mike Conley is at the top of the list. The Grizzlies’ point guard has played at an All-Star level for a few seasons now but hasn’t gotten the recognition, in part because it’s Memphis and in part because the West is stacked with quality point guards.

The New York Knicks desperately need an upgrade at the point.

Which has led to the latest fantasy of seemingly every Knick fan (and talking head in the city) — the free agent Conley coming to New York this summer. When asked about it Friday before the Grizzlies and Knicks squared off, Conley didn’t kill the rumors (which in New York is like throwing gasoline on them). Here are his quotes, via Ian Begley of ESPN.

“I think everything will be on the table when that time comes,” Conley said Friday morning after the Grizzlies’ shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “I haven’t committed to anything…

“They’ve got talent, obviously,” he said. “I think [Kristaps] Porzingis surprised a lot of people. He’s going to be very, very good in this league. He already is pretty good. But he’s going to grow each year, and they already have one of the best small forward in Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. They’ve got a young team, so they’ve got a lot of room to improve.”

The smart money is on Conley staying in Memphis, the only NBA team he has ever played for. Conley was very active last summer in recruiting Marc Gasol to remain in Memphis, and has said it would be very difficult to leave him. Plus the Grizzlies can offer more money — one more guaranteed year plus larger raises.

The Knicks will need to lose some salary before July 1 just to offer Conley a max, which likely starts around $24 million (depends on the final salary cap number). What the Knicks can offer is a larger stage for his brand and the chance to bring that brand out of the shade of Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Conley — who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, is shooting 35 percent from three, is good on the pick-and-roll, plus is one of the best defensive point guards in the game — will have plenty of other suitors as well. He’s one of the best players on the free agent market this summer.

NBA GM: Warriors ‘leaders in the clubhouse’ for Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) and Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Kevin Durant to the Warriors is having a moment, but even the most recent and most credible report linking the Thunder star to Golden State contained an important caveat:

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said

Nobody has credibly reported Durant is leaning toward leaving the Thunder. The issue at hand is where Durant would go IF he leaves Oklahoma City.

Except one NBA general manager has gone a step further.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

General managers know a lot of things we don’t, but like anyone, they can also be prone to repeating gossip and hearsay. Does this general manager have inside info, or is he just participating the echo chamber? Impossible to say, but the possibility of the former raises the level of intrigue.

Of course, the Warriors can’t be the leaders in the clubhouse, because they’re not in the clubhouse. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Nobody has made their final pitch, not even the Thunder.

It’s fun to make bold predictions now, and this general manager has a chance of looking genius. But sometimes the desire for that designation causes people to get ahead of themselves.

Report: Clippers quickly rebuffed interest after Nuggets called about Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) gets tied up near the basket by Denver Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 110-103. (Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register via AP)   MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT
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Here was my gut feel on a report that the Clippers had talked to the Nuggets about trading Blake Griffin to Denver:

1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin

2. Clippers saying they’re not interested

3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports/status/695691007053070336

Woike is the more reliable source of information here. I believe that’s all this was.

The Clippers probably shouldn’t sell low on Griffin now. But if the Nuggets made a truly reasonable offer based on Griffin’s peak value – and I doubt they did – it also wouldn’t hurt to consider it.

LeBron James wants to leave Hack-a-Shaq rules as they are

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he increasingly believes the league should change its Hack-a-Shaq rules this offseason.

LeBron James – who has the commissioner’s ear on a number of issues – disagreed.

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“I don’t really see a problem with it,” James said at shootaround Friday in preparation for the Celtics. “At the end of the day, it’s a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win. If that’s a part of the game, and you have a guy that is a bad free-throw shooter and you put him on the line, that’s a part of strategy.”

“That’s no different from a guy that can’t shoot well from the outside and you try to make him shoot bad from outside, or if a guy is turnover-prone and you put pressure on him. It’s all part of strategy. It’s no different,” he said.

There is a difference – a big one.

Hacking someone takes no basketball skill.

I could intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. I could not keep a bad NBA outside shooter from getting into the paint. I could not force a turnover-prone NBA player into coughing up the ball.

There’s nothing wrong with exploiting an opponent’s weakness, but with the exception of hacking, that takes ability of your own.

Hacking is an outlier strategy, and as a result, it deserves special treatment in the rulebook.