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.

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

image

The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.