Wizards draft Georgetown’s Porter. At least we got that right

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WASHINGTON D.C. — In the most unpredictable of NBA Drafts, the Washington Wizards went with a player everyone assumed they were taking all along.

The long-rumored marriage between the John Wall-Bradley Beal fueled Wizards and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr. became official when NBA commissioner David Stern announced the third overall pick. Seemingly every other move before and after on Thursday night elicited wows and whuh huhs, including Cleveland ruining mock drafts by tabbing UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the first selection..

After Orlando took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, the Wizards could finally exhale.

“I was worried,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I told the kid when he came here [to workout], ‘Don’t go visit anyplace else.’ You never know. You feel somebody’s going to grab him, and it could have happened. I don’t think anybody really had a great idea the order that it went, with Bennett and Oladipo going 1 and 2.”

Porter at 3 was another story. With the Wizards looking to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008 and find a 3-man for the long haul, selecting the unanimous Big East Player of the Year had a feel of formality for weeks.

“We had our board in order, and when it was our time to pick, he was the highest rated guy on our board,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said. “We’re pleased to have him.”

Porter, who played his college home games on the Wizards’ court, certainly sounds satisfied with the outcome.

“We’re going to do damage next year,” said the 6-foot-8 forward, who left Georgetown after his sophomore season. “I already know what they bring to the table. All I do is plug myself in there, and it’s going to be fun.”

Last season Porter led the Hoyas in scoring (16.2), rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) and 3-point shooting (42.2). Where the “safe” prospect with strong basketball instincts should help immediately is stopping others from producing points.

“He has the total package,” Grunfeld said. “He has good work ethic. He’s a team player. He can do multiple things out on the floor. He can guard several positions, and he’s a young player who we think could be with us for many, many years to come. And he fits in well with what we’re trying to do as far as Bradley and John are concerned.”

Beal and Wall, Washington’s starting backcourt and the keys to the franchise’s rebuilding plan, helped fuel the team’s 25-25 record over the final 50 games after a 4-28 start.

“I think we have three important positions filled,” Grunfeld said. “Otto has great size for his position at small forward, but he can play some power forward if he has to. If you want to go small, he can guard 2 guards, so he provides a lot of versatility. Otto is 20 years old. Bradley’s going to be 20 (Friday) as a matter of fact, and John is 22. So we have three very solid players we can build with moving forward.”

Porter’s ability to shine without having plays called for him will enhance the guard’s development.

What his presence does to Washington’s frontcourt is more complicated.

Trevor Ariza opted into his contract for the upcoming year, meaning the defensive half of last season’s small forward combo returns. Martell Webster, who averaged a career-high 11.8 points last season, is a free agent. Though Grunfeld said the addition of Porter has no impact on Webster, the depth chart appears to say otherwise.

Per a source, Washington also acquired Glen Rice Jr. in the second round. The Wizards shipped picks 38 and 54 to the 76ers, who selected the former Georgia Tech and D-League swingman with the 35th overall pick. Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely also spent time at small forward last season.

The roster fallout, that’s a discussion for later. For now, it’s all about positives.

“From where we’re at and where we think we can be going into next year, it’s a great piece to add to this team,” Wittman said.

Speaking of positives, not having to pack classifies as such.

“Not moving anywhere, and I’m already used to a city, it definitely helps me transition to the NBA,” he said. “Just being comfortable with the city already, it’s just a true blessing.”

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

Associated Press
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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.

PBT Podcast: What went wrong and what’s next for Trail Blazers?

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It was embarrassing, and left both fans and players of the Trail Blazers angry and frustrated — Portland was unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now what happens in Portland? Is Terry Stotts in danger as the coach? What about GM Neil Olshey? Would they consider trading C.J. McCollum? Is there any way to offload the contract of Evan Turner?

Kurt Helin and the Northeast’s own Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast, and Blazers fans may not like the answers. The pair also touch on other series around the league, like do the Pelicans have a shot against the Warriors? And, as required by NBA law, they touch on the Sixers run.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

Associated Press
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Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.