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.”

CJ McCollum on Carmelo, Kanter trade: “Stay woke, it’s a business”

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The most insane NBA offseason in recent memory got weirder this week when Carmelo Anthony was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a first round draft pick.

The trade has made many of us wonder just what the on the court play will look like in Oklahoma City this season with a high usage set of players in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and now Carmelo.

Meanwhile, Kanter had made comments earlier in the week about expressing his appreciation for the fans in Oklahoma City. Having been traded just a few days later, that apparently didn’t sit right for some people. Or at the very least, it appeared to be a teaching moment.

Via Twitter:

There’s no doubt about this fact, and it is hard to try to refute McCollum here. This is the nature of the league and there is no such thing as complete loyalty — at least in the sense of how most people understand it interpersonally — between employers and their employees in the NBA.

Teams are going to trade players to make sure they can win the most games and maximize their profits. Likewise, players should take the biggest contract they can get if they feel that is in their best interest.

In any case, we are all excited to see what kind of shenanigans happen in Oklahoma City next year.

Paul George on Thunder: “This feels like a championship team”

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They have an MVP, top-five NBA player. They have another All-NBA player who is a strong wing defender. They now have an aging all-star who still can get buckets with the best of them. There is a strong collection of role players who can help form a solid defense.

On paper, there’s a lot to like with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Paul George realizes that, as he said to Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This feels like a championship team,” George told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m in a good place. I know Russ (Westbrook) is in a good place. Melo is motivated more than ever…You put us three together, who all have something to prove still, (and) we’re going to be a special team. We have a young group, a lot of talent here, an unbelievable coach (in Billy Donovan), (and) as you see, a front office that’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team. It just has all the makeups to be a great organization and a chance to put championships together.”

Championships? Plural? That implies the team would stay together, and sorry Thunder fans, but that is far from a sure thing. First, financially there is no realistic way Oklahoma City can afford to sign Russell Westbrook and Paul George max deals (which they both will get) and keep Anthony if he opts into the final year of his contract for just shy of $28 million.

OKC is a small market team that simply would lose a lot of money to keep the band together, and this ownership group traded James Harden out of fear of a massive luxury tax bill. (They will pay a tax bill of about $24 million for this season if the roster stays as is.)

Also, George’s camp made it very clear during the run-up to his trade he plans to test free agency and has a strong lean to the Lakers next season. He may be more likely to stay in OKC now after the trade, but how much more?

However, George is right, this team does look like a roster that could contend for a title most years — and maybe be in the mix this year. We will put aside the Warriors challenge for a moment (they are still the clear favorites if they stay healthy) and get to the big question for the Thunder:

Will their big three learn to sacrifice, learn to mesh, learn to play together as a team as a championship team does fast enough? The 2008 Celtics did, but that team of veterans has been the exception. It took LeBron’s Miami Heat two seasons to learn how to win, and the same when he came back to Cleveland. OKC doesn’t have two seasons, they have to do it fast. It’s possible, but not easy.

George is right, this is an excellent Oklahoma City team. The Thunder are now right in the middle of that second tier in the West with Houston (another team that has to learn to mesh and sacrifice) and the Spurs. That’s a great place to be.

Is it a place George wants to stay? That question will hang over the Thunder all season.

 

Mark Cuban: Trump has “got to be able to take the blowback” from comments

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President Donald Trump used the bully pulpit of his office to, well, bully — he fired shots at the NFL over its concussion protocols and players kneeling during the national anthem. Then he rescinded his invite to the White House to the Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote not to go.

Sports stars fired back. LeBron James called Trump a bum, Chris Paul asked if he didn’t have better things to worry about, and the Warriors said as a team they would use their time in Washington this season to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.” Even supporters of the President, such as Patriots owner Robert Craft, rebuked the president for his comments.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for Meet the Press Trump has to be a big enough man to handle people standing up to him.

“If the president’s going to say something condemning a person, an industry, a sport, then he’s got to be able to take the blowback that’s going to come back,” Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for “Meet the Press.”

“So LeBron [James] and Steph and any athlete, any owner, it’s an open door now, and so they have every right for the same reasons to be able to say whatever’s on their mind,” he said. “Now we’ll be able to see if he can take it.”

Unlike previous presidents of both parties, Trump is not good at letting criticism of him and his administration roll off his back to stay focused on his agenda. It’s more personal with him, and that is something Warriors coach Steve Kerr said is a problem for him, and the nation.

Bottom line, NBA players are not going to back off — their base isn’t going to push back against them for their comments. Most are going to nod their heads in agreement. The NBA fan demographic is not the NFL’s. This storyline is far from over.

Three questions the Indiana Pacers must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 42-40, swept in the first round

I know what you did last summer: Larry Bird resigned then the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a horrible deal that got the summer off on the wrong track. Indiana also swapped Jeff Teague, C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis for Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph in order to prevent bottoming out. The Pacers picked T.J. Leaf (No. 18), Ike Anigbogu (No. 47) and Edmond Sumner (No. 52) in the draft.

THREE QUESTIONS THE PACERS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Indiana escape its unsatisfying track? The Pacers are headed toward winning 30-something games, missing the playoffs and picking in the bottom of the lottery. It’s a miserable place to be.

Be just a little better, and they could make the playoffs in the lowly Eastern Conference. Be just a little worse, and they could land a premier draft pick.

Either direction is preferable to the apparent status quo.

The Pacers clearly don’t want to tank. Hence, their offseason strategy. But if the season goes south quickly, they could embrace losing by trading veterans and/or giving more minutes to young players.

Competing for the playoffs is a little trickier, but Indiana has enough veterans where that could take care of itself. The odds are against it, but this team is capable of sneaking in with the right breaks.

2) Can Victor Oladipo handle the expectations thrust upon him? Oladipo didn’t choose to return to the basketball-crazed state where he starred in college. He didn’t ask to be the Pacers’ main return for Paul George.

But here he is.

Oladipo is a solid player, and at 25, he might still be improving. He’ll have to in order to justify the George trade (and maybe even his four-year, $84 million contract extension that kicks in this season).

No longer playing with Russell Westbrook should help. Oladipo regressed while trying to play a spot-up role next to the Oklahoma City superstar last season. Indiana needs Oladipo to be more aggressive with the ball, a role that better suits him. Whether he’s good enough to handle those responsibilities on a good team is another question entirely, though.

3) Will Myles Turner break out? With George gone, Turner is now the Pacers’ franchise player (ignoring how the team might market Oladipo, who returns after starring with the Hoosiers).

Turner has all the potential to be a modern rim-protecting, 3-point-shooting center. He can get more comfortable beyond the arc. He must fine-tune his defense. But all the future looks bright for the 21-year-old.

He was intriguing as a rookie then even better last year. How steeply Turner continues to ascend will play a major role in whether Indiana exceeds expectations this season – and how its rebuild looks beyond.