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Wizards reportedly to sign Drew Gooden

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Since acquiring Nene two years ago, the Washington Wizards have gone 60-61 when he plays and 8-34 when he doesn’t. In their scheme, he’s a steadying force on both ends of the floor, practically essential to their success.

Needless to say, with Nene out four to six weeks, the Wizards will almost assuredly use their open roster spot on a big man. They can’t just skate by on what they have.

Most likely, it seems that big man will be Drew Gooden. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

NBA free-agent forward-center Drew Gooden is expected to sign a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards following the loss of Nene, sources told Yahoo Sports.

J. Michael of CSN Washington confirmed Gooden is the most likely free agent the Wizards will sign, but Michael also says Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin will be more instrumental in replacing Nene. Booker started when Nene missed games earlier this season, but Seraphin played every meaningful minute after Nene got hurt in the third quarter of Washington’s win over the Cavaliers on Sunday, and Booker played none of them.

Michael:

Seraphin can produce the offense lost without Nene, who averaged 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, but where the Wizards tend to suffer without him is their basketball IQ as they like to play through the Brazilian in the low post.

Booker can provide better defense and make the hustle plays, such as drawing charges, but he is undersized. Wittman likely will have to mix and match his lineups and hopefully find the personnel that works best.

With Washington’s other starters – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gorat – the lineup has meshed with Nene, underwhelmed with Booker and excelled with Seraphin (albeit in extremely limited minutes).

Nene (37 games 482 minutes):

  • Offensive rating: 106.4
  • Defensive rating: 95.7
  • Net rating: +10.7

Booker (25 games, 242 minutes):

  • Offensive rating: 101.9
  • Defensive rating: 105.4
  • Net rating: -3.5

Seraphin (5 games, 18 minutes):

    • Offensive rating: 117.0
    • Defensive rating: 52.5
    • Net rating: +64.5

There’s no clear-cut best option for Washington. Gooden provides another chance for someone to click, but he was terrible with the Bucks last season. At 32, he can no longer be counted on.

The Wizards are 28-28, and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs was definitely within their grasp before Nene’s latest injury. Overtaking the 29-26 Bulls – and holding off all challengers – will be an uphill battle now.

Figuring out when to play Booker and when to play Seraphin will be key for the Wizards down the stretch. If Gooden provides anything, that’s just a bonus.

Really, Washington is treading water until Nene returns – hopefully in time for the playoffs.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Rajon Rondo is hilarious (photo)

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Is Rajon Rondo stubborn? Yes.

Is he petty? Yes.

Is he harsh? Yes.

But the Bulls point guard is also hilarious in his own way.

 

Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

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