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Marcin Gortat: Wizards have Eastern Conference’s best starting lineup

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The Wizards have a trash bench. They’re also 29-20.

So, obviously the starters are doing something right.

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are having career years. Marcin Gortat is providing his usual steady interior production. And after a rough start, Markieff Morris has played much better lately — bringing everything together.

Gortat, when asked by Chris Miller of CSN Mid-Atlantic whether the Wizards have the Eastern Conference’s best starting lineup:

I would say yes. I do truly believe that we have the best starting five in this conference. And if everybody’s healthy, everybody plays 100 percent max effort, then we definitely have the best starting lineup.

Because he was asked, Gortat was somewhat backed into a corner. What else is he supposed to say at that point?

But he also might be right.

Washington’s starters have outscored opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions this season, second in the East to the Cavaliers (+7.1).

But the Wizards have gone six games without starting Wall-Beal-Porter-Morris-Gortat due to injury. That unit is +10.9 per 100 possessions — better than the Cavaliers’ most-used lineup of Kyrie IrvingJ.R. SmithLeBron JamesKevin LoveTristan Thompson (+9.3).

In fact, Washington’s starting lineup has the second-best net rating of each Eastern Conference’s team’s most-used lineup. Only the 76ers — T.J. McConnellNik StauskasRobert CovingtonErsan IlyasovaJoel Embiid — have a better most-used lineup (+14.0).

However, that Philadelphia group has played just 115 minutes in 14 games. The Wizards’ primary starters have played 857 minutes together in 43 games. There’s value in availability, which is still a question mark with Embiid and anything he’s fueling.

Plus, with such a weak bench, Washington rarely has the ability to sub for matchups. The Wizards’ primary starters must handle all types of opponents, even ones that pose stylistic difficulties.

Credit the Wizards for making this a discussion, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Give me the lineup that has LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving (and solid support from Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith/Iman Shumpert).

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.

Dwyane Wade wowed by jumping, around-the-back alley-oop pass in McDonald’s All-American Game (video)

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Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.

In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.

Carmelo Anthony on shrinking role with Knicks: ‘I see the writing on the wall… I’m at peace with that’

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Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.

Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”

Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?

Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.

Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.

Could Anthony be at peace with that?