Jason Smith

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Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Report: Wizards matching Otto Porter’s max offer sheet from Nets

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Otto Porter is reportedly signing a max offer sheet with the Nets, which would be worth $106,524,975 over four years.

The Wizards have indicated at every turn they’d match any offer. With the pressure on, that stance apparently isn’t changing.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

This is the right move. Porter – an excellent outside shooter and cutter who plays solid team defense – fits well around more ball-dominant players like John Wall and Bradley Beal. Capped out, Washington had no mechanism to adequately replace him.

The only question is whether the Wizards should have just given Porter a five-year contract in the first place. The max on that would have been $143,684,850, though perhaps they could have found a middle ground between that and the average salary on the offer sheet. Porter is just 24, and in a few years, Washington might regret not having him locked up longer. (See Gordon Hayward with the Jazz in 2014.)

Either way, Porter’s high starting salary will push the Wizards into luxury-tax range. Look for them to try trading Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi and/or Jason Smith. Washington probably must attach a sweetener to dump those players, so the team must weight the cost-benefit of that relative to just paying some luxury tax.

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 and 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:

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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 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.

Marcin Gortat sees writing on the wall about trade from Wizards

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The Wizards’ with the highest salaries for next season – if they re-sign Otto Porter, as they’ve repeatedly said they will – are slated to be:

That’s a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward and three centers.

Even Washington’s starting center, Gortat, can see where the bloat is.

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

I’m the oldest guy on the team,” Gortat said during exit interviews. “I know how the business works. I’m the oldest guy on the team. They signed Ian also. He’s younger than me and he got a longer contract. I just know how the business works so I’m prepared for everything just in case. We’re going to talk. I’m going to talk to Ernie (Grunfeld). I’m going to talk to managment and we’re going to figure it out.”

Keeping Porter, who could command a max salary in restricted free agency, would push the Wizards near the luxury-tax line. Dumping the 33-year-old Gortat this summer to dodge the tax might have been the intended plan.

Gortat has two years and more than $26 million left on his contract, and he’s likely to decline. This could be the right time to sell.

But his replacement would be Mahinmi, who’s 30 and spent most of the year injured. He doesn’t look ready to assume a major role on a team knocking on the door of the conference finals.

Potential trade partners also understand Gortat’s aging curve. There also isn’t much demand for centers in a league where size has been deemphasized and most teams already have at least one starting-caliber center.

Gortat is still Washington’s best player at the position. Keeping him might not be ideal, but unless Mahinmi looks much more physically capable by next fall, it might be the Wizards’ best option, though they’d be forced to duck the tax with other moves.