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: Knicks, Lakers, Clippers will pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

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The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.

Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.

But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.

It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.

The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.

The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.

The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.

Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.

It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.

Report: Jimmy Butler trade talks ‘mostly dormant’

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Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau reportedly raised his asking price for Jimmy Butler after the star’s explosive return to practice.

Unsurprisingly, potential trade partners – who already weren’t offering enough to satisfy Minnesota – didn’t rush to meet Thibodeau’s new demands. Not even close, apparently.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Butler reached an agreement: Minnesota would continue to try to trade Butler, and Butler would be a good teammate and play hard.

But how long will this détente last if the Timberwolves aren’t making progress on a trade?

Watch Kelly Olynyk’s game-winning putback with 0.2 seconds left for Miami

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All game long Miami owned the glass — the Heat grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.9 percent of their missed shots on Thursday night. That led to 16 more shot attempts and nine more free throws by the Heat than the Wizards on the night.

And it led to this, the game-winning putback from Kelly Olynyk with 0.2 seconds left.

 

Wizards fans need to admit it — they missed Dwight Howard inside (he is out with a butt injury, yes seriously). Without his presence (he’s still a quality rebounder), the Heat just outworked the Wizards on the glass and that ended up being the difference.

Three Things to Know: Will Lakers’ lack of shooting spoil more than LeBron’s debut?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Lakers’ shooting clanks off rim, ruins LeBron James’ Laker debut. Will it ruin more? Since the day LeBron took his talents to South Beach the formula has been the same: Surround LeBron with shooters, including bigs so teams can go four out around him, space the floor and let LeBron carve up defenses and find those shooters. The result was eight straight trips to the Finals.

Magic Johnson sold LeBron on a different philosophy if he came to Los Angeles — fill the roster with other playmakers. “It takes the pressure off of him. He doesn’t have to make every play. That’s what wears him out, what wears him down,.. We’ve got guys that can make plays on their own so he can relax on offense some. And also, we’re a fast-breaking team, so we’re not just going to be throwing it down to him. We’re going to be out and running.”

In the Lakers’ first game, the lack of shooting was critical to their 128-119 loss. The Lakers were 7-of-30 from three in the game (23.3 percent) and 0-of-7 on corner threes. Brandon Ingram missed a couple wide-open corner threes early and was 0-of-4 from deep. Kyle Kuzma was 1-of-7, Lance Stephenson 0-of-3, Lonzo Ball 1-of-4. Throw in that the Lakers were 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) as a team on uncontested shots overall for the night (stat via Cleaning the Glass), and you have the portrait of a team that can’t knock down shots.

That lack of shooting proved to be an issue later when Rondo and Stephenson tried to initiate the offense but struggled to find passing lanes to cutters because defenders sagged off and dared them to shoot.

There were plenty of positives for the Lakers. That started with LeBron himself, who had 26 points and 12 rebounds on the night.

Also, the Lakers played fast and things worked when they did — 24.2 percent of Laker possessions started in transition and they scored a ridiculous 1.71 points per possession on those. Plus, they were just fun to watch at that pace.

But it was in the halfcourt that the offense bogged down (0.89 points per play). It wasn’t just the shooting that was a problem, the Lakers struggled on the glass (especially when they went small) and Portland grabbed the offensive rebound on 37.5 percent of their missed shots. The Lakers’ lack of continuity showed as well, particularly on defense.

Portland was rusty, too, but the Blazers shot 13-of-37 from three, 35.1 percent, which is not fantastic, but they made six more threes than the Lakers and that goes a long way to a nine-point win.

Magic compared this roster he and Pelinka built to Showtime and all the playmakers they had — and I’ll give him this, the roster the Lakers have now is fun. It’s entertaining. When they play fast you want to tune in, and they scored 70 points in the paint.

But the game has evolved since the ‘80s. Shooting matters. A lot. (And those Lakers had shooters, from Jamal Wilkes in the corner through Byron Scott, but we digress.) The Lakers are going to have better shooting nights than they did in Portland, but this trend of not shooting well enough likely is not going away and is going to cost them more in a deep West loaded with teams who like to bomb-away from three. The Lakers’ shooting is going to be an ongoing issue.

Next up for Los Angeles? Houston. The three-point disparity may be even worse… but that is going to be an entertaining game to watch.

2) Watch Miami’s Kelly Olynyk’s game-winning putback with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Dare we say it: The Washington Wizards missed Dwight Howard in this one. A scrappy Miami team grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.9 percent of their missed shots on Thursday night and that was the difference in the game — including the game-winner from Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk saves some of his best games for Washington. Remember Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, when then-Celtic Olynyk went off for 26 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, to get Boston the win? Wizards fans do.

3) Markelle Fultz hit an in-rhythm pull-up three, and at that point the skies parted, a rainbow appeared, and angels sang. All game long Thursday, Sixers fans were imploring Markelle Fultz to shoot and to trust himself. Take the open shot.

Then this happened — Fultz’s first three as a Sixer.

That earned pretty much a standing ovation from the Philly crowd.

Fultz was 5-of-15 shooting on the night and was just 2-of-9 outside the paint — there is still work to do. A lot of it. But the fact that Fultz kept pulling the trigger and led the Sixers in shot attempts at 15 can be taken as a good sign.

There was one other interesting reclamation project in that game — Zach LaVine, coming off that torn ACL, dropped 30 points in a losing effort.