Bobby Portis

Newly minted Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard quickly faces Bradley Beal questions

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While ownership danced with Tim Connley in Denver and Masai Ujiri in Toronto, Tommy Sheppard spent the past few months trying to clean up a mess of a Washington Wizards roster and, more importantly, their messed up salary cap situation.

There was only so much Sheppard could do considering John Wall‘s supermax extension kicks in next season (and runs four seasons) and the team will pay Ian Mahinmi $15.5 million. However, Sheppard got Washington below the tax number by trading Dwight Howard and letting three players — Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, and Jabari Parker — just walk. He then tried to add inexpensive and interesting talent to the roster, such as Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, and Moritz Wagner. It was all those moves that ultimately got the “interim” tag taken off his GM job title, reports Chase Hughes at NBC Sports Washington.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a “trial run,” according to a person familiar with the process.

However, the biggest test comes next Friday, and how Sheppard and Wizards ownership handle it will define the course of the franchise for years.

On July 26 (Friday), the Wizards can — and by all indications will — offer Bradley Beal a three-year, $111 million contract extension.

Beal likely turns it down.

That’s the growing sense around the league. While part of his motivation may be questions about the future direction in Washington, there are also cold financial reasons to say no — Beal makes more money if he waits. Maybe even to the point of becoming a free agent in 2021. Our own Dan Feldman broke it down this way (future estimates based on salary cap projections by the NBA):

• Sign this 2019 extension: $111.8 over three years ($35.1 million per year)
• Make All-NBA next season and sign a super-max extension in 2020: $250 million over five years ($50 million per year)
• Become a free agent and re-sign with Wizards on regular-max in 2021: $214 million over five years ($43 million per year)
• Become a free agent and re-sign with Wizards on super-max in 2021: $250 million over five years ($50 million per year)
• Leave Wizards in 2021: $159 million over four years ($40 million per year)

Beal can afford to bet on himself and wait, he just turned 26 and has not had the kind of injury issues that would make him think he needs to take the security now (he has played 82 games each of the last two seasons).

How do Sheppard — and Wizards’ management — react when Beal says no is the question. That is the real test Sheppard faces.

Part of that reaction will be based on what Beal and his representatives say: Do they turn down the offer and say Beal wants to be traded?

Or, do they turn down the offer and say, “Beal wants to stay but will wait because he wants a super-max contract?” (Beal finished seventh in All-NBA guard voting, with the top six making the All-NBA, he is right on the cusp.) This may be the most likely option, Beal cannot get the super-max contract if traded.

If/when Beal turns the Wizards down, Sheppard’s phone will start ringing again with teams testing the trade market waters for Beal. There is tremendous interest in him from across the league.

How Sheppard handles those calls will start to set the tone for what is next in Washington. What the Wizards do with Beal — and John Wall, out for the season with a torn Achilles and already on his super-max — will define Wizards’ basketball for years to come.

Report: Marcus Morris considering backing out of Spurs deal to join Knicks

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The Knicks’ two-year, $21 million contract with Reggie Bullock might fall through.

That has Marcus Morris – who agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Spurs – looking at New York.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Backing out of his agreement with the Spurs would not look good for Morris. That’s especially true this far after the moratorium, which ended Saturday. The NBA makes clear that no agreements reached during the moratorium are binding. Everyone treats those agreements as binding anyway, and it’s still a big deal to renege on one. But at least the league rules provide some cover. Now, it’d be even more ruthless.

San Antonio already traded Davis Bertans, a helpful rotation player, to the Wizards to make room for Morris and DeMarre Carroll. The Spurs would be left in a tough spot without Morris.

Morris has felt betrayed by a team before. He might not mind returning the favor, even if the harmed team isn’t the Suns. Morris could just view it as business after how he was treated.

A $15 million salary gives him plenty of reason to back out. He might also like playing in New York.

But Morris would be joining a worse team with a worse fit. The Knicks already have Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson in line for minutes at power forward. Morris would also surely play small forward, but he’s more effective at power forward. Still, Morris would be one of New York’s better free-agent additions this summer by current production.

The Knicks must clear enough cap space to pay Morris $15 million. Waiving Damyean Dotson would get them close but not all the way there. They could also include unlikely incentives (based on last year’s results) that would be relatively achievable.

Clearing cap room becomes more difficult if Bullock gets more than the room exception, but the way things are trending, that seems unlikely. What a tough break for him.

And maybe San Antonio.

Report: Knicks canceled meeting with Kawhi Leonard

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The Knicks put out pathetic spin about why they didn’t get Kevin Durant.

Now – with Kawhi Leonard considering the Raptors, Lakers and Clippers – the Knicks are trying to control the narrative about their pursuit of him. Leonard and the Knicks didn’t even meet despite the team’s confidence it’d get a meeting.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source, Leonard agreed to meet with the Knicks, but not until Wednesday after finishing with the Clippers and Lakers.

That plan was scratched by Knicks’ brass over logistics.

The Knicks had spent almost all of their $70 million cap space in the first 20 hours of free agency, knowing if they waited until the Leonard meeting Wednesday, the players they did sign could be off the market. It was too big a risk, knowing they likely would finish fourth behind the Raptors, Lakers and Clippers.

I think the Knicks are correct: Leonard almost certainly wouldn’t have picked them. Best we can tell, Leonard likes winning and the West Coast and dislikes the spotlight. New York fits none of those parameters.

But it’s not as if the Knicks pivoted to some great plan by not waiting on Leonard. They’re instead signing Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Elfrid Payton to expensive, but at least short, contracts. That underwhelming collection of players will likely lead to another losing season. If one or two become keepers or get traded for positive value, that’d be nice.

Chasing Leonard would have offered far more upside. He could’ve immediately vaulted New York into a strong playoff team.

But, again, it seems highly unlikely the Knicks would’ve landed Leonard.

So, it’s amusing to watch the Knicks spin like this. Their offseason went poorly.

That probably would have been the case whether or not they met with Leonard.

Report: Knicks signing Wayne Ellington to two-year, $16M contract

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The Knicks continue with their plan of not signing Kevin Durant and instead signing other guys.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

At this price, Wayne Ellington might be the Knicks’ best signing of the summer. He’s a good outside-shooting wing, and teams need those. Ellington is 31, so he probably won’t get any better than he is now, especially defensively. But he’s a helpful player with a reasonable salary.

Since raising concerns about their floor spacing by signing bigs Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson to expensive deals, New York has added two shooters in Reggie Bullock (two years, $21 million) and Ellington. Bullock and Ellington will help spread the floor. But spacing is determined more by the quantity of must-defend shooters in a lineup rather than the overall shooting ability of that lineup. The Knicks still look like they’ll fall short of quality spacing.

Report: Knicks signing Bobby Portis to two-year, $31M million deal

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The Knicks didn’t get Kevin Durant.

Their backup plan leaves plenty to be desired.

After agreeing to sign Julius Randle (three years, $63 million with a team option) and Taj Gibson (two years, $20 million), New York is adding yet another expensive big – Bobby Portis.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Fred Katz of The Athletic:

Portis reportedly rejected a $40 million-$50 million extension from the Bulls last year, believed to be over four years. It’s astounding he’s going to recover so much money over the next two years and could very well come out ahead.

But Knicks.

New York also has promising young big Mitchell Robinson. How will everyone get enough playing time? Plenty of two-big lineups that will limit spacing for R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox and other perimeter players.

At least Portis can stretch the floor some. But he’s more impressive as a stretch center than a stretch power forward. The Knicks’ offense could get clunky.