Blake Griffin not a fit with the Wizards

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin opted out of his contract this weekend, becoming a free agent and sparking talk about which teams should pursue the five-time All-Star.

The Wizards have been discussed as a team that should consider Griffin, even with how tight the cap situation is in Washington. From a positional standpoint, the move would make sense. Griffin is an upgrade over Markieff Morris in almost every aspect of the game – he’s a better scorer, rebounder, and pick-and-roll defender. Morris is a marginally better post defender and three-point shooter, but the differences are negligible.

The problem with this comparison, however, is Morris is under contract for another two seasons. Griffin wouldn’t be replacing Morris unless the Wizards could find a trade partner first. Secondly, the Wizards would have to let Otto Porter walk, as his demand for what will likely be close to a max contract wouldn’t be an offer the Wizards could make in addition to a Griffin max.

In this scenario, you end up with Griffin at power forward, and Kelly Oubre would take over as starting small forward. While Oubre’s potential is tantalizing, one thing he may never give the Wizards is the ability to shoot the three at the rate Porter did last season. Suddenly, the slight decrease in three-point shooting from Morris to Griffin becomes more glaring.

With a point guard in John Wall, whose strength isn’t the long ball, a need for shooters around him is extremely important. Leaving Bradley Beal as the only real threat from three in the starting lineup seems like a move backwards in the realm of today’s game, not forward.

The only way acquiring Griffin would work to push the Wizards forward as a true contender in the East is if Griffin and Oubre both improve as three-point shooters, the Wizards find a way to keep Porter, or they find a cheaper replacement at small forward. Otherwise, chasing Griffin may not be in the best interest for this particular team.

Wizards trade No. 52 pick for Tim Frazier

Ahead of Thursday’s draft, the Wizards traded their only pick, No. 52 overall, for Pelicans guard Tim Frazier.

Frazier is likely coming in to compete as the primary backup to John Wall and immediately becomes the favorite with Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings both headed for free agency. Even in the unlikely event Jennings and/or Burke did return, Frazier would still be the best option based on how they all performed last season.

Still, this isn’t a move Wizards fans should be overly excited about. If anything, Frazier only serves as a player who can be plugged in right away and won’t have to adjust to the speed and nuances of the NBA the way a 2nd-round draft choice would. But one thing a draftee may have provided that Frazier can’t is potential and a high ceiling.

At this point in his career, Frazier probably is who he is. Last season, he played in a career-high 65 games, with a career-high 35 starts, and shot just 40% from the field. That number aligns with his 3-year career’s average, as did his 31% shooting from three.

Still, Frazier’s shooting is better than what Jennings provided, and his defense is better than Jennings and Burke. Best-case scenario, Frazier finds the form he had when he first arrived to New Orleans after being cut by the Trail Blazers at the end of the 2015-16 season. In 16 games, he shot 45% from the field and 42% from three to earn a full-time promotion from a 10-day contract. His role was more defined at that time, as he only needed to worry about running the second-team offense.

Last season, Frazier’s numbers declined as he was moved to the bench in December and his minutes became more sporadic. With no mistake as to who’s running point in Washington, worst-case scenario for Frazier with the Wizards is he’s slightly better than Jennings and Burke, which is still an upgrade nonetheless.

What can Wizards expect from backup point guard

When it was time for John Wall to catch a breath last season and the second unit rolled into the game, Ramon Sessions was the man called upon to initiate the offense.

Sessions provided the Wizards with a steady and consistent presence, appearing in all 82 games and often giving Washington exactly what it expected from him. Sessions was a penetrating guard, who got to the free throw line often. In fact, Dennis Schroder was the only guard with more games of 20 or fewer minutes and 4+ free throw attempts. Sessions wasn’t a great shooter but knew his limitations and didn’t attempt a lot of long shots. If he couldn’t get to hole, he got the Wizards into their offense, which usually meant dumping the ball into the inside.

Sessions is now in Charlotte, and Washington acquired Trey Burke to assume the duties of Wall’s backup. Burke, the former Michigan Wolverine, has a smaller frame than Sessions and plays a different game. His numbers declined almost across the board in each of his first three seasons in Utah, and now he’s looking to get his career back on track.

One immediate upgrade Burke provides over Sessions is his ability, and more importantly willingness, to score from the outside. Burke shot a career-high 34% on threes last season, which isn’t great, but in 18 fewer games he attempted over twice as many as Sessions (32%). Burke is also 7 years younger and should be able to push the tempo more for the second unit, not that Sessions wasn’t shy about getting into transition.

Burke doesn’t get to the free-throw line nearly as much as his predecessor, but if he’s able to improve on a career 1.6 attempts per game, he knocks them down over 80% of the time. The biggest downgrade going from Sessions to Burke will likely be on the defensive end of the floor where Burke’s defensive real plus-minus was 75th out of 79 qualified point guards, 27 spots behind Sessions.

The change at guard plays into the NBA’s change in offensive philosophy – that guards who play on the perimeter are more efficient than their mid-range counterparts. If Burke can improve defensively, Scott Brooks should be able to put him in positions to succeed on offense. And with Burke’s game still in the development stage, there’s a good chance his best days are ahead of him. The Wizards are hoping those days are more immediate. If not, Burke will have to look over his shoulder for Czech rookie Tomas Satoransky, who will be competing for minutes at both guard spots and small forward. Satoransky’s ability to finish at the rim adds a drive-and-kick dynamic to the second unit that Burke does not. Whether the move to Burke will be an upgrade this season remains to be seen, but the ceiling for what he can become is way higher than Sessions and that’s a good thing.

 

Is John Wall a top-5 point guard?

For at least two years, I’ve held unpopular opinions about John Wall and where he ranks among NBA point guards. While I never actually took the time to sit down and compare the numbers and make an educated decision, I’ve always held the belief he was a fringe top-three player at his position, at least top-five. Now that Wall came out and personally declared himself a top-three point guard, I took a deeper look. As it turns out, I wasn’t wrong.

As of Saturday, Wall is averaging a career-high 19.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. His 9.8 assists per game is third in the league and almost matches his career-high of 10 from last year. As far as point guards go, Wall ranks eighth in scoring average and is more of a distributor than most of the players ahead of him. Of those, only Russell Westbrook averages more assists, 10.2, and it’s safe to say Westbrook is better than Wall. The only other point guard averaging more assists than Wall and Westbrook is Rajon Rondo, who leads the league with 12 a game. At this point in his career, however, Rondo isn’t a better all-around player than Wall.

Stephen Curry is the league’s best point guard simply because he can’t be stopped. Curry leads the league in scoring with over 30 points a game, and he’s just outside of the top 10 in assists. Chris Paul, who Wall probably matches the most statistically, is still better than Wall because of his more consistent shooting, and his ability to command the offense without as many turnovers. So, no, Wall is a little off base by declaring himself a top three point guard. That title belongs only to Curry, Westbrook, and Paul. After them, however, is where the conversation opens up.

The next best point guards to come to mind after Curry, Paul, and Westbrook, are Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Isaiah Thomas, and Jeff Teague. At one time, Parker might have even been a top-three point guard, but he’s not top five anymore and certainly not better than Wall. (Sorry Skip Bayless.) Walker and Conley haven’t even made all-star games yet, and while it’s a little harder for Conley being that he plays in the West – along with my top-three point guards – he wouldn’t have the same impact without those big men he plays with. Thomas is more of a scorer in a point guard’s body, and he doesn’t impact the game in other ways enough to be considered top five. Teague can’t take over a game and be a playmaker how some of the others can.

That leaves Wall, Lillard, Irving, and Lowry, competing for the final two spots of the top five. Of those players, Irving is probably the most naturally talented, but before LeBron James came back home, Irving hadn’t cracked the playoffs. He can shoot and dribble with almost anyone, but Irving doesn’t make anyone else better on his team. Of the remaining players, Wall is the only one to make the playoffs without another all-star on his team. Although Lillard looks to be bucking that trend this season, he had LaMarcus Aldridge in past playoff appearances, and Lowry has had Demar Derozan – and the Wizards swept them in last year’s playoffs. This goes to show how much better Wall makes his teammates. All things considered, I would say Wall is definitely a top-five point guard, and I would throw Lillard in that group with him.

So, here’s my top five:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. Chris Paul
  4. John Wall
  5. Damian Lillard

I have to agree with Stephen A. Smith in the video below, however, on the point that Wall shouldn’t be ranking himself. I love his confidence, but Wall should allow us to do the ranking for him.

Loss to Bobcats expose hole on Wizards roster

Monday night’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats exposed a kink in Washington’s newly crafted armor; one that isn’t as obvious when the Wizards are playing as well as they did in the second quarter of the 100-94 loss to Charlotte.

That weakness is the lack of a true wing-man.

Not a wing-man as in a guard, or forward playing on the wing of a basketball court – but wing-man as in a sidekick. A Robin. The Dwayne Wade to John Wall’s LeBron James.

This weakness has been revealed in past games but recently forgotten given the way that the Wizards have collectively performed to compensate for one another’s deficiencies.

But the presence of a true, top-tier player as a second option is necessary for any team that wants to compete for a championship.

Just ask Tony Parker and Tim Duncan of last year’s western conference champions, the San Antonio Spurs. They get an awesome contribution from the entire team, but if either one of those stars is struggling, they can rely on the other to pick up the slack.

It’s very rare that two top-tier players on the same team will struggle at the same time.

It was evident that Washington didn’t have this when John Wall struggled with scoring and turnovers against Charlotte, and no-one else could step up to secure what should have been an easy win.

The entire team played very well for the most part, but in the end when it was time for someone to take over, Wall was an absentee participant without an understudy to fill-in.

For Washington, it’s either John Wall leading the team to a win or bust.

And when Wall struggles, his ability to be a play-maker and set- up his teammates tends to falter as well, and no-one is else is able to take the game over.

This doesn’t mean that this type of player isn’t on the team. Eventually, Bradley Beal will develop into that guy. He has all of the skills necessary to be an efficient scorer and play-maker in this league. He just has not developed in to that guy yet.

Beal doesn’t handle the ball well enough to create offense for himself on a consistent basis, and too often, he makes passes that are off the mark and leads to turnovers.

It’s not as if he’s an awful dribbler or distributor though, he just needs to work on it and eventually he will become the Russell Westbrook to John Wall’s Kevin Durant.

If not, the Wizards will never make a serious playoff push, because it is inevitable that Wall will struggle at times during playoff series and Washington won’t be able to rely on 38-year-old Andre Miller to play heavy minutes during those times.

What will become of Washington is a poor man’s version of the Indiana Pacers, with one Paul George and a pretty good team around him.

Indiana’s recent struggles are an indicator of what can happen to a defensive-minded team when it’s main offensive threat isn’t playing at his highest level. You fall short.

Coming from where the Wizards are coming from a season ago, being a poor-man’s Pacers is not so bad, but this team has higher hopes.

Eventually, they’ll need a second game-changer on the roster to reach those lofty goals.

Until then, we’ll continue to see games slip out of their grasp when Superman, aka Wall, isn’t up to the challenge.

Wizards blow 16-point lead in 100-94 loss to Bobcats

Tonight’s game against the Bobcats was one of large, point-scoring runs at a time.

It was not about how hard each team could hit though, it was about how hard they could get hit and keep fighting.

In the end, Charlotte was able to withstand what should have been a fatal blow from the Wizards to remain the last team standing, and prevent Washington from clinching a spot in the playoffs with a 100-94 TKO.

The Bobcats got off to an excellent start on their home-court, gaining a 25-20 advantage after one quarter of play. They went on to extend that lead to ten points early in the second quarter.

Things began to turn around at about the 9:36 mark in the second quarter when the Wizards second unit began to take over, led by Andre Miller.

The Wizards had one of their best quarters of the entire season as they went on a 36-10 run.

Miller sparked the run with the first of his nine assists – this time around being an alley-oop to Martell Webster after receiving a tipped-out offensive rebound.

Miller finished the game with a +/- ratio of plus 18.

Randy Wittman probably should have played him a little more in the second half however, because the Wizards seemed content with a 16-point lead and Charlotte on the ropes, but not out for the count.

Led by the first and second-string back-court combination of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal and Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Bobcats quietly cut a 16-point halftime deficit down to 10 points in the third quarter.

Then, in the fourth quarter, they finally shook off the grogginess from blows taken in the second quarter to throw some heavy punches of their own just as the game was winding down.

Behind clutch baskets by Douglas-Roberts, Charlotte went on a 19-4 run to end the game and steal a win right from the psyche of the Wizards.

Douglas-Roberts scored eight fourth-quarter points and finished the game with 18. Walker scored a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 assists.

John Wall struggled mightily on the night turning the ball over five times and scoring just 10 points on 4-16 shooting.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 20 points.

What’s wrong with Bradley Beal?

I have to admit, lately I’ve been forgetting to put my nearsighted prescribed glasses on while watching the Wizards play on television.

It’s not that I’m completely bat-blind, but everything becomes a lot more crystal clear with the glasses on.

At the most, I miss a small detail or two that force me to ask a question like, “was that really a foul?” then reminds me that I actually don’t have 20/20 vision, and leads to a scramble to find my spectacles during the next commercial break.

One thing that has been completely obvious though, with or without my glasses, is the fact that Bradley Beal has not been himself as of late.

Shots aren’t falling for the second-year wing-man. Wide-open jumpers and near-bucket attempts alike. His intensity on defense doesn’t show a lack of effort, but his offensive game has struggled.

Over the course of his first two seasons in the NBA, Beal is a 40.6 percent shooter from the field; 40 percent exactly from three.

In Washington’s last 11 games, he has shot the ball 40 percent or better just three times – and only once in their last seven games.

During that 11 game stretch, he shot 35 percent; 34 percent from long range.

While some may point to the fact that Beal has suffered different injuries recently, including a hip pointer, ankle sprain and stiff back in the last two weeks, physical fatigue may be the biggest reason he’s struggling – and getting injured.

In his only season as a Florida Gator in 2011-12, Beal played in 37 games for a total of 1,267 minutes. Last season, as a rookie in the NBA, he played in 56 games and a total of 1,745 minutes for the Wiz. It just happened to be game number 56 for him when he sprained his ankle and aggravated his back against the Orlando Magic on March 14. He had eclipsed the amount of minutes he played last season, in the previous game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

What we’re seeing Beal go through, right now, is his body adjusting to the rigors of an 82 game regular season. He’s slumping right now and what he may need more than any amount of practice is rest. Before the regular season comes to an end, barring any injuries, Beal will have played in 73 games.

The Wizards all but have a playoff spot locked in. If, and when their playoff seed is decided, it would be in head coach Randy Wittman’s best interest to rest Beal in the final games if possible.

That is because during Beal’s struggles, another thing became crystal clear to me – the Wizards are not the same team when John Wall’s back-court mate isn’t playing at the top his game.

If Washington wants to make any noise in the playoffs, they need a healthy and effective Beal to be a part of the noise-making.