Andrew Wiggins is worth a max contract to Minnesota

The Timberwolves and fourth-year guard Andrew Wiggins are in the process of negotiating a contract extension, and Wiggins thinks he deserves nothing less than a max deal.

It sounds as if Minnesota is ready to offer Wiggins what he wants, but is he worth the five-year, $145 million contract he's looking for?

The short answer is yes, especially in a market like Minnesota where big-time free agents aren't knocking down the door. This is a deal the Timberwolves have to make if it means they keeping their young core intact. Along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins is a building block for this franchise, and there's no guarantee star offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler returns once he's able to opt out of his contract two years from now.

In a vacuum, Wiggins has not yet reached the status of a player that would earn more in total money than all but five players if he were to sign today, but he has flashed the potential to become that player. Wiggins scored 40 points in a game five times last season, a season in which he averaged nearly 24 points on 45% shooting. By comparison DeMar DeRozan averaged just 16.7 points on 42% from the field in his third season. Gordon Hayward averaged 14.1 points on 44% shooting, and still hasn't averaged more than a career-high of 21.9 points a game from last season. These numbers aren't meant to paint Wiggins as a better player, but they do serve as an example of his offensive potential juxtaposed to the next highest paid players at similar positions if Wiggins were to get a max.

The advanced numbers tell a slightly different story, especially on defense where Wiggins was one of the worst at his position last season, but at 22 years old and playing for coach Tom Thibodeau, Wiggins will assuredly continue to improve. He shot a career-high 35.6% from three last season and has a stroke that can improve on that number. And maybe more important than all the percentages is the fact that Wiggins has displayed elite durability and availability, missing just one game over his first three seasons. If Wiggins gets a max contract, it won't be a statement that he's better than everyone he makes more money than, it's a statement of how valuable he is to Minnesota.

A healthy Derrick Rose keeps Cleveland afloat in the East

The Cavaliers signed Derrick Rose on Monday in one of the most uninspiring change of teams by a former MVP in recent memory.

It's uninspiring because injuries have robbed Rose of the form he had when he won the MVP in the 2010-11 season. Also, Cleveland already has a better point guard on the roster as of today (more on that later).

But for as uninspiring as the move is now, it's still a good pickup for the Cavs. Some argue that Rose is no longer good and has no value, which simply isn't true. The flaw in that logic is the tendency to compare Rose to his former self, an MVP-level performer, rather than other players in his new salary bracket. The truth is, at one-year, $2.1 million, the Cavaliers got Rose on a bargain. Michael Carter-Williams, Aaron Brooks, Raymond Felton and Jose Calderon are just a few point guards in line to make more money than Rose next season.

The former Bulls All-Star has been trending upwards the last two years. Since playing in just 100 games over four seasons from 2011 to 2014, Rose has played in 130 over the last two seasons. He increased his scoring average from 16.4 PPG to 18.0 PPG over those two seasons and shot 47% from the field last season, his best since his third year in the league. He'll need to improve on a career-low 22% from three, especially playing for the Cavs, but he's never been a great three-point shooter. Last season, Rose showed flashes of that same early-career athleticism that allowed him to get into the paint and finish at the rim at will.

For a Cleveland team that always plays late into the postseason, Rose's skill-set, and maybe his body too, would've been better suited in a sixth-man role. He would've been an upgrade over Deron Williams as Kyrie Irving's backup. Now that Irving is seemingly forcing Cleveland's hand in trade talks, however, Rose will be thrust into a starting role he may not be fit for. Irving's ability to stretch the floor, along with Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, gave Cleveland's starting unit good spacing. Without Irving, the dynamics of this offense changes, and not for the better. That's before diving into whether Rose will be available the entire season. Still, if Cleveland deals Irving, the team is better off with Rose than without.

LeBron James is good enough to carry to the NBA Finals whichever version of the Cavaliers show up on opening night, but Cleveland is measuring itself against the Warriors, not the Eastern Conference. Rose's addition is enough to keep an Irving-less Cavs team atop the East, but the real issue is he significantly reduces their chances of running with Golden State come June.

John Wall is in position to take over East after signing extension

If John Wall was concerned about things like stealing headlines and being the center of attention in the sports world for a day, he could had those things with his announcement of signing a supermax extension with the Wizards.

People questioned why he hadn’t signed the offer made some weeks ago by his team of seven years and whether he was unsatisfied with his level of exposure in the nation’s capital, but his decision to announce the agreement on the same day we learned of Kyrie Irving’s trade request shows that his number one priority was winning.

Wall intimated in the past that he needed to see what moves the franchise made and how the offseason shook out. Aside from re-signing Otto Porter to a large deal, and effectively handcuffing the franchise’s ability to bring in marquee free agents for the next few years, Washington made minimal roster changes. But as a top-4 seed in the East and a conference semi-finalist last season, the Wizards, behind Wall, Porter and Bradley Beal, should be a contender to reach the NBA Finals if Irving’s trade request is met.

Irving may or may not be moved, but the turmoil in Cleveland won’t easily be settled, especially with LeBron James’ pending free agency next summer. The top of the Eastern Conference looks ripe for the picking and Wall realized he’s in as good a position as anyone to benefit from a possible Cleveland collapse. The Celtics are probably the next best team in the conference, but the Wizards aren’t incapable of beating them in a seven-game series – not with Wall, arguably the second best player in the conference, locked in for the next six years.

Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland more than out of LeBron’s shadow

Don't let Kyrie Irving's one-track minded, 'what teammates?', offensive approach to the game of basketball fool you, he's very aware of what's going on around him.

Like the rest of us, Irving's heard the speculation of LeBron James' departure from Cleveland, but instead of sticking around 'The Land' to see what the aftermath looks like, he decided to stick a shipping label on himself and request a trade.

Reports are that Irving wants to play in San Antonio but will also go to Miami, Minnesota, or New York. Two of the four potential destinations, San Antonio and Minnesota, leave room to question whether Irving's reason for wanting to switch teams – wanting to be more of a focal point and not James' sidekick – is nothing more than a cop out. If there's any team that prides itself on ball movement and not relying on one player, it's the San Antonio Spurs. And if anyone is going to be the focal point of that team, it's Kawhi Leonard. Alternatively, the Timberwolves have two players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, that would be focal points over Irving. Even the Knicks have been trying to deal Carmelo Anthony in part to begin building around Kristaps Porzingis. They'd be foolish not to pursue a deal for Irving, but are we sure he'd be the top option?

It may be true that Irving wants a bigger role, but the truth of why he demanded a trade is because he doesn't want that role to be in Cleveland. If it was as simple as getting his own team, he could've waited another season for James to leave. He would've gotten his old team back, been eligible for more money than anywhere else, and he could've competed for another championship in the meantime. But this isn't about James – this is about Irving getting the hell out of dysfunctional Cleveland without having Cavs fans turn on him.

New York and Miami give Irving the best chance to get from under a shadow (that may not even exist) and lead his own team, but he may not lead them very far. While experience and growth makes him a better player than he was for the three years before James returned to Cleveland, he's not a very different player. He's demonstrated the ability to single-handedly take games over on offense, but his game is too flawed to win consistently outside of the perfect team scenario. At some point he has to get teammates involved and show better situational awareness, and at some point he has to start playing defense. Otherwise, having a LeBron James to chase down blocks on one end of the floor and prevent defensive traps on the other end so he can hit the go-ahead three pointer in the deciding game of the NBA Finals may be as good as it gets.

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 sign Kris Jenkins, Marcus Keene to summer deals

Watching the NBA Draft as a fan of a team with no picks isn’t nearly as fun as when your team does have the pressure of getting it right; just ask any Wizards fan after the team went a second straight year without drafting.

But following the draft, things got interesting for Washington by way of undrafted signees. The Wizards scooped up Villanova forward Kris Jenkins and Central Michigan guard Marcus Keene for the summer.

Jenkins may be familiar to D.C.-area sports fans from his time as Gonzaga College High School after being adopted by the family of Upper Marlboro-native and University of North Carolina guard Nate Britt. Jenkins entered the national consciousness when he hit a buzzer beater against Britt and the Tar Heels to win the 2016 NCAA championship game.

People may not be as familiar with Keene because of where he went to school, but all he did last season was lead the nation in scoring at 30.0 PPG.

The reasons why each wasn’t drafted are physically obvious. At 6’6″, Jenkins is the rare undersized small forward. He can shoot the lights out when he’s feeling it but may be a little too unathletic to play shooting guard. Jenkins will likely be a bench specialist if he ever makes a regular-season NBA roster. Having his former Villanova teammate, Daniel Ochefu, on the Wizards’ roster should help make him more comfortable going into the summer

Despite being nearly unstoppable in college last season, Keene is a miniature 5’9″. He has drawn comparisons to Isaiah Thomas, who showed potential early in his career but took a few years to develop into the All-Star player he was last season.

Keene and Jenkins each have the potential to carve out roles in the NBA, but it will require a team to have the patience to allow them to adjust to the game. Neither is a lock to make this roster, but if they show some flashes on the court who knows what happens.

Update: Wizards also reportedly signed Florida forward Devin Robinson.

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.