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.

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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.

Wizards a long shot to land Paul George

The Pacers are shopping Paul George, and the Wizards have emerged as a potential trade partner along with the Cavaliers, Clippers, Lakers and Rockets.

George would be a great piece to roll out alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal, who the Wizards wisely wouldn’t move in any deal. Unfortunately, it’s for that same reason Washington is unlikely to land George.

The best deal Washington can offer without involving Wall, Beal or a third team is a sign-and-trade centered around Otto Porter. Moving George likely puts the Pacers in immediate rebuild mode, which makes a small forward with limitations on a near-max contract undesirable.

Indiana’s other suitors all have more reasonable offers to make. The Clippers could package a deal around Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford. Individually, neither is as good as Porter at this point in their careers, but Crawford’s contract is only fully guaranteed through next season and Rivers is still young and showing improvement. The Rockets can trade Ryan Anderson, or work a deal around some combination of Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley.

Cleveland likely wouldn’t move Kyrie Irving, but Kevin Love is certainly an option and would be the best player any team could offer. The Cavs could also deal any of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert or Channing Frye.

Similarly the Lakers have a swath of players they could send to Indiana and probably the most desirable youth for a team that might want to rebuild. If the Lakers plan to draft Lonzo Ball, as expected, they may want to make a deal around D’Angelo Russell. They also have Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and the most desirable draft picks of any of these teams.

George has expressed a desire to play for the Lakers once he opts out of his contract next year, but that doesn’t mean another team won’t rent his services for a year with hopes of convincing him to stay longer. If the Wizards were able to acquire George, they would move into the conversation of top two teams in the East, but without another trade partner, they’re probably a long shot to get him at this point.