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.

Advertisements

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.

the beal deal

word around d.c. is that the wizards are expected to offer bradley beal a max deal this summer. the contract would pay the four-year swingman around $22 million next year, way more money than he’s earned to this point in his career. he’ll only be 23 years old next season, but he’s only shown the type of potential that frustrates a fanbase. he goes on streaks of games that cause conversations of ‘the best backcourt in the league.’ then, he’ll miss a third of the season to injury like he did last year. he’s never averaged more than 18 points in a season, and he’s only played in 247 of a possible 328 regular season games. and still, with all that said, offering him a max deal is the right decision.

his talent is tantalizing. if he can ever string together a full season of consistent, solid play, he can be one of the top three shooting guards for years to come. his shooting form is as pure as they come and for all of his injuries, he’s never shot under 38 percent from three. in fact, only six players who have attempted at least 1,000 three pointers over the last four years have shot better than beal. he needs to become a better free-throw shooter, as 78 percent is disappointing for such a good shooter, but it still isn’t bad. his ball handling and decision making have drastically improved since his rookie year, and his overall field goal percentage has increased each season.

if the wizards don’t offer beal a max deal, another team will. even if he never lives up to his all-star potential, he’ll be a good player for years to come – as long as he can stay healthy. it’s not a matter of if washington will put the money on the table, it’s a matter of when, as it should be.

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.