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.

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.

The Process may be working, but it isnt over

Before Joel Embiid burst onto the scene at Kansas as a possible number-one overall draft pick, I was reluctantly questioning “The Process” that Philadelphia 76ers basketball was engulfing itself in about four years ago.

I was reluctant because I knew there was a good chance Sam Hinkie’s plan could work. From a probability standpoint, it made a lot of sense that stockpiling draft picks and increasing your odds of picking earlier would turn into a great player or two. Still, I was glad it wasn’t MY team in full-on tank mode.

While the 76ers struggled through one of the longest stretches of ineptitude I’ve ever consciously witnessed, I was satisfied watching my Wizards exit the playoffs early as a model of consistent mediocrity – no one in the east was going to knock off LeBron James anyway, right?

Now, in the fifth season since a Jrue Holiday-led Sixers team bowed out in the conference semifinals and a stick of dynamite was set to the roster, the ideal of “The Process” appears to have been born into the form of a 7-foot, 250-pound force of nature. In what is effectively his rookie season, after injuries kept him from the court since being drafted third overall in 2014, Embiid is giving Philadelphia its first bit of in-season optimism since Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year in the 2013 season (before being traded the next year).

Through Jan. 19, the Sixers were +68 with Embiid on the floor and -292 without him. He’s a complete game changer, and even more so in the closing moments of games. Of players with at least 50 combined minutes played in the final six minutes of 4th quarters over that span, Embiid’s 38.5 PER ranked third behind Isaiah Thomas and Russell Westbrook.

Embiid can shoot from long range, he’s skilled with has back to the basket – he’s got a soft touch and silky smooth moves – and his combination of footwork and handles is incredibly rare for someone his size. Oh, and he’s really good on defense. Before Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers, Embiid was on a stretch of 10 games scoring 20-plus points (he got hurt and finished with 18). He fell one game shy of tying Allen Iverson’s franchise rookie record of 20-plus points in 11 straight games. And when Embiid does score at least 20, the 76ers are 10-6.

“The Process” is finally a tangible thing that people can see and believe in, and the next part of it, 2016 first-round pick Ben Simmons, may finally play following the All-Star break. Combine Simmons with Embiid, and a surging Nerlens Noel – the 2013 first-round pick – and Hinkie’s plan seems to be a model others may want to copy.

Teams should take heed before going all-in on the tank, however, because the end game for Philadelphia is far and away. The final step in this drawn-out process is competing for a championship, because if the process was only good enough to get to the playoffs and make early-to-mid-round exits, then Philadelphia wasted 4-5 seasons to become the Washington Wizards. “The Process” is only complete when the 76ers win a championship, or at least make a push for the finals. It must be said though, the future looks bright with Embiid, and being competitive in the playoffs soon seems like a realistic possibility.

The Big Ticket hanging it up

He oozed passion. He intimidated opponents and teammates alike. He went from the young sensation out of high school to the fiery veteran leader of an NBA championship team. Now, Kevin Garnett is calling it quits after 21 seasons.

Easily one of the best power forwards to ever grace the hardwood, Garnett had more than a few good game against the Wizards and never short-changed the fans in D.C. His career-high vs Washington is 31 points, which he did twice, both games in D.C. On Jan. 12, 2002, a 25-year old Garnett led the Timberwolves to a 108-100 win over the Wizards in a game Michael Jordan led with 35 points. That game came a year after Garnett’s 31-point output resulted in a loss.

Garnett’s best game against Washington may have been a 25-point, 19-rebound, 8-assist, 4-block performance on Jan. 8, 2005. That was another game in Washington that the Timberwolves lost. Gilbert Arenas scored 40. Overall, Garnett had a 28-19 record vs the Wizards/Bullets.

KG impacted both ends of the floor and always required the best from whoever he was playing against – or it was going to be a long night. Garnett is one of the greatest players of all time, and for his dedication to the game of basketball, the memories, and all that he left on the floor each night, Crown on the Rock says thank you, Kevin Garnett.