August 20, 2017, 4:30 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Wizards had an interesting offseason where it was intimated that the team’s backcourt didn’t really get along. They entered the year with a new coach and had John Wall‘s long-term fate in the balance. Though they started slow, the team really gelled and wound up being one of the surprise groups in the Eastern Conference. The talent was always there but the Wizards finally put it all together, in part due to good coaching, good health and some serious internal improvement. Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem takes a look at a successful year in Washington.
The Wizards were coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the postseason and aimed to get back into the conversation. There were inklings that John Wall wasn’t the happiest camper and the team was really banking on proving themselves as an organization on the rise. Their offseason didn’t feature many big maneuvers, though they did sign free agent Ian Mahinmi to a four-year, $64 million deal. They also signed Jason Smith, Trey Burke and Andrew Nicholson while adding Daniel Ochefu and Tomas Satoransky.
It was some serious bench turnover with Nene, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Alan Anderson all heading out. If the replacements don’t sound all that inspiring, don’t worry — we’ll come back to that.
Despite all the minor changes, perhaps no move was more influential than inking Bradley Beal to a five-year, $128 million deal. It seemed like a hefty price tag for a guy who was so injury plagued, but the Wiz decided to make their bed with a Wall-Beal tandem. Nearly as important was the addition of Scott Brooks as the team’s new head coach. The Randy Wittman era and all of its questionable choices had finally come to an end, and despite a few playoff victories there was never any sense that Washington could hit the next level under his leadership.
It was a poor start for the Wizards, who sat at just 6-12 through the first game of December. They turned it around quickly, however, winning nine of their last 10 games in January and going 7-3 in February. At that point they had more or less cemented home court in the first round in a weak Eastern Conference, and the only question is which of the East’s projected top three they’d draw in the Conference Semis. The Wizards, behind tremendous seasons from Wall, a healthy Beal and ascendant third-year man Otto Porter Jr., were looking dangerous headed into the postseason.
Knowing how reliant they were on their starting five, the Wiz went out and added Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline to help bolster the team’s bench. It had been a disappointing spot all season with Mahinmi battling big injuries and dreadful guard play putting a ton of pressure on the team’s backcourt stars. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough in the postseason. After dispatching the Hawks in the first round, Washington lost a hard fought Game 7 to the Celtics in Boston in which they lost the bench scoring battle 48 to five. Despite the ugly end, the Wizards ended up with 49 wins in a year where they were expected to be fringe contenders and can feel comfortable about the commitments they made with their core group.
Scott Brooks took his fair share of heat as the coach in Oklahoma City, and he was often criticized for unimaginative offense that asked his two superstars to get tough bucket after tough bucket. More comically, he leaned heavily on past-due veterans like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher and his personnel choices always caught up with the Thunder eventually.
While Brooks isn’t without his warts, he did his part to make Washington a more competitive group in his first year. They were a juiced up offensive team, climbing from 102.9 (19th) to a 108.5 (9th) offensive rating thanks to some impressive shooting from Beal and Porter. They didn’t increase their 3-point output and were a middling team by a litany of measures, including assist percentage (despite ranking sixth in assists per game), turnover rate, rebounding percentage and defensive rating. Even their pace was close to the team’s number from its final season under Wittman.
Part of that may stem from the fact that Brooks played his best players for massive minutes. You could also guess that it stemmed from the team’s ability to run in transition, buoyed by their third-best opponent turnover percentage of 15.3. To be fair, that’s actually lower than it was in 2015-16 when they ranked fifth at 16.0 percent. That doesn’t quite bear out either, as the Wizards actually saw 14.6 percent of their points come on the break and while that was good for fifth in the league it was a notch below their 17.8 percent (second place) from 2015-16.
The Wizards became a threat despite an unimpressive statistical profile, so while Brooks did help get the team to the cusp of the Conference Finals it’s probably worth waiting another season or so to see if he can spur legitimate improvement in any number of metrics. The simplest explanation for the team’s success is likely getting a full year of Beal and a fully developed two-way star in Porter. We’ll revisit Brooks’ case again next year, but it was a definite improvement upon the Wittman era.
ADP: 16/18 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 7/13 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 12/18 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
Wall asserted himself as one of the NBA’s elite point guards and silenced anyone who might’ve been questioning his abilities with a career year. He was over 20 points per game (23.1) for the first time in his career while notching career-highs with 10.7 assists and 2.0 steals. On top of that, he topped .450 from the floor for the first time in his career with a .451 mark on the year. While Wall wasn’t a terrific deep shooter and committed 4.1 turnovers per game, ranking second in assists and leading the league in steals will cover up those weak spots.
The growth of Porter and the consistent presence of Beal opened up room for the dynamic athlete to drive, and he saw a nice increase in his shots from 10 feet or closer to the rim. A Wall that’s moving downhill is almost impossible to stop and a team with improved spacing really helped him make the most of his shots. It also lead to 6.8 free throws per game, the most he’s had since entering the league. There’s a lot to like about his statistical profile going forward, and the shot selection could even help his efficiency improve.
While people are always skeptical of players fresh off a fat new contract, Wall doesn’t seem the type to kick back now that he’s got money in hand. An elite contributor in assists and steals, he’s going to be a safe early-round selection as one of the top point guards available.
ADP: 76/78 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 26/26 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 30/29 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
There were some questions about forking over $128 million to a guy who had played just 56, 73, 63 and 55 games in his first four years. Beal had been dogged by ankle, wrist and hip injuries in his past, not to mention a stress reaction in his right fibula. This season, however, Beal turned the page and missed just four games due to injury — three to a hamstring and one to an ankle. He stayed on the court and authored a real breakout season.
Beal posted 23.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.9 threes per game this season. He was especially effective in 9-cat leagues thanks to just 2.0 turnovers per contest, but most of his improvement was driven by serious improvement in his shooting. Beal shot .482 from the field, crushing his previous career-high of .449. He also shots .404 from three and on 7.2 attempts per game, joined some elite long-range company.
Going forward it’s not out of the question for Beal to turn similar numbers in year after year. We’d like to see another year like this before putting his injury concerns to bed, and any shooting increase of that magnitude is cause for caution, but the Wizards have obviously penciled him in as a key piece for their future. It might be tough for him to reach these exact heights again but he’s going to be worth taking in the early-middle rounds.
ADP: 105/63 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 28/15 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 41/22 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
While so much love goes to superstar duos, it’s often the presence of a versatile, reliable third option that kicks the team into gear. Porter was that man for the Wizards and saw improvements in every fantasy category besides assists. The most notable gain for OPJ was his shooting, as he knocked down 51.6 percent of all shots and was among the league leaders at 43.4 percent from behind the arc.
With averages of 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.9 triples, Porter turned himself into an elite fantasy option. Even better for 9-cat players, he committed just 0.5 turnovers per game. Over 52 percent of his shots came in the catch-and-shoot game while another 28.6 came within 10 feet of the rim, so Porter isn’t really putting the ball on the floor unless he’s working towards an easy bucket. It bodes well for his turnovers going forward, making him extremely attractive as an across-the-board contributor in 9-cat leagues.
The only area to be wary of is shooting, as his .470 on the catch-and-shoot looks came after years of .365 and .422. He’s definitely made improvements to his game and it’s not out of the question that he continues to work in the high four hundreds, but you might want to hedge your bets a little bit there. A steady third option for the Wizards, Porter is a fantastic player to add to just about any roster build in the early-middle rounds while he becomes a second round play in 9-cat leagues.
ADP: 108/119 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 64/63 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 72/74 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Markieff Morris re-solidified his middle-round fantasy game and looked relieved to be out of his ugly situation in Phoenix. A camp with his new teammates seemed to do plenty of good as well, and the Wizards really benefited from his ability to stretch the floor. He shot a career-best .362 from deep and has seen his volume up since joining the Wizards, so look for that to continue.
Morris had a few ups and downs but was mostly positive, delivering 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals 0.6 blocks and 0.9 threes in 31.2 minutes per game. The playing time was huge as it was only the second season ever where Morris topped 30 minutes per game. He shot .457 overall, now giving him three seasons above .450 and three others below, with his best of those years checking in at just 42.5 percent.
Unless his shooting goes back in the tank, Keef seems like a pretty decent bet for top-75 production again. There’s really nobody pushing him for minutes here. He’s versatile enough to play small ball five and seems to fit in nicely as a secondary scoring option who can get hot from time to time.
ADP: 67/64 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 60/55 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 90/85 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82
Marcin Gortat ended up as a reliable mid-round big man but his season wasn’t without its headaches. He absolutely killed it in the first half of the season before completely vanishing in February, registering just 21.3 minutes per game and falling off the standard league radar. It was an ugly end to a year in which he averaged 10.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
The return of Ian Mahinmi really cut into his playing time, and it casts an ominous shadow over his future given that Mahinmi was handed a big contract and can’t play anywhere else but the five. Gortat also revealed that he’s not exactly happy with his dwindling role in Washington, and it’s possible that he gets traded if Mahinmi gets back to full health. Just as troubling was Gortat’s cratering block rate, as owners had been accustomed to the Polish Hammer delivering something close to 1.5 a night.
So while his minutes should fall from 31.2 per game, his blocks are likely to rebound to more palatable levels. His arrow is pointing down but he should still be able to deliver top-100 value without much trouble.
ADP: 140 / 138 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 114/132 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 151/173 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
Bogdanovic was brought in to help deepen the Washington bench after spending his time starting for the Nets. Things didn’t change too much, and he lost only three minutes of playing time in D.C. On the full year he averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.8 threes per game.
Unfortunately, the song remains the same for Bogie even in Indiana. He can hit threes and provide some steady point production but just doesn’t do enough elsewhere to climb into the top-100. He’s a sharpshooter for sure, but the stat set is too weak for most fantasy owners to really get excited about.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 221/206 (8/9 cat), Per Game Rank: 271/253 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
Kelly Oubre saw his playing time double as a sophomore, from 10.3 minutes per game as a rookie to 20.7 this season. While he’ll be remembered for his playoff outburst against the Celtics it was a nice showing from the youngster who is one of Washington’s only truly reliable bench pieces. It didn’t bring impressive box score numbers with just 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 threes but there were some positive signs for the organization.
In a larger role there might be enough for Oubre to rack up enough threes and steals to work towards flier territory. He’s a player that deep leaguers can feel free to grab given his impending playing time increase.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 312/312 (8/9 cat), Per Game Rank: 205/202 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 31
Mahinmi, the proud owner of a hearty contract, failed to do much for most of the year as he was sidelined with a left knee that wouldn’t quiet down. He tore his meniscus before the year and received PRP treatments on both knees shortly after returning. When he was on the court, however, he was working his way towards being named Brooks’ center of choice. His return coincided with a steep decline in Gortat’s playing time and turned some heads with his ability to rack up defensive stats. A seven steal game was his crowning achievement, but he was able to average 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks in only 17.9 minutes per game.
Hopefully healthy, there’s deep league appeal here. Mahinmi might be able to flip the depth chart and has shown the ability to rack up defensive stats with relative ease. Keep an eye on the rotations here next season.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 201 / 202 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 253/240 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
Smith managed to shoot .529 from the floor and provided some serviceable bench minutes and mid-range shooting, though he played only 14.4 minutes per game. Though his shooting touch is probably his calling card, Smith notched 0.7 blocks a night as well.
Unfortunately there doesn’t look to be much room for improvement here barring an unforeseen jump in playing time. Smith is a fine streaming option if Morris were to miss time with an injury but otherwise would be an extremely underwhelming fantasy option.
The Wizards seem poised to make a run at the Conference Finals, having inked Porter and Wall to max extensions. That solidifies their core group going forward and the team made a few moves to provide its stars with more capable backups this offseason. An injury to any of those three would be catastrophic, and the fatigue that plagued them in the playoffs simply can’t be built up through huge regular season workloads. How Brooks manages their minutes will go a long way to determining Washington’s postseason fate, but make no mistake — this is a talented team that has the potential to put a scare into the East’s elite.
May 27, 2019, 8:52 amDan Gilbert - Team - Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert was admitted to the hospital yesterday morning after experiencing stroke-like symptoms.
“He received immediate medical attention and is currently recovering comfortably,” a Quicken Loans company spokesman said.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:12 pmJimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
According to Tom Moore, it's a good move for the Sixers to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to big deals over the summer.
Moore points out that the move to acquire Butler at the NBA trade deadline was with the intention of keeping him with the team long-term. Butler was one of the more reliable Sixers players in the playoffs and his experience and composure shined through. Both he and Harris are expected to get a lot of suitors come free agency so it will be interesting to see how much the Sixers will be willing to cough up to retain their talented veterans.
Source: Tom Moore on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.
The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.
Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors
According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.
Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.
Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.
Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets
As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.
Source: The Denver Post
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.
Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.
Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.
Source: Micha Adams on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.