April 27, 2019, 7:01 pm
Dwight Howard exercising his $5.6 million option for next season is enough of a no-brainer that it barely qualified as news. The 33-year-old won’t be a foundational piece for Washington – certainly not in the long term and likely not even next season – but his presence adds another obstacle to a team that’s found itself in increasingly difficult circumstances.
It’s simple to see why the Wizards felt that someone of Howard’s profile would fit their roster. Despite grading out as a middling rebounding squad over the last couple of seasons, they were comfortably in the league’s bottom half in terms of opponent points in the paint and second chance points. Both of Howard’s teams in those years, the Hawks and the Hornets, were superior in all three of those measures than the Wizards.
This season, Washington got scorched in those categories – 24th in opponent second chance points, 29th in opponent points in the paint and 29th in rebounding percentage. It’s not entirely unexpected considering the roster was without its one true center for pretty much all of the year, but it does point to the gaping hole that Howard’s absence left.
Which is to say nothing of the lob threat that Howard was supposed to be, providing a huge upgrade in the offensive paint on ground-bound Marcin Gortat for Washington’s guard combo.
The fact that Howard missed all but nine games because of a back/glute issue couldn’t have been too high on the team’s list of expected outcomes, but they wouldn’t give a 32-year-old with a history of back injuries a player option if there wasn’t some belief that he could be an asset, even with some decline baked into the thought process. Then again, Ernie Grunfeld, the guy who handed that contract out is now looking for work.
The Wizards believed that Howard would be a sort of missing piece to their roster, which featured a great backcourt combo and a prototypical 3-and-D forward in Otto Porter. Adding a voracious rebounder and lob threat to the mix was meant to give Washington some cachet in a weak conference.
What a difference a year makes.
John Wall is likely to miss all of next season and there are serious questions as to what player he’ll be when he returns, as his speed and athleticism could very well be shot after retuning from a ruptured Achilles.
Porter is gone and in his place the Wizards added Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker, who are neither the defenders nor the shooters that Porter was on his bad days. Howard is the missing piece on a roster that’s since been blown to bits.
The immediate problem now becomes making Howard fit on a roster that’s not going to accentuate his strengths.
The broader problem is that the Wizards now have another issue to work around in terms of determining their future and moving the team in that direction.
With an ownership group that’s at least outwardly opposed to a full tank, the Wizards aren’t in the business of attaching first-rounders to clear the cap. Even if they were, you’d imagine that Washington would rather get rid of Ian Mahinmi’s deal than toss in a big sweetener to be rid of Howard’s relatively affordable contract.
While there were flashes of a more cohesive team built upon Bradley Beal with Wall sidelined, the Wizards as constructed just aren’t going to have the juice to be serious contenders. Short of trading Beal and totally blowing it up – which, again, ownership doesn’t want to do – Washington has limited pathways to improving and risks wasting Beal’s elite prime.
It would make sense for Washington to give Thomas Bryant as many minutes as possible after he impressed this past season (though Scott Brooks might not want that regardless of Bryant’s performance considering his history of overelying on veterans) and the Wizards are expected to try and retain he and Portis in restricted free agency.
There have been rumors that there’s interest in bringing Parker back as well, though not on his $20 million team option, and both Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green have hinted that they’d like to stay too. Even if only the youngsters are re-upped, it still makes for a lot of bodies to play at the four and five spots with no consistent shooters in the bunch.
As for how feasible that all is, Washington has about $90 million committed to Wall, Beal, Howard, Mahinmi and Troy Brown Jr. next season. No other players are under contract, and Portis, Bryant and Tomas Satoransky are in for notable raises as RFAs.
It’s not looking great. Money’s going to be very tight and the Wizards need to add eight players, and their RFA group might be tempted by an offer sheet considering Washington’s standing and cap situation.
There’s also the matter of who starts at center. Bryant didn’t do anything to lose the job, while Portis might be next in line. Howard’s reputation doesn’t paint him as the type to willingly accept a bench role, and the Wizards might have to either placate him or risk a sour Howard dragging down the dressing room.
Beyond the court, where it’s clear that Howard provides a missing element at a reasonable price despite the fit, the Wizards are left to grapple with the philosophical question of whether they’d rather have Howard or the $5.6 million.
Cap space is perhaps the most valuable asset for bad teams outside of draft picks, and the Wizards have bigger elephants in the room than Howard in terms of ugly deals. Perhaps he even plays his way into being a trade candidate given his expiring deal and workable salary.
Still, Washington would rather not be in this spot. They should be angling to acquire futures in exchange for absorbing questionable contracts, not looking for ways out of their own.
When you try and take stock of the Wizards – who they are, what they could be, and how they could get there – none of the best plans require Howard on this roster next season.
And while $5.6 million isn’t breaking the bank, for a team with gaping flesh wounds on the cap sheet, he’s prolonging the inevitable at a subtle but not insignificant opportunity cost.
Add another hurdle to the track.
August 21, 2019, 10:34 amCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.
Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.
Source: John Casey on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:33 pmTyronn LuePG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:28 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.
The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 6:11 pmJaylen AdamsPG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.
Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.
August 20, 2019, 4:55 pmJeff LedbetterG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.
Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:49 pmEric MikaC, Sacramento Kings
The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.
The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:44 pmJA MorantPG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."
Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.
Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 2:17 pmDerrick AlstonTeam, New York Knicks
The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.
Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:21 pmCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph is not expected to play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup.
Team Canada has been taking a beating the last few weeks with NBA guys continuing to pull out. This news won't have any effects on Joseph's role heading into the season, but it does create another dent in Team Canada's chances of making noise in the World Cup.
Source: Doug Smith: Raptors on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:08 pmMarcus Georges-HuntSG, Free Agent
Jay King of The Athletic is hearing that Marcus Georges-Hunt is in Boston working out with the Celtics for the next few days.
Georges-Hunt last played in the NBA for the Wolves in the 2017-18 season. Last season Georges-Hunt was waived from the Celtics in mid-October and played nine games for the Red Claws. Georges-Hunt is a longshot to make the team and carries no fantasy relevance regardless of the outcome.
Source: Jay King on Twitter