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.
March 30, 2020, 12:27 pmJohn WallPG, Washington Wizards
John Wall (Achilles) was participating in scrimmages with the Capital City Go-Go before the NBA suspended its season.
Wall was scrimmaging every three days or thereabouts, depending on the schedule, and was a regular presence at the team's practices. There's even video of him throwing down a nasty jam on rookie Garrison Mathews at the link below. Despite this notable step forward in his recovery, the Wizards have maintained that Wall will not return this season, even with the hiatus giving Wall an extra few months of recovery time.
Source: The Athletic
March 29, 2020, 9:45 pmTyler BeySG, College
University of Colorado shooting guard Tyler Bey declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Sunday.
The junior is being regarded as an early second-round draft prospect for this summer. Bey has some potential as a fantasy asset based upon his ability to accumulate steals and blocks, but it's unclear what kind of a role he would carry as a rookie in the NBA. His odds to become a defensive ace, who also develops consistent range from deep, is what NBA squads will be calculating when they look at him on draft day.
Source: Tyler Bey on Twitter
March 29, 2020, 9:32 pmMarcus SmartPG, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart announced that he has been cleared of COVID-19 since Friday.
It is good to see that Smart made a full recovery from the virus. Before this crisis hit the scene Smart was having a strong season with consistent mid-round value for the Celtics. With his secure role as a defensive anchor and his improved shooting from deep, he will continue to be a strong option whenever play resumes.
Source: Marcus Smart on Twitter
March 29, 2020, 8:02 pmReggie PerryPF, College
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Sunday.
Perry said he will not be going back to college in the fall, and unlike in 2019 when he declared for the draft before withdrawing to return to college, he intends to sign with an agent this time around. He is shaping up to be a second-round selection and made some strong strides during his Sophmore campaign at Missippi State last season, averaging 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds on .500 shooting from the field. He'll need to continue improving upon this year's free-throw percentage (.768) and prove he can shoot the NBA three-pointer (.324) to become a prospect for standard fantasy leagues next season.
Source: Jeff Goodman on Twitter
March 29, 2020, 7:21 pmKris DunnPG, Chicago Bulls
Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes that there have been multiple rumors connecting the Clippers with impending free agent Kris Dunn.
Dunn would only add to the Clippers' collection of outstanding defensive talent, though he may be hunting for a role closer to the starting lineup in a perfect world. He's currently shelved by a right MCL sprain that was initially expected to sideline him for the entire season. No matter where Dunn ends up, it's going to take a perfect set of circumstances for him to produce worthwhile numbers outside of the steals category.
Source: The Athletic
March 28, 2020, 10:21 pmMitchell RobinsonC, New York Knicks
Knicks owner James Dolan tested positive for Coronavirus on Saturday.
Dolan is in self-isolation and fortunately has "little to no symptoms". The Knicks' press release said that Dolan "continues to oversee business operations" which is hopefully, a good indicator that Dolan is feeling well.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
March 28, 2020, 9:30 pmPaul ReedSF, College
Paul Reed declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Saturday.
The junior small forward out of Depaul was named to the All-Big East Second Team this past season while averaging 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 2.6 blocks. Reed is likely to be drafted late in the first round. He was an efficient scorer in college (51.6 percent from the field in 2019-20) and if his shooting, rebounding and defensive stats translate to the NBA he could be a sneaky fantasy value. Keep an eye on Reed next season in case he is in a role where he can get minutes in the upper-20s.
Source: Paul Reed on Twitter
March 28, 2020, 7:57 pmZeke NnajiPF, College
According to CBS' Jon Rothstein, Arizona Wildcat power forward Zeke Nnaji will declare for the 2020 NBA draft.
Nnaji is a potential late first-round pick in the draft, given that it's a guard-heavy field and some teams may be in the market for some size. That said, it's far too early to make any hard predictions and draft boards remain fluid. With averages of 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on .570 shooting from the field, Nnaji has the base to be a fantasy-friendly big man, should he earn meaningful minutes on the team that eventually takes him.
Source: Jon Rothstein on Twitter
March 28, 2020, 7:50 pmAaron NesmithSF, College
Vanderbilt player Aaron Nesmith has announced that he will be entering the 2020 NBA Draft.
Nesmith, whose 2019-20 NCAA season was cut short by foot surgery, will be foregoing his junior year in order to join the draft. He's 6'6" and weighs in at 213 pounds. Playing small forward for Vanderbilt, Nesmith posted averages of 23 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc in the 14 games he managed to play.
March 27, 2020, 8:36 pmKillian HayesSG, International
Killian Hayes, a highly touted 18-year old point guard who has played three years professionally in France and Germany, has declared for the 2020 NBA draft after submitting the paperwork to the NBA league office.
Measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Hayes has been on scouts' radars for quite some time after riding some very impressive YouTube highlight videos to prospect relevancy. In his most recent season, with ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, Hayes averaged 12.8 PTS, 6.2 AST, 2.3 REB and 1.5 STL while seeing his NBA draft stock rise as a result. He is a very talented shooter and it is seemingly more and more likely that Hayes will see his name called in the lottery when draft night arrives.