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Breaking down Wizards’ offseason maneuvers after Kevin Durant snub

Breaking down Wizards’ offseason maneuvers after Kevin Durant snub

What will be missing when the 2016-17 starts is a third star to go along with John Wall and Bradley Beal, but there’s a vision in place for the Wizards. It’s just that missing out on Kevin Durant — and never been granted a chance to pitch to him — causes everything else to look like a blur in comparison.

As reported by CSNmidatlantic.com before free agency opened July 1, the Wizards would be content to stick with their starting five and retool the second unit if necessary.

They struck out on their Plan B, Al Horford, and Ryan Anderson grew out of their price range and Luol Deng opted to go elsewhere so they went to Plan C: Ian Mahinmi ($16 million average per), Tomas Satoransky ($3 million), Andrew Nicholson ($6.5 million), Trey Burke ($3.3 million) and Jason Smith ($5 million). The road map being drawn for some moves are obvious, though that's not true of them all:

The purpose of Mahinmi

The 6-11 center is a good player and anyone who says otherwise hasn't watched him.

He was good enough for the San Antonio Spurs to draft him in the first round and their track record for identifying international talent is top-notch. Mahinmi, who was the backup big to Tyson Chandler during the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 championship run, took a while to develop.

He’s better than Timofey Mozgov, who got the same deal from the L.A. Lakers in this crazy market. But Mahinmi is a role player and not a centerpiece. He’s more physical than Marcin Gortat and a good defender. Better defense, especially inside the paint now that Nene is gone, was a priority identified by president Ernie Grunfeld and majority Ted Leonsis upon hiring Scott Brooks.

 

Rewind to what was said when Brooks was hired 

"This day and age with NBA teams, you need two-way players to compete night in and night out.”

There wasn’t as much talk about pace-and-space and launching threes in an effort to be like the Golden State Warriors. While their stats are modest, Mahinmi and Nicholson fit that description, and while Smith isn’t the most athletic big he plays with an edge (some would say dirty) that the Wizards have sorely lacked. Free runs to the rim are less likely to be allowed.

Nene despised Smith for good reason, because he gave it to the big Brazilian as well as he took it. 

 

About Gortat being on the trading block ...

There has been no indication any such move even has been pondered, multiple league sources have told CSNmidatlantic.com since Mahinmi’s acquisition. That doesn’t mean the Wizards still can’t or won’t do something else when they figure out the rest of the pieces.

Who knows how Jaleel Roberts, for instance, will show in Las Vegas summer league. Gortat makes an average of $12 million a year, $4 million less than Mahinmi, so such a question is predictable. However, this simply is a function of a ridiculous spike in the salary cap based on league revenues. Mahinmi is making four times the salary he made as the starter with the Pacers this past season. In this market, Gortat makes $20 million. Or in the market when Gortat signed his deal a few years ago, Mahinmi is making around $7 million.

Being too fixed on the number here fails to take into account salary inflation. That’s no longer an indicator of who is the starter or role player, but if Gortat starts having the lapses defensively that he had last season Mahinmi is more than capable of taking over or playing in the last two minutes of close games.

 

What happened to the youth movement?

Nothing.

Just because the bigs are 30ish doesn’t mean this direction has changed. Look at the rest of the roster: Kelly Oubre (20), Sheldon McClellan (23), Otto Porter (23), Bradley Beal (23), Burke (23), Satoransky (24), Jarell Eddie (24) and John Wall (25). This roster has gotten younger.

The departed -- Jared Dudley, Garrett Temple, Nene, Ramon Sessions -- are all 30 and over. And all cost more per year than all of those names except Wall and Beal who are the best players and no longer on rookie scale contracts.

Gortat (32) and Mahinmi (29) weren't starters early in their careers. They don't have the same mileage as Dwight Howard, who has had back surgery. But there's room for veterans on every roster, and ideally those vets can play. All of these can though how Smith ultimately fits is worth questioning since he's not known as a three-point shooter. A spread five would be ideal since Nicholson is pretty new to being a three-point shooting big and Markieff Morris is evolving as a shooter from distance, too. Last year the ratio was 2-to-1 older vs. young. Now it's the opposite. But that's also going to put more pressure on Wall and Beal to do a better job leading than last year. And Morris (26) is experienced but still young.

 

Remember part of this explanation of why Brooks was hired ...

Unlike Randy Wittman, who refused to play younger players because he didn’t have the job security of Brooks, younger players will get more of a chance to develop.

If Wittman was going to fail, he was going to fail with a veteran. Brooks is noted for his handling of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and comes highly recommended. Youth should be better served and an investment in development that the Wizards have been correctly criticized for lacking should take hold. The dividends from this could take time to show, but they've got to start down this path at some point.

 

A side benefit for skewing young though mostly unknown players

Trading older players limits your options because they’re at their ceiling (and more injury-prone).

With the Wizards going with youth, even if those players don’t peak here, they can be flipped into other assets based on unrecognized potential. That’s how Burke ended up in D.C. The point guard, a 2013 lottery pick for Utah, is gained for a second-round pick in 2021. There’s still time for him to live up to his draft status and if he doesn’t his rights could be renounced after this season. And if you're of the mind set that second-round picks are of high value, they can be gained pretty easily.

If Burke remains a mid-level sort of player who is worthy of keeping as Wall’s backup, he’s restricted if the Wizards make a qualifying offer next summer.

 

Drew Gooden still is on the roster because ….

The soon-to-be 35-year-old forward’s $3.6 million salary for 2016-17 is non-guaranteed.

The Wizards have to make a decision before July 15 or it becomes fully guaranteed which means they can no longer waive him without penalty under the cap. Getting rid of his non-guaranteed salary now would be foolish. In the NBA it’s not about the player as much as it is about the salary slot.

If another team has a player who is a close salary match who they want to unload but could be a good fit in Washington, they could swap that player for Gooden. In theory, the Wizards would get a player they can better use and fit into their system while the other team could waive Gooden without penalty to clear the salary and open the roster spot. It’s a classic case of win-win.

Eddie is non-guaranteed as well but the 6-7 shooter is likely to stick around as long as he holds up his end. At less than $1 million in salary, he’d be a bargain and there’s always a spot for shooters in the NBA.

 

How many more roster moves are left?

That’s impossible to predict though they’ll have to figure out what to do behind the frequently injured Beal.

Satoransky is envisioned as a combo guard but whether he’s ready immediately is unclear. Eddie, who was smothered by Wittman, could log more time there. McClellan is a partial guarantee so he can be waived at minimal cost to clear a spot. Who knows what can be fetched for Gooden’s salary and that creates a domino effect.

The guess is the Wizards will stay fluid and fill only 14 of the 15 maximum roster spots or have one or two non-guaranteed deals heading into the regular season to give them flexibility until the February trade deadline.

RELATED: DID DURANT TAKE A SHOT AT D.C. IN WARRIORS ANNOUNCEMENT?

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.