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How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

How trade deadline decisions hint at Wizards' future Otto Porter plans

The calls about Otto Porter came early and often during the trade deadline that passed earlier today, but they went unanswered by Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. He plans on keeping the soon-to-be restricted free agent now that he has blossomed into an elite shooter who is a perfect fit for one the NBA’s best starting fives.

“We love Otto,” Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com, before the Wizards departed for Fridays' game at the Philadelphia 76ers. “We love the way that he’s developed and how he’s come along. I think Otto fits in very well with what we’re trying to do. I said he’s part of our core and we want to keep him here.”

Porter didn’t enter his fourth NBA season as this hot of a commodity. But in his first season under coach Scott Brooks he has elevated every aspect of his game, averaging career-highs of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 53.4% overall shooting and an NBA-high 46.5% three-point shooting.

With John Wall and Bradley Beal having All-Star-caliber seasons, and Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat playing their best basketball since coming to D.C., Porter has stepped right in. He’s no longer the shy, shoulder-shrugging Mr. Nice Guy that he was when the Wizards drafted him No. 3 overall in 2013.

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Though he’s still a nice guy, he has more edge to his game and certainly a confidence that was absent in most of his first two seasons. Last season, Porter’s first as the starting small forward, he came on strong late after lingering in the low 30s on his shot from three.

Now it’s a well-oiled machine. When defense overcommit to Wall and Beal, Porter makes them pay. As a result of his explosion, so will the Wizards to keep him. Porter's emergence created an unexpected expense.

The move made by the Wizards to trade Andrew Nicholson’s $26 million salary, in addition to sacrificing a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic, was to create more cap room. They anticipate needing it to retain Porter, who earns $5.9 million this season.

The Wizards must make him a qualifying offer of 125% of that salary to retain the first right of refusal by making Porter restricted. Not making a qualifying offer would allow him to become unrestricted.

“He and John, Bradley, Keef and Marcin and all the rest of our players complement each other very well,” Grunfeld said. “We hope to have him here for a long time.”

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."
 

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

Kelly Oubre Jr. takes his style very seriously, perhaps to a point even further than the most fashionable of NBA players. He wants to be a figure in the industry someday as a designer of his own shoes and clothing line.

So when he approached the process of brokering a new shoe contract, he took into consideration factors that went well beyond the average player and outside of the mainstream. He wanted more than a basketball shoe. He wanted a lifestyle brand and a partnership that wasn't solely about basketball.

Oubre left Adidas to sign a new mutli-year deal this week with Nike and Converse. He will wear Nike shoes in the meantime, until a concept made by Converse is ready for game action. Then, he will become the only NBA player to wear the brand on the floor.

"Everyone knows me and I'm a different individual," he said. "Converse is reinventing themselves in the basketball world. I will be the only athlete this year flying the flag. I'm very excited to be able to represent."

Converse has a history in the game of basketball, of course. Before Nike and Adidas took over, Converse was the dominant brand for most of the 20th century, up until the 1980s. Their Chuck Taylor All Stars maintain a legacy today in the casual shoe market.

The deep basketball history of Converse appealed to Oubre.

"It's old school. It started with basketball, then it went to the rock stage, then it went to people wearing them without any thought to what the foundation of the brand was," he said.

Oubre said there is no release date yet for the new-age Converse basketball shoe. He expects to have some input on the design of future shoes and said it's part of why he chose them.

Oubre plans to begin his own clothing line at some point with the working title of 'Dope Soul.' He told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that it is "coming soon," but couldn't provide any further details. 

Oubre had restrictions under his previous contract with Adidas and had been looking forward to finding a new deal that would allow for such things. It sounds like he may be afforded that freedom.

For now, with Converse, Oubre is excited to chart a new path with an unconventional company.

"You can't really define Converse because we've done everything and we're about to take over the world," he said.