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Morning tip: This is why Wizards still like chances in East

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Morning tip: This is why Wizards still like chances in East

As the East stands, the Wizards are in 10th place at 23-28 but below the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors the conference still is up for grabs. 

Usually, a team or two catches fire after the All-Star break -- the trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. -- and another team or two completely bottoms out to play their way out of the playoff picture.

This is where all nine teams above them stand and their road maps going forward:

1. Cavaliers: 30 games left. Only three games separate them from the second team so this seed isn't secured by any stretch. They have a murderous schedule out of the break, vs. Bulls, at Thunder, vs. Pistons, vs. Hornets, at Raptors, at Wizards, vs. Pacers, vs. Wizards, vs. Celtics and vs. Grizzlies. Any slippage or small losing streak means they won't be able to rest LeBron James, 31, like they did at the end of the regular season last year to ready for the playoffs.

2. Raptors: 30 games left. They've still got the Knicks and Nets twice, a Feb. 26 meeting with the Cavs which will determine who wins the season series which is crucial for seeding in the event of a tie and two games left vs. the Celtics who they've already beaten twice. They've got an easier path than the Cavs to end the season. They have a stretch beginning Feb. 21 when 10 of 12 games are at Air Canada Centre.

MORE WIZARDS: GRADING GARRETT TEMPLE

3. Celtics: 27 games left. Most are against Western Conference teams (14) and they've still got games with the Pacers and Hawks who have each beaten them twice in as many meetings. They have the Raptors twice (0-2 season series), the Thunder, Warriors and Cavs remaining. They also have a five-game swing out West that begins March 26 that can be back-breaking in a close race or put them over the top. And that comes just after a stretch of 3 of 4 games on the road.

4. Hawks: 27 games left. The first five games out of the break are at Phillips Arena, including a game with the Warriors. Immediately after that, there's a five-game road swing, including at the Warriors, Clippers and Raptors. They're just 16-11 at home and sub-.500 on the road. There are three meetings on tap with the Wizards, who can basically make up almost all of their ground alone with Atlanta.

5. Heat: 29 games left. Three with the Bulls (1-0), two vs. Pistons (0-2), vs. Wizards (1-2), vs. Pacers (1-2), Warriors (0-1), Spurs (0-1), at Celtics twice (0-1) and at Raptors (1-2). This is where the Heat ran out of gas last season with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh out of the lineup. Bosh, who missed the All-Star Game with a calf strain, is facing another blood clot scare that shut him down late last year. 

6. Pacers: 29 games left. They return from the break with a three-game road trip starting at the Thunder then have six of seven on the road, including at Cavs, Hornets, Wizards, Mavs and Hawks which is then followed by a three-game homestand vs. the Celtics, Raptors and Thunder. This isn't a good road team (11-16) that was .500 in its last 10 games.

7. Bulls: 30 games left. They've dropped six of their last seven going into the break and come back at the Cavs and home against the Raptors. They're still without their best player, Jimmy Butler (knee) for a few more weeks. The Wizards are in Chicago on Feb. 24, but relatively speaking they don't have a monster schedule. They have one more meeting each with the Cavs, Wizards and Raptors, two with the Hawks and Rockets and three with the Heat.  

8. Hornets: 29 games left. This is a loose grip on a playoff spot because a six-game road trip begins now, ending with the Cavs, Pacers and Hawks for a team that's 8-17 away from Time Warner Cable Arena. Then there are home games vs. the Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Mavs and Spurs followed by road games with the Cavs, Raptors, Wizards and Celtics. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out again (shoulder tear) while Al Jefferson (knee) is out but could be close to returning.

9. Pistons: 28 games left. A lot of tough road games remain, at the Wizards (twice), Cavs (twice), Spurs, Mavs and Hornets. There also two more meetings with the Hawks and Heat and one with the Bulls and Raptors. The Pistons have a home game with the Wizards, too, which is more than enough opportunities to make up ground or create separation.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by Nick Ashooh and Stefon Marquis to talk NBA Draft. 

They broke down five prospects and their potential fit with the Wizards: Moe Wagner of Michigan, Michael Porter, Jr. of Missouri, Grayson Allen of Duke, Collin Sexton of Alabama and Omari Spellman of Villanova.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

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USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

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