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NBA Draft: T-Wolves looking beyond Towns, Okafor at No. 1 ?

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NBA Draft: T-Wolves looking beyond Towns, Okafor at No. 1 ?

Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns. Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. The debate over which player should be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft focused on those two big men long before the Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery last month. With three weeks left before the June 25 draft, another player may have entered the mix.

Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell is a special talent with size, skill and upside for days. Most mock drafts slot the freshman either third to the 76ers or fourth to the Knicks. That includes the latest from ESPN's Chad Ford, who sent Russell to Philadelphia, after slotting Towns to Minnesota and Okafor to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, it's what Ford wrote about the Timberwolves' possible debate that led to this and other NBA Draft blog posts. Former Wizards coach Flip Saunders is Minnesota's coach and general manager

Karl-Anthony Towns is the No. 1-ranked player on my Big Board. However, virtually all the signals from sources inside the Wolves point to Jahlil Okafor being Flip Saunders' favorite right now. That obviously can change as we get closer to the draft. ...And after watching Towns' workout Monday, I believe that the Wolves will figure this out in favor of Towns. ... And do not totally discount D'Angelo Russell here either. I am told Saunders is also a big fan and might be willing to move Ricky Rubio for the right deal.

The Timberwolves already own a few intriguing pieces, most notably small forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. One thing missing is a true interior threat. Towns is the better prospect of the two centers,  but Okafor is the superior offensive player. If Minnesota wants the kid from Duke over the freshman from Kentucky, few will raise eyebrows.

Many would if Russell is the call. Based on talent, those people might be wrong. Russell oozed production and potential during his lone season with the Buckeyes. However, even in this modern, perimeter shooting era, productive big men are a commodity and one tougher to find then guards.

It would indeed surprise if Minnesota goes small over big based on its current roster. Then again, when it comes to the draft, stranger things have happened.

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3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

The Washington Wizards still have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. The Cleveland Cavaliers no longer employ LeBron James. That makes Wednesday’s first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference foes curious. The radical change for the visitors also requires a preview. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Sustaining the surge

Monday’s 117-109 victory over the Orlando Magic extended the Wizards’ winning streak to a season-high two. Don't knock the modest uptick after a 2-9 start. John Wall’s stat line took a big leap over the last three games: 24.0 points, 10.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 45.5 percent on 3-pointers. Beyond the numbers, the point guard appears to have knocked off the remaining rust physically. We’re used to his aggressive end-to-end pushes, but now Wall is firing up the court immediately after makes or misses, helping Washington quickly enter its offensive sets. Another strong outing from the five-time All-Star could propel the Wizards to their first three-game winning streak since Feb. 10-22.

Quick rematch

Starters Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris had solid games against the Magic, but the Wizards’ second unit played above previous season norms. All five reserves finished with a plus-minus of plus-8 or better. Jeff Green continued his sizzling shooting, sinking 4 of 5 from beyond the arc en route to 18 points. The 6-foot-9 forward is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall. Backcourt partners Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky, slow to develop chemistry this season, showed increased comfort during the winning streak. Washington needs more from the pair to help keep minutes for Wall and Beal at reasonable levels.

Cleveland doesn’t rock

From four consecutive NBA Finals appearances to the NBA’s worst record (2-11, tied with Phoenix). Yeah, the Cavaliers miss LeBron James just a little. They also are down Kevin Love (toe surgery), leaving Jordan Clarkson (15.2) and Rodney Hood (12.9) as Cleveland’s top scorers. That’s not ideal. The Cavaliers are 27th in scoring (103.3) while giving up 113.1 points per game, which is better than Washington’s league-worst 118.5. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, is filling in for the injured George Hill. Sexton is averaging 17.0 points over the last three games.

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

A sluggish start and a handful of woefully inefficient defensive efforts had the Wizards looking for answers early into the 2018-19 NBA season.

But making a major trade was not something the Washington front office was willing to do. As the Jimmy Butler saga reached its climax in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves reportedly attempted to strike of a conversation with the Wizards regarding Bradley Beal.

The details, reported by Marc Stein in his latest New York Times newsletter (via ProBasketballTalk), are minimal, but it sounds like the Wizards quickly brushed the discussion aside as Beal has remained off-limits in their eyes.

Word is the Wolves did try to engage Washington — another team falling well short of expectations — in trade talks for the sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal. But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start. They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts. 

Otto Porter, like many of his teammates, started the season in the wrong direction. But trading Porter is a tricky situation, one the Wizards organization probably doesn't want to pursue given the contract he was signed to just over a year ago. Trying to trade John Wall would be even more difficult.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves dealt Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards rattled off weekend wins over ht eHeat and Magic, and while not equal to making a blockbuster trade, it does show that the Wizards can make an internal fix to what ails them. 

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