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NBA free agency: Day 1 recap and names still on the market

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NBA free agency: Day 1 recap and names still on the market

Say what you want about NBA free agency, but just don't call it boring.

Day 1 proved to be a wild ride from the start and ended with $1.3 billion in contracts doled out headlined by monster extensions for Anthony Davis and Kevin Love. Yes, that includes the relatively low cost, though longer than expected deal now ex-Wizards forward Paul Pierce signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The volume of deals likely won't be matched, but there are plenty of massive contracts still waiting for completion. Probably some crazy trades as well, though it will be hard topping the Sacramento Kings' bizarre maneuver for cap space.

What stood out:

  • The two teams that faced the Wizards in the playoffs were active on Day 1 and impacted with one signing. The Raptors added a 3-and-d force by signing Hawks free agent DeMarre Carroll. Meanwhile, Atlanta kept all-star Paul Millsap in the fold with a three-year, $58 million contract and bulked up by acquiring center Tiago Splitter from the San Antonio Spurs. Factor in Toronto previously dealing away Greivis Vasquez while adding guards Luke Ridnour and Delon Wright, and the Raptors are switching up their look. Intentional or not, so are the defending Eastern Conference champion Hawks. 
  • Forget the Sacramento side of the trade with Philadelphia or why the Kings believe the smart move was trading away 2014 first rounder Nik Stauskas plus a future No. 1 while giving the 76ers rights to swap picks in two upcoming drafts for the sake of clearing cap space. Just note that Philadelphia's continuing plan of wait and see paid off in this case. The 76ers gave up nothing of interest, but certainly improved the present and future just by adding Stauskas, a sharpshooting lottery pick. Now let's see what they do with newly added vets Carl Landry and Jason Thompson. As for the Kings, let's hope they add reported targets Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis. Combined with DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, rookie Willie Cauley-Stein and coach George Karl, we're talking reality show scene and not the good kind.

Who's next:

LeBron James - Just a matter of time before he re-signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who kept Love, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert with new deals Wednesday. 

LaMarcus Aldridge - It appears three teams remain in play for the Trail Blazers scoring forward with the San Antonio Spurs the perceived frontrunner. The Phoenix Suns moved into contention in part because they added defensive center Tyson Chandler in free agency. Portland's chances might not be the best, but a chance remains that Aldridge stays put for another run with Damian Lillard.

DeAndre Jordan - Does the Pierce signing indicate Los Angeles is keeping their shot blocker? Jordan spent lots of time with the Dallas Mavericks on Day 1. If he indeed wants to play a larger role, the Mavs have plenty of room 

Of the 10 names on this list of potential fits for the Wizards, seven remain available.

MORE WIZARDS: Which Wizards free agent is most likely to re-sign?

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless. 

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Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

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USA TODAY Sports

Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

The Wizards have shown no indication recently they are willing to bow down to anyone and accept their fate as a team depleted by injuries with the odds stacked against them. So, even as they get set to face the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, they can't be counted out, even if it seems a near impossible task for them to upset the two-time reigning champs.

In order to pull off the win, they will need many guys to step up, but perhaps none more than Otto Porter Jr., regardless of whether he's currently a bench player or not. For whatever reason, Porter has had some of the best games of his career against Golden State. 

Porter has scored 29 points or more in five career games and two of them came last season against the Warriors. He had nearly identical games of 29 points and 10 rebounds and shot a combined 10-for-18 (55.6%) from three. 

In five games against the Warriors going back to Feb. of 2017, Porter is averaging 19.4 points while shooting 56.8 percent from long range. He has nine steals compared to just two turnovers during that stretch.

The Wizards won just one of those games, as they have one win against the Warriors since 2014 and only two since 2010. But the Warriors have had no answer for Porter while his teammate Bradley Beal has been a much different story.

In their last meeting on Oct. 24, Beal had 23 points in 19 minutes but bruised his sternum and was limited in a 22-point defeat. In their final match-up last year, Beal was held to only eight points in 37 minutes on 3-for-15 from the field with five turnovers. It was one of the worst offensive nights Beal has had in years.

The other game between the teams last season featured Beal getting ejected for a fight with Draymond Green. He left with only four points.

Beal may find better luck this time around, now that he's reached another level as a scorer. He's averaging a career-best 24.7 points on the year and 29.6 points in his last eight games.

But it could very well come down to Porter leading the way. He has been on fire lately, shooting 47.7 percent from three while averaging 16.8 points during the Wizards' recent stretch of seven wins in 10 games. He also leads the team in defensive rating (99.1) since this run began on Dec. 29, while the Wizards' bench has posted the best +/- in the NBA.

In order to beat the heavily-favorited Warriors, the Wizards will need a collective effort and probably a big game from Beal. But if history is any indication, Porter will hold up his end of the bargain.

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