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One on one: Pick Pierce or pick depth?


One on one: Pick Pierce or pick depth?

With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks,CSNWashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.

For argument sake, let’s say the Wizards could have kept Paul Pierce, but then no Jared Dudley trade and only minimum contract players instead of Alan Anderson and Gary Neal. Which scenario do you prefer?

 J. Michael: Let Pierce walk. He’ll be 38 by the time the season starts and really doesn’t help immediately. The Wizards were certain they could keep him but the Los Angeles Clippers offered him an extra guaranteed year. Not trying to match or exceed that was smart not only for the long-term but short-term. 

Sure, the Wizards lose the big-shot ability that Pierce brings and was evident during the playoffs. But Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley should be able to make up for that and then some. All three have experience and have come through with daggers in the postseason for previous teams. Pierce doesn’t have a monopoly on shot-making and his impact was more team-wide when it came to his locker-room presence and leadership. His impact on Otto Porter's development, however, has been grossly exaggerated. The real truth: Pierce rarely uttered a word to him. 

And one of the Wizards’ points of emphasis is being a better regular-season team to get a better seeding so they have a better shot at the conference finals. They only won 46 games last season, two games better than the previous year when the also advanced to East semis, with Pierce. The fact is, Pierce doesn’t do much for you during the regular season. He admits it’s tough getting up for 82 games and he paces himself. He will miss games for rest. He has a troublesome big left toe that has caused him to sit since 2012. He can be a defensive liability (see final play of Game 5 vs. Hawks when he's beaten so badly to box-out position by Paul Millsap that he compromises the defense which leads to Al Horford's game-winning basket over Nene). Pierce was great for the one season he was here. He brought an attitude that John Wall and Bradley Beal can learn from and held players accountable for goofing off too much after bad losses and enjoying the NBA lifestyle too much on the road. But it was best for both sides that he moved on in the end. 

Ben Standig: The truth is I had more fun professionally covering Paul Pierce's shot-making and quote brilliance during the postseason than just about anything in my career. Now, this has nothing to do with this hypothetical other than to note that regardless of any personal desire for more "I called game" moment, I'd side with adding the three other players. 

 J. Michael mentioned the age. Now, I love the Satchel Paige quote ("Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind then it doesn't matter). The thing is, younger, stronger and bigger NBA players don't care about such things. 

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Wizards Coach Randy Wittman has stated he didn't use Pierce at stretch-4 much during the regular season because he wanted to save the veteran from that extra wear-and-tear. I'm buying what the coach is selling and therefore expect more of that effective the small-ball look over 82 games. (Dudley's return from back surgery plays a large role in such plans.) Regardless, the Wizards now have more consistent 3-point shooting threats - a key factor should Bradley Beal miss any games - plus Anderson's defensive knack on the wing. 

If Beal and John Wall step up with their own late-game shot-making, these Wizards can overcome just about everything Pierce provided. If Dudley, Neal and Anderson help the Wizards improve on last regular season's win total and playoff seeding, then we'll probably blurt out, "That's why they brought them here."

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


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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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.


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