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Open court: Do any Hornets free agents fit Wizards?

Open court: Do any Hornets free agents fit Wizards?

An incredibly successful season for the Charlotte Hornets is over, after a 48-win regular season and a Game 7 elimination to the Miami Heat. They’re loaded with free agents who are worth pursuing.

The Wizards's goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the salary cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.

They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.

These are Charlotte’s free agents, in order of best fit (and projected affordability):

Courtney Lee: A career backup with the ability to start, Lee is a solid two-way guard who made $5.7 million and now is an unrestricted free agent. He has good size and is a perfect complement to Wall or Beal as he can plug two gaps. The question for him, is starting a requirement (he made 65 in Memphis and Charlotte this past season) and for the Wizards would be how much would they be willing to pay a No. 2? Lee also shot 38% from three. He fills a lot of voids in one player.

Jeremy Lin: At 6-3 and seasoned, he’s the perfect backup point guard but could start pending on where he ends up. He only made $2.1 million after coming off a monster deal previously and has a player option. Lin has done enough to get back some of that lost income with 11.7 points. Lin is a better defender than Ramon Sessions, who is looking for a starting job after playing the last two seasons behind Wall.

Marvin Williams: He has a few qualities to make him a prize catch as an unrestricted free agent -- size, experience, the versatility to play both forward positions and three-point range (40%). Williams, who was backup with Charlotte a year ago, was elevated to a starting role this season and is in line for a sizable contract, well above the $7 million he earned. Given the Wizards already have Morris who has a better low-post game and a much more cap-friendly deal, paying Williams makes little sense. But since Williams can play the three spot, too, there’s a scenario of playing both. Of course, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre occupy those spots and are much cheaper.

Nic Batum: The perfect definition of a two-way player, Batum can shoot the three and defend both guard positions and the wing effectively as well as smaller fours. He finished the final year of his deal that paid him $13.1 million after being traded from Portland. Batum is now unrestricted and will be in high demand. If the Wizards were to make a play for him, that’s a lot tied up into one position with Porter and Oubre at the three spot. A roster move to relieve that glut would be likely for it to make sense which is why Batum is listed this low. Otherwise, he’s first.

Al Jefferson:  His 12 points and 6.4 rebounds represent his lowest output since his second NBA season, and he earned $13.5 million. But Jefferson was injured and came off the bench as the Hornets went to small-ball to adjust. He still can put up starter’s numbers, is a load in the post and by all indications accepted the backup role with grace. Jefferson is on the other side of 30 in a game that’s become increasingly about faster-paced players. He doesn’t make the defense any better but offensively he’s a true back-to-the-basket option. But at what cost? He can find a starting job and a bigger payday somewhere.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season


Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 



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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

With the 2018-19 NBA season kicking off this week, it seems like a good time to put my predictions out into the universe. 

I am fortunate to be a voter for both the All-Star teams and the NBA Awards, but I can assure you of this: much of this is impossible to forecast. I decided to only include the first team selections for All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie because the less I predict, the less I get wrong.

With that said, here is how I expect the major awards, plus the NBA Finals, to shake out... 

MVP: LeBron James, Lakers

Going to L.A. to play with such a bizarre supporting cast was all by design so he could win his fifth MVP award, right? Okay, maybe not. But if LeBron carries that team to even a fifth seed the trophy should be his.

Defensive player of the year: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

This always goes to a big man and Davis finished second last year. He's probably going to have a monster season overall.

All-NBA first team: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F LeBron James, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Anthony Davis

All of these guys are going to make the All-NBA team, it's just a matter of which tier. The toughest one to leave off was Joel Embiid, but you can only pick five.

Rookie of the year: Deandre Ayton, Suns

Luka Doncic has become a popular pick here, but Ayton averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the preseason. If that is any precursor whatsoever, he's going to be tough to beat.

Sixth man award: Austin Rivers, Wizards

Rivers is a starting-caliber guard now back to playing off the bench. He should help John Wall and Bradley Beal a ton this year and we know he will get buckets. If he can maintain anything close to his scoring average from last season (15.1), he will be on the short-list for sure.

Most improved: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Though L.A. has a lot of questions, Ingram seems most likely to benefit from James' ability to make those around him better. He should thrive in a secondary scoring role.

Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Thunder

The Thunder won 48 games last season, but could improve a lot in Year 2 with Paul George. They have loads of talent and Dennis Schroder will fit nicely on their bench.

Executive of the year: Sam Presti, Thunder

You may be sensing a theme here. I see the Thunder becoming the clear-cut No. 3 team in the West and Presti will get plenty of praise for retaining George and getting something legitimate back for Carmelo Anthony.

All-rookie team: Luka Doncic (Mavs), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Deandre Ayton (Suns)

This is shaping up to be a really good class. Guys like Mo Bamba (great song), Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wendell Carter Jr. will likely be in the mix as well. 

All-defensive team: G Chris Paul, G Klay Thompson, F Draymond Green, F Anthony Davis, C Joel Embiid

Thompson should finally get his due this year. He is clearly one of the best defenders at his position, but hasn't received the proper recognition for it.

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics, 4-2

Picking the champion of the 2018-19 season is too easy and no one should feel good about that. Sports are better when they aren't predictable. But who will finish second is where it gets interesting. I see the Celtics being that team and winning two games in the Finals, though it won't be a close series.