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Open court: Do any Mavericks free agents fit Wizards?

Open court: Do any Mavericks free agents fit Wizards?

The end for the Dallas Mavericks came in the first round of the playoffs, in five games to the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s no shame in that, but when a 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki remains the No. 1 option it speaks to a roster that’s not equipped to endure an 82-game season.

The Wizards will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open. Their 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 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 the Mavericks’ best free agents available, in order of best fit:

Dwight Powell: The rookie, who was the 45th pick in 2014, earned $845,000 and is restricted. The Mavericks should match any offers he gets in the open market but the 6-11 big man was exactly the type of player most teams arelooking to get to bolster their bench with the potential to be a starter one day. Powell would've been the Wizards' pick but when he went off the board they sold their 46th pick to the L.A. Lakers. Getting younger bigs behind Morris is a priority.

Zaza Pachulia: The 32-year-old unrestricted free agent center, and occasional starter, is coming off $5.2 million when he averaged 8.6 points and a career-high 9.4 rebounds. He made 69 starts, his most in a decade, and is a bruiser who doesn't need the ball to be effective. Though on the other side of 30 he's been relatively healthy for his career.

Raymond Felton: Formerly a starter, the unrestricted free agent point guard is now a backup after his second season in Dallas (9.5 points, 3.6 assists). He’s still not a good shooter at 40.6% from the field and less than 30% from three-point range in 80 games and earned $3.95 million. In the past he's been unhappy with a backup role and he played a significant part in a fractured locker room which led to Nate McMillian getting fired from the Portland Trail Blazers a few years ago. 

Chandler Parsons: The small forward had a $16 million player option that he is expected to exercise to become an unrestricted free agent. Coming off a major knee surgery, it’s difficult to see him commanding that much in the open market with Harrison Barnes more likely to be ahead of him in line. It would be hard to justify paying Parsons in the vicinity of that salary with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre more than capable of filling that void at a much cheaper price to free up money for other needs.

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Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

USA Today

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

The Wizards will catch a break on Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors in the second game of their regular season, as Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is being held out due to rest.

Leonard, who has been dominant so far for the 2-0 Raptors, is being limited in back-to-backs after he missed 73 games last season due to a quadriceps injury. The Raptors played the night before against the Celtics.

With Leonard out, the Raptors will likely rely on C.J. Miles and O.G. Anunoby at the small forward position. Shooting guard Delon Wright is also out with a shoulder injury.

Though Leonard and Wright are out of the mix, Toronto still has plenty of talent including All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is averaging 21 points, seven assists and 3.5 rebounds through two games. 

Serge Ibaka has been their third-leading scorer with 15 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. They also acquired Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to a strong start with 12.5 points and five rebounds per game.

Leonard's absence may be noticed more on the defensive end, as he is one of the best in the NBA on the perimeter. That could make things a bit easier for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

The Wizards and Raptors next play on Nov. 23. That game is in Toronto.



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Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

USA Today Sports

Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Once again, we await word from head coach Scott Brooks on the status of Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed all of the Wizards' preseason with a piriformis injury, was a gametime decision for the opener on Thursday. He ended up not playing, but appeared very close to finally making his debut.

Saturday night could be a different story, though we won't know until shortly before gametime. The Wizards' training staff will evaluate him pregame and make the call. If he can't go, Ian Mahinmi will get the nod as starter like he did against Miami.

Need more Otto

Though it wasn't the reason why the Wizards lost to the Heat, it certainly stood out in the box score how Otto Porter Jr. went without a three-point attempt in the opener. Porter finished third in three-point percentage last season with a 44.1 clip. He simply has to be more involved in the offense.

It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Wizards make to create more opportunities for Porter, and how Porter responds. All parties involved insist it is a mix of several factors, including a need for Porter to simply be more aggressive. That won't be easy against a tough Raptors defense, but expect Porter to get up plenty of threes in this one.

Leonard is out

This game was set to be the first matchup between the Wizards and the revamped Raptors, who added perennial All-NBA selection Kawhi Leonard in the biggest trade of the offseason. But Leonard, it turns out, will not play.

Toronto is resting Leonard, who played in only nine games all of last season due to a quadriceps injury. It's understandable, given the Raptors played the night before against the tough Boston Celtics.

With Leonard out, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be a big focus. They also got guard Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to an excellent start. He's averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from three so far. Getting him in the trade was a very underrated move by Toronto.