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Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 10, Pacers

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Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 10, Pacers

So what teams in the Eastern Conference did the most to improve for the 2015-16 season? The availability of cap space and the status of retaining one's own free agents factors into what teams are able to do. The countdown starts with teams that did the least to enhance its roster -- and depending on the team that could be a good thing. 

No. 10, Pacers

Last season's record: 38-44. Finish: Ninth in East.

Key additions: Drafted C Myles Turner, taken No. 11 overall in June, and PF Rakeem Christmas at 36th. In free agency, reeled in PG Monta Ellis and C Jordan Hill and SF Chase Budinger via trade with Minnesota. 

The skinny: Getting rid of C Roy Hibbert (trade to the Lakers) was addition by subtraction as the Pacers saw it, and getting a more mobile, fluid big man in Turner fits with the direction they're heading. But their two biggest open-market signings, Ellis and Hill, appear to be atypical for a small-market franchise that's all about image. Ellis has been on good behavior since leaving Golden State but still can be surly. After a great start in Dallas in which he probably was deserving of going to the All-Star Game, he struggled late. Hill is another matter. He was arrested last week for reckless driving, 107 mph in a 65-mph zone. Not that big of a deal since he wasn't intoxicated but it's not the first impression that Hill wants to make since he has just a one-year deal. Hill had a felony domestic violence charge dropped when he pleaded no-contest and opted for counseling in 2012 with the Lakers. SF Paul George's ability to be the All-Star he was before he broke his leg last summer has a lot to do with whether or not they can return to the postseason.

Projected finish: 10th. A player such as George can be more than enough to override shortcomings and Ellis provides the scoring punch this roster has lacked. They may be a better team than last season, but because the conference has gotten better the guess here is the Pacers are missing another piece or two. They're trying to transition from being a slow, half-court team. They'll have better scoring but not necessarily shoot better in terms of accuracy.

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John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

In just a few months, Nationals star Bryce Harper could become one of the biggest free agents not just in baseball history, but sports history. He will decide whether to stay in Washington with the team that drafted him and oversaw his development as a young player, or to leave for another city.

Wizards guard John Wall has twice faced the prospect of free agency and twice has decided to sign contract extensions to stay in D.C. Though the salary structures of baseball and basketball are different, there are some parallels between the two. 

Wall has a unique perspective on the call Harper has to make and gave his opinion on the matter in a 1-on-1 interview on the latest episode of our Wizards Tipoff podcast.

"Well, it’s kind of tough. It depends on if you want to do it off of loyalty, or if you want to do it to make sure you make the most money you can make. That’s the toughest decision that you can have. I have the opportunity here where I have loyalty and I can also make the money, so that was a bonus and a plus for me in both situations," Wall said. 

Wall noted how as an NBA player he can have the best of both worlds. The league's collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay players they drafted significantly more money.

That, however, has not stopped NBA stars from changing teams. Wall in many ways is an outlier as many superstars have left money on the table to depart their original teams. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George have all done that, to name a few. Kawhi Leonard could be next.

Harper, though, may also be able to make more money elsewhere. The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox or some other team could conceivably offer more money than the Nats and there are some cities like L.A. and New York that could open up more endorsement opportunities.

There's no question it pays to be the best player on the Yankees. Look at Derek Jeter and how his stardom was boosted by that distinction.

Loyalty is also going to come into play for Harper and the past few days have shown he is a sentimental person, as he has talked about all the people he has connected with over the years and how much the Washington community means to him.

Wall took all of those things into account when he decided to stay in D.C. and not look elsewhere via free agency or trades, which have become commonplace for All-Star players in the NBA.

"It was how much what the city means to me is the reason I wanted to stay and what I want to bring here is a championship, it’s what I promise and I hope I can do that," Wall said. "My dad’s from here. Just the way they welcomed me from the first day I came here. Sticking with me through the tough times, when we wasn’t winning early on and then we started to win. The city just embraced me and I embraced the city back. It feels like home and I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else."

Though the difference in money likely won't be as drastic, Harper will have to choose how much loyalty and the human connection he has with people in Washington matters in his free agency decision. Wall knows the feeling.

Hear Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

After already making significant changes to their roster, the Wizards may not be done this offseason, as they have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs about a potential trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to a new report by ESPN

Read this from Adrian Wojnarowski:

Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who've talked with San Antonio, league sources said.

The Wizards certainly make sense as a Leonard suitor. They are in the East, meaning the Spurs could trade Leonard to them and not have to worry about facing him as often. Plus, they have a solid group of tradeable assets and ones that seem to fit the Spurs model.

Otto Porter is a versatile, young player under team control who plays an unselfish style and would likely embrace playing in a small market. He also has a salary ($26M in 2018-19) that isn't far off from Leonard's ($21M in 2018-19), so the money could be easily matched.

The Wizards also have Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two young and up-and-coming players. Plus, they have draft picks, though ones that are unlikely to convey as lottery selections.

The Spurs have reportedly been more interested in getting players that can help now rather than draft picks to rebuild. That makes sense, as they still won 47 games last year despite Leonard only playing in nine of them due to injury.

The question in any Wizards and Spurs talks would be whether they would want one of Washington's All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. It would be tough to imagine the Wizards parting with either guy for Leonard, who carries some risk not only because of his quadriceps injury but also because he can opt out of his contract and leave after next season.

Just because the Wizards have talked to the Spurs doesn't mean they are serious contenders for Leonard, but it does show they are serious about improving their roster this summer. If they got Leonard and didn't part with Wall and Beal, that would be some team.

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