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Wizards predictions, Part 2: Porter's push; Durant's dilemma

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Wizards predictions, Part 2: Porter's push; Durant's dilemma

With the NBA regular season tipping off this week, it's prediction time. Some bold, some straight to the point. In case you missed, part one included Bradley Beal's All-Star potential and John Wall topping Chris Paul. 

Otto Porter finishes higher than Bradley Beal in Most Improved Player award voting

Porter won't catch Beal's talent level this season, but the former Georgetown star has more room to grow. That's both on the court and in the minds of those who deemed him a bust or a Shaqtin-a-Fool All-Star. Porter flashed his 3-and-D potential during the postseason -- and now his corner deep ball is much improved. Add in steady minutes with the starters and Porter's game jumps in Washington's small ball scenario. How much of a jump? Yep, he's winning the MIP award this season.  

Most points against the Wizards

1. Carmelo Anthony - 36 (at New York, Feb. 9)

2. Khris Middleton - 34 (Verizon Center, Jan. 13)

3. Kyle Lowry - 32 (at Toronto, Nov. 28)

Gary Neal ends up becoming the most underrated move of the offseason 

Yes, Jared Dudley's stretch-4 game is the key to unlocking the full potential of small ball, but we've analyzed this angle plenty. As for Neal -- a.k.a. Bradley Beal injury insurance -- think Rasual Butler's shooting last year but for more than two months.

Nene will miss 20 games

He actually played in 67 of 82 games last year -- and then his offensive numbers plummeted in the playoffs. The big Brazilian, one of many potential free agents on the roster, won't make that mistake again. By the way, if Nene does miss that many games, the decision to go with one less interior option this season becomes this year's main beef for #WizardsTwitter this season, replacing those long two's. Oh, about the social media folks...

#WizardsTwitter will talk lots about rookies Bobby Portis, R.J. Hunter and Jerian Grant this season

This likely happens whether fellow rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. plays a significant role this season or not. Seeing as I'm not imagining steady minutes for the gifted, but raw forward under coach Randy Wittman, I suspect many of those other rookie comments will be of the "What if" variety.

The Oubre pick was certainly more about the long haul than the 2015-16 season anyway. Those other three project as more immediate help. Portis would have given Washington a tall big man with a perimeter shot under the age of 30. Grant, an All-American point guard with local ties who maxed out his college eligibility, was directly traded for Oubre. As for Hunter, the sweet-shooting guard with a high hoops IQ is a personal favorite. Maybe only I'll tweet about his progress under Celtics coach Brad Stevens -- and I will.

Oubre looks the part athletically. His 3-and-D potential is clear. During the preseason, the game was moving a bit too fast for the 19-year-old with only one year of college basketball under his belt. Washington exhibited strong ball movement during the preseason, but the ball often stuck when reaching the new kid. You know what, that's OK. He's a rookie. That's the deal. My guess is Washington uses more three-guard lineups with Garrett Temple and Gary Neal until Alan Anderson returns or Jared Dudley (back surgery) can handle heavy minutes. As long as Oubre continues learning from the coaches, takes notice of how vets approach their craft, doesn't fret about inconsistent minutes or on-court struggles, all good. Remember where Porter was in year one. 

Kevin Durant wins the Most Valuable Player award

Oh, wait, he's not actually on the Wizards. Kind of forget that sometimes because of how often we talk about the D.C. area hero in these parts. By the way, John Wall finishes top 10 in MVP voting for the first time in his career. Anyway, where were we?

Kevin Durant signs with the Wizards next summer

Consider this one simply a true bold prediction/guess rather than a sourced declaration. Look, the Thunder are the clear favorite to retain Durant and that's even before Billy Donovan's coaching shows what OKC lacked strategically in recent years. That's because in part the Thunder are a true favorite in the Western Conference this year and any year with Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way. Oh, he can also receive the most money staying put.

The thing is, Oklahoma City is many things, but it's not home, at least not his original home. Durant noticed the excitement in Cleveland when native son LeBron James returned to Ohio. The thing is, James didn't just return for kindness. He also saw he could win with the assets available. Assuming John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter continue developing, the Wizards have winning assets. Durant could put them over the top.

After watching James' hero return, something tells me Durant wants some of that even if it means having to pony up for family and friends tickets each game. That cost might be worth the price if he's the one bringing D.C. its first full-blown tickertape parade since before Beal was born. Therefore, if not the Wizards in 2016, it might be worth rooting for LeBron James and the Cavaliers to win the title just to drive the KD2DC point home.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards predictions: Bradley Beal's bust out season?

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NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

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NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Central Division...

Cleveland Cavaliers, C

2017-18 finish: 50-32, lost in NBA Finals
In: G Collin Sexton, F Channing Frye, F Sam Dekker
Out: F LeBron James, F Jeff Green, G Jose Calderon

Technically, the Cavaliers had the worst offseason of any team in the NBA simply because they lost James in free agency, but overall they did quite nicely for themselves as they prepare to enter a new era as a franchise. Sexton seems like a solid first round pick and gives them a nice young piece to build around. They also signed All-Star Kevin Love to a contract extension. Cleveland should have enough to remain competitive, at least for the back-end of the playoffs, but they need to clear some salary to justify the step back they are about to take.

Indiana Pacers, B+

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Tyreke Evans, G Aaron Holiday, F Doug McDermott, F Kyle O'Quinn
Out: G Lance Stephenson, F Glenn Robinson III, F Trevor Booker

There was nothing flashy about the Pacers' offseason, but they did a good job adding talent and depth. Evans on a one-year, $12 million deal is almost certain to work out well for them. McDermott should add shooting and O'Quinn is an underrated big man. And Holiday, their first round pick, is an intriguing young guard who could help on both ends of the floor. Indiana may not have enough to join the top teams in the conference, but they should be set up to recreate the success they had last year.

Milwaukee Bucks, B

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Brook Lopez, F Ersan Ilyasova, G Pat Connaughton, G Donte DiVincenzo
Out: F Jabari Parker, G Jason Terry

The Bucks didn't have a whole lot to play with in terms of money in free agency or trade assets, and they let Parker go, so it wasn't a great summer for Milwaukee. They did, however make some smart moves in acquiring Lopez and Ilyasova for reasonable prices. The reason they got a 'B' has a lot to do with their decision to hire Mike Budenholzer as head coach. Beyond young guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo getting better, Budenholzer offers the Bucks their best chance to improve year-over-year.

Detroit Pistons, C+

2017-18 finish: 39-43, missed playoffs
In: G Kyhri Thomas, C Zaza Pachulia, F Glenn Robinson III, G Jose Calderon
Out: F Anthony Tolliver, F James Ennis III

It was another low-key offseason for the Pistons, who didn't have much money to spend in free agency and didn't make any major trades. Their biggest acquisition was through the draft with Thomas, a guy who offers intrigue on both ends of the floor. They get a decent grade, however, because of the move to hire Dwane Casey as head coach. If it weren't for that, their grade would be very low.

Chicago Bulls, B+

2017-18 finish: 27-55, missed playoffs
In: F Jabari Parker, F Wendell Carter, Jr., F Chandler Hutchison
Out: F Noah Vonleh

The Bulls had arguably one of the better offseasons in the East. They got Parker on a bargain and brought in two nice young players as first round picks in Carter and Hutchison. Carter was particularly impressive in the Summer League and could form a nice combination with Lauri Markkanen, who looks like a future All-Star. The Bulls might be one draft away from having the necessary pieces to start ascending into the next stage of their rebuild. They just keep chugging along with smart moves.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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