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Wizards' recent history with contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal bodes well for Otto Porter

Wizards' recent history with contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal bodes well for Otto Porter

What will, or should, the Wizards do with Otto Porter when what is expected to be a feeding frenzy otherwise known as NBA free agency opens at 12:01 a.m.?

For months, the position has been to put the issue to bed quickly. Porter is a restricted free agent and the Wizards could move to close the deal or tell him to fetch an offer sheet from another team that they'd then have 48 hours to match to retain him.

It's a pay now-or-pay later dilemma but ultimately the Wizards will have to pay a lot of money to keep their 2013 No. 3 overall pick who is coming off the best season of his career (13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 43.4% three-point shooting). 

The Wizards, however, have their eye on Paul George. He's on the market going into his final year of his deal that pays $19.5 million and will leave. He has an option year for 2018-19 that he's already said he will opt out of and Indiana is in a bind. 

[RELATED: One possible Wizards offer for Paul George floated in report]

The Wizards can't offer the type of attractive package that the Boston Celtics could with their multitude of assets which include draft picks. Then again, with no guarantee that George will stay with the team that receives him beyond the 2017-18 season complicates any deal. The Pacers hold the rights to their blue chip talent, but if they hold on to it too long that could backfire. 

So what are the Wizards to do?

Their recent history suggests they take the bird in hand. When John Wall was eligible for an extension in 2013, they struck up talks during Las Vegas summer league play in July of that year and came to terms on what was then an $80 million max soon afterwards.

When Bradley Beal was a restricted free agent last summer, they agreed to terms on a $128 million max early in the process of free agency though they didn't make anything official until later in the process for cap reasons.

Beal had a lot to prove and had health concerns every year of his career since he'd been drafted in 2012. Like Wall, he raised his level after the deal. Both are coming off their best seasons and both were the healthiest they'd ever been.

Porter is slightly different in that he's not the same kind of player. Whereas Wall and Beal can isolate their opponent and break him down 1 vs. 1, that's not in Porter's wheelhouse. 

[RELATED: Top 20 NBA free agents available]

He's best off the ball and playing off others. While a good passer, he doesn't create for himself and needs to be surrounded by the right pieces to be the most effective. 

Porter can drop a career-high 34 points and 14 rebounds like he did Nov. 11 vs. the Boston Celtics or go scoreless in 36 minutes of Game 6 in the playoffs vs. the same team.

He benefitted greatly from teams loading up on the ball with Wall or sending blitz coverages vs. Beal. Porter found the soft spots around the arc, made himself available and knocked down the shots. After a 2-8 start, the Wizards' 49-win season can be attributed to Porter doing his job in this regard.

Defensively, he was solid as long as he didn't encounter big, physical small forwards. Porter had difficulty matching up with LeBron James. While that's a problem for everyone around the league, the key is to be able to make him work hard for what he gets. 

Porter's lack of physical strength makes him more of a liability. He also can be a step slow and easily disrupted by contact on his lock-and-trail technique when defending off screens and handoffs. 

In other words, Porter is a role player. He does it well. He moves without the ball and makes himself available. He knows how to manipulate space and when you add in the development on his three-point shot he has lot of value.

After Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, there aren't that many small forwards in free agency who can be said are better Porter. The best of the rest are the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay (coming off an Achilles tear), Jeff Green, Tyreke Evans and P.J. Tucker. 

[RELATED: Eastern Conference team seen as big threat for Otto Porter]

Tucker is a player, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com, that the Wizards have inquired about in the past. Green, from Georgetown like Porter, also has been on their radar. 

But the concept of supply vs. demand in the NBA is no different than anywhere else. There are some solid small forwards available but how many are 24 like Porter?

Part of free agency is gauging not just where a player is at that moment in his career but what's his ceiling. Can he get better? Will he get better? Will he do the work necessary to get better?

It's a future's market, too. If the answers to all of those questions are yes, he'll be promptly re-signed.

If the Wizards later decide they want to make a major move to bring in a third player to form a Big 3 with Wall and Beal, that would have to wait until December per collective bargaining rules. But they'd also have Porter under a long-term deal to guarantee certainty for another suitor.

The most important thing from Porter's perspective is that he'll likely be earning max under a larger salaray cap ($99 million), or near max money, than Wall or Beal. 

Allowing him to leave without a comparable or better replacement isn't an option for a team that won 49 games and came one victory from advancing to the conference finals.

Unless a Hail Mary to acquire George comes to fruition, it'll be the other moves the Wizards make to fortify the roster with little cap room that will determine if they'll be taking another step forward.

[RELATED: Price tag sends race for Paul George into holding pattern]

 

 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

The Washington Wizards have reportedly offered their vacant general manager position to Tim Connelly. The news was first reported by the Athletic.

Here are five things to know about him...

1. Connelly is a Baltimore native who transferred to Catholic University in D.C. during his junior year in college, graduating from there in 1999. 

2. Connelly began his NBA front office career with the Wizards, starting as an intern in 1996. He spent a decade with the organization, holding such roles as assistant video coordinator, head scout, and director of player personnel. 

3. After leaving the Wizards, Connelly spent three seasons serving as the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

4. Connelly joined the Nuggets organization in 2013 as the executive vice president of basketball operations. He was promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2017. Connelly has been part of a Denver front office that has drafted the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris over the last five years. 

5. Connelly has six siblings, including four brothers: Joe, Pat, Dan and Kevin. All four of them have also worked in basketball in some capacity, Joe, Pat, and Dan all following Tim into the NBA ranks. 

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