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Wizards' Scott Brooks knows re-signing stars isn't easy from days with Thunder

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Wizards' Scott Brooks knows re-signing stars isn't easy from days with Thunder

Retaining star players in today's NBA is not as easy as the Wizards have made it look over the past two summers with max contracts signed by John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, and head coach Scott Brooks is no stranger to the other side of the equation.

Before taking over as coach of the Wizards, Brooks spent seven years leading the Oklahoma City Thunder. They rose very quickly to reach the NBA Finals in 2012, his fourth season on the job. But not long after that their core was dismantled, first by the trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets, a casualty of the salary cap. Last summer, one year after Brooks had been dismissed, OKC traded Serge Ibaka and saw Kevin Durant sign with the Golden State Warriors in free agency. That's three very good players the Thunder had drafted and developed who left all in just a few years time.

In re-signing their core three, the Wizards are establishing an era of continuity other teams may covet. Under their current deals, Wall, Beal and Porter are ensured of playing at least seven total seasons together, eight if Porter doesn't exercise his player option for 2020-21. Wall is under contract through the 2022-23 season, what will be his 13th in the NBA.

"It's not easy to keep all of your players. I know that pretty well without getting into details. It's not easy to draft good players, either," Brooks said, alluding to his days in Oklahoma City.

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Brooks continued without naming names.

"It's critical that your star players want to stay and play for the team. Without getting into the details that you all are well aware of, like in this past summer, that's not always the case. We have our three players that we drafted all wanting to stay here and stay long-term. That's good. That's good because if you don't have your best players wanting to stay here, then nobody wants to stay here. But we have John committed... I love guys that care for their team and John does care for his team."

There are, of course, some differences between the Wizards and Brooks' Thunder. That Oklahoma City Thunder team got to the conference finals and finals before Harden left and they made another conference finals before Durant and Ibaka were gone. Harden was an unusal case as a budding superstar who was worth of running his own team. And by the time of Durant's exit, he had already played nine seasons for the Thunder franchise, as many as Beal and Porter have played in the NBA combined.

But the point still stands that the Wizards are an anomaly in keeping their best players. Convincing a star to stay home is not easy, just ask the Pacers, Clippers or Jazz.

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

After months of scouting games, watching game tape, conducting interviews and holding workouts, one should logically expect some semblance of order with a given year’s draft class.

That simply won’t occur in 2019. Get past the likely top three picks -- Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett -- and anything is possible.

Over and over that is the position of numerous NBA sources heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft in which the Wizards select ninth overall.

“This draft is pretty unique,” said a Western Conference scout in recent days. “There are a few outliers and then the draft could really, really go in any direction. It’s really an eye of the beholder draft.”

In other words, after those top three, consensus doesn’t exist. Teams will surely add help and some prospects will ultimately turn into viable starters and perhaps more, but in June of 2019, there isn’t much love for the 2019 group especially in the lottery range.

There’s a general agreement within public mock drafts in terms of the five players after Barrett, but the order comes out in a variety of ways. Some observers see little difference between picks 4-12 while others view 9-22 comparable.

That anything-is-possible vibe has some believing more than the usual amount of trades occurring. One already went down, though the Pelicans adding the fourth overall selection wasn’t exactly the main point of Saturday’s deal with the Lakers involving Anthony Davis.

Yet the main reason behind all the anything-is-possible talk stems from several teams simply not loving the options especially in the top half of the draft. Therefore, why trade up if the player available in teens is comparable to the candidates at nine?

The same logic applies for the team holding the ninth pick. For the Wizards, the general hope is one player they truly desire slides to them or some team that covets a prospect is willing to pay a premium for a trade up.

Stay put and even without a shocker ahead of them, the Wizards can help their cause. Not with an obvious slam dunk selection, but in specific areas, eventually, hopefully.

This year, anything seems possible.

As stated above, projecting who goes where and the preferences of each team, especially in this era of positionless basketball, is a true challenge. Before getting into some league-wide notes, here are some educated guesses for the Wizards.

The rebounder: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. There might not a better selection for addressing numerous areas than the athletic 6-foot-8 power forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Wizards currently lack a true forward on the roster. This one brings three years of collegiate experience.

The 21-year-old Hachimura led Gonzaga with 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season while shooting 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts.

The Japanese native lacks upside compared to some other candidates and there are concerns about his basic hoops instincts. There have also been long-running whispers of interest from Washington.

The defender: Sekou Doumbouya, France. The still maturing 6-foot-9 forward with good size and length showed off his freaky athleticism in France's top league. As the youngest player in the 2019 class, Doumbouya will need more than a minute to find his footing and develop his perimeter shot, but his physical traits and defensive versatility match the direction of the modern NBA.

The polarizing upside: Cam Reddish, Duke. Reddish goes third on this list even though the likelihood is, based on year-long player projections, he becomes the pick if available. While it seems doubtful he falls past eight, Reddish feels like the one heralded prospect who could take a tumble on draft night.

The 6-foot-8 forward turned into a clanky 3-point shooter around mid-February and often faded late in games. While his perimeter stroke is pretty, Reddish struggled significantly around the rim. Yet his athletic fluidity is ideal. Combined with strong measurables (7-foot-1 wingspan) there is plenty to like. Where he lands in terms of team culture feels like a huge key to unlocking the potential vs. bringing out the worst.

Considering all the variables, Reddish represents a big test for the league's talent evaluators -- All-Star level talent or underachiever?

The scorer: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky. The likely wing threats available in the 9-22 range epitomize the risk-reward aspect in this class. Despite specific concerns, Nassir Little (raw instincts), Romeo Langford (27 percent on 3’s), Kevin Porter (undisciplined) and Tyler Herro (short wingspan) could all hear their names called before Johnson and with good reason due to their intriguing potential.

Meanwhile, the UK product offers hope with impressive athletic traits and a 38.1 percent clip on 3-pointers during his freshman season. On the other side, Johnson lacks playmaking skills; he averaged 1.6 assists in 31 minutes per game.

Nine seems high based on perception, but Johnson might be the prospect who turns out more coveted by teams than public big boards. While his range is considered 10-20, sources feel Johnson goes somewhere 15 or higher. Potential target if the Wizards trade down.

The high floor: P.J. Washington, Kentucky. Washington’s profile lacks the wow factor compared to the names listed above. What the sophomore offers is a steadier baseline in numerous areas including rebounding, defending, 3-point shooting and maturity. All of that comes with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. If the Wizards go safe rather than star chasing, Washington makes sense especially if they move down in the first.

*The feeling around the league is a lottery-picking team has made a draft promise to Hachimura with Minnesota the likely spot. That’s assuming the 4-man gets past the Wizards.

*For those of you wanting Oregon’s Bol Bol at nine, I hear you based on the height (7-foot-3), length and impressive perimeter shooting. Some of Bol’s game tape is wildly mesmerizing. The downside, however, ranging from his weight (208 at the Combine) to the injury risk to an inconsistent motor to defensive concerns beyond shot blocking, seems a bit much for the Wizards’ situation. Also not hearing much about a landing spot in the lottery, but subterfuge is real this time of year.

*Interesting that Coby White worked out for the Wizards Monday considering most projections have him off the board by seven. Say Reddish goes before White and the scoring threat remains available at eight. Do the Hawks, already loaded with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, go elsewhere? That’s one way White could fall to nine.

*Speaking of promises, Washington wing Matisse Thybulle received one in the first round according to multiple sources and... Arkansas center Daniel Gafford to a team in the 17-23 range?

That would be quite a jump for Gafford based on public projections; NBCSW ranks him 31, SI.com 36 and ESPN 40. If true, the best guess among those teams is...Atlanta at 17? The Hawks need a center. This approach would allow them to take the best available at 8 (Reddish?) and 10 (Doumbouya?).

*Georgia center Nic Claxton, slotted 21st on the NBCSW Big Board, is receiving interest from teams picking in teens.

On to the main event...

2019 NBA Draft Big Board (with tiers)

TIER 1

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

TIER 2

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

TIER 3

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

TIER 4

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

TIER 5

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, France

10. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

11. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

12. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

17. Goga Bitadze, C, International/Georgia

18. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

19. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

21. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

22. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.

25. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

28. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

29. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

32. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova      

35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA

36. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee   

37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

38. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

39. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA

40. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

41. Louis King, SF, Oregon

42. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

43. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

44. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU

45. Naz Reid, C, LSU

46. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi

47. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

48. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

49. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College

50. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga

51. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania

52. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest

53. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

54. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan

55. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel

56. Miye Oni, F, Yale

57. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

58. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan

59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa

60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State; Justin Robinson, PG, Virginia Tech

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The longterm case for the Wizards to not trade Bradley Beal is more compelling than you might think

The longterm case for the Wizards to not trade Bradley Beal is more compelling than you might think

We know teams remain interested in snagging Bradley Beal.

There’s no explanation required why true contenders or wannabes would covet a 25-year-old two-time All-Star coming off a near All-NBA season. With Anthony Davis dealt to the Lakers, Beal becomes arguably the top prize in the trade market.

Before shipping the Wizards’ leading scorer out of the DMV for long-term assets that would signal a rebuild, consider the alternative. No talking points are needed for the concept of keeping Beal, but doing so brings up the larger picture.

Assuming the Wizards remained fiscally disciplined this off-season, the team can enter the summer of 2020 with a relatively clean balance sheet and actual roster optimism.

At that point the Wizards would have Beal possibly coming off a third All-Star appearance along with 2018 first-round pick Troy Brown, a player selected with the ninth overall pick in Thursday’s Draft and a 2020 lottery pick.

Add to that the return of John Wall. It’s conceivable the five-time All-Star rejoins the team late next season, but it likely would take additional time to gauge his physical status following the devastating Achilles injury that required surgery in February. If Wall appears close to his prior form, the Wizards have an interesting starting point with those pieces.

In addition, the expiring contracts for Ian Mahinmi ($15.4 million) and Dwight Howard ($5.6) come off the books. Beal, Wall and Brown are the only current players under contract beyond next season.

This season also provides the next front office leader a chance to establish a cultural baseline for a team that dealt with locker room squabbles last season. The Wizards remain without a general manager after firing President of Basketball Operations on April 2.

Tommy Sheppard has run the front office on an interim basis since. While logically the Wizards would hold off making any splashy moves like dealing Beal until a permanent GM is named, owner Ted Leonsis is the one needing convincing regardless.

Leonsis famously told reporters last season the team “will never, ever tank.” Rebuilding doesn’t have the same negative connotation as that four-letter T-word, but dealing Beal would offer the perception of a team focused on the long haul above all.

That’s not necessarily the wrong approach. The Wizards can always head into that direction ahead of the 2020-21 season. Beal’s value would remain high. Holding him now also allows Washington to wait on Wall, clean up their salary cap and restart the contention process. The organization can also explore signing Beal to an extension this season (3-year, $111.8 million) or next.

None of this means anything to other NBA teams hoping to pry Beal away.

The New Orleans Pelicans dialed up the Wizards. The San Antonio Spurs are interested.

Logically so are the Celtics, Nets and several other teams looking to make a bold move now that the Warriors suffered two crushing injuries and the Lakers already went all in. The Knicks could enter the trade talks should Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant bypass the Big Apple.

Regardless, the Wizards appear cool with keeping their best player and with good reasons.

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