Bradley Beal

Wizards’ Owner: “We Will Never, Ever Tank”

With his Wizards set to face the Knicks today in London, owner Ted Leonsis told reporters, including Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link), that the plan is for the club to continue contending for the postseason, despite the season-ending injury to star point guard John Wall.

“We will never, ever tank,” Leonsis said, per Buckner.

Since Wall went down, the Wizards have held their own, winning five of nine games, including victories over Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Bradley Beal has taken his game to another level during that stretch, averaging 30.2 PPG on .472/.413/.804 shooting as Washington’s go-to offensive option. And, according to Leonsis, Beal believes that the Wizards still have enough talent on their roster to earn a playoff spot.

“Bradley Beal has told me, ‘We have enough. … We’re not going to let you down,'” Leonsis said today to reporters (Twitter link via Hoop District). “We’re not letting anybody off the hook — we’ve got to make the playoffs.”

While the Wizards are still just 18-26, their path to a postseason berth isn’t as challenging in the Eastern Conference as it would be out West. Currently, the eighth-seeded Hornets have a 20-23 mark, putting them just 2.5 games ahead of Washington. The Pistons (19-24) and Magic (19-25) are also in the mix for that No. 8 seed.

If the Wizards are all-in on making a playoff push, as Leonsis states, it will likely eliminate a couple significant in-season trade chips from the market. Beal and Otto Porter have been at the center of a number of trade rumors this season, since they’d be excellent fits for teams in need of an offensive play-maker or a three-and-D wing, respectively — plus, moving one or both could help Washington clear up its long-term salary cap outlook. But the Wizards figure to hang onto both players, as they’ll be critical parts of any second-half run.

Southeast Notes: Huerter, Beal, Prince, Isaac

The Hawks are in the early stages of a rebuild. Having brought in a new coaching staff and with a new focus on player development, it has been very encouraging for the team to see Kevin Huerter break out in recent weeks. After slowly adjusting to the NBA, Huerter has received more playing time as of late and has been productive in his role. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details Huerter’s recent stretch of play and what it means for the Hawks’ future.

For the season, Huerter is averaging 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while knocking down 38% of his 3-pointers. However, in January the 20-year-old guard is averaging 15 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while playing 38 minutes per contest.

As Huerter continues to develop alongside Trae Young and John Collins, it’s clear that the Hawks have quality young talent to grow and develop for years to come.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wall, Satoransky

The Wizards have shown no inclination yet that they have any interest in moving star guard Bradley Beal, but a pair of reports have given a clue of what the team’s asking price would be if Beal becomes available.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweeted on Wednesday that he has heard the Wizards would seek something like two first-round picks, a “young asset,” and another player in exchange for Beal. Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported something similar today, citing sources who say that Washington would want “two players and two draft picks” for Beal.

Building a deal for Beal might be tricky, since both the players and picks would have to be pretty valuable for the Wizards to consider moving their leading scorer — plus, a potential trade partner would almost certainly have to match Beal’s $25.4MM salary without including any unwanted multiyear contracts. We’ll have to wait to see if any club makes a viable offer to the Wizards in advance of next month’s trade deadline.

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • In a column for The Athletic, David Aldridge compares the current Wizards to the 2015 Raptors, who were unceremoniously swept out of the first round by Washington. Despite calls to break up their roster, those Raps worked on surrounding Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan with more talent, and built a perennial 50-win contender. Given their salary commitments, the Wizards may have a hard time taking the same approach with Beal and John Wall, but Aldridge believes it’s possible.
  • Within that same article, Aldridge argues that the Wizards should make an effort to keep Wall’s minutes in check next season – and beyond – as they try to keep him healthy. That’s why re-signing RFA-to-be Tomas Satoransky is “a must, not a choice” in the offseason, per Aldridge.
  • As they did last season, the Wizards figure to make a concerted effort to move the ball around as much as possible on offense with Wall sidelined, writes Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington. Standig points to Wednesday’s win over Atlanta, in which the Wizards racked up 29 assists on 43 field goals, as a prime example of that approach. “We’re definitely going to miss [John] and hate that he’s out. Definitely not saying that we’re a better team without him. That’s far from the truth,” Beal said after Wednesday’s win. “But reality is reality. We have to accept the fact that [John] won’t be with us this year and do our best to make a run at it.”
  • With Markieff Morris set to be sidelined until at least mid-February, the Wizards will have to make some tough roster decisions before the February 7 trade deadline, as Standig details in a separate NBC Sports Washington story.

Wizards Notes: Wall, Beal, Morris, Satoransky

The Wizards have three options now that John Wall has decided to undergo heel surgery that will sideline him for the rest of the season, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The most drastic choice, a complete renovation that would include trading All-Star guard Bradley Beal, appears to be the least likely, according to Katz. He states that teams have already called about Beal, but the Wizards haven’t shown any interest in moving him. Otto Porter could be the biggest name the front office is willing to part with.

If Washington opts to tank this season, Katz says the team already has an example from what the Grizzlies did last year. Memphis got rid of some of its marginal talent, endured a losing season and wound up with the fourth pick in the draft. The Wizards are only about $5MM above the tax line and may want to add draft choices after trading away selections in the Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith deals. The Lakers may still be interested in Trevor Ariza, who has a $15MM expiring contract, and Markieff Morris‘ expiring $8.6MM deal could also be in play. Jeff Green, who is playing for the veterans minimum, could easily be moved into a trade exception.

The most likely direction, Katz adds, is to keep the current group of players together and see if they can make a run at the playoffs. Washington is 4.8 points per 100 possessions worse with Wall on the court this year and 11.4 points per 100 possessions worse over the past 25 games, so his absence may not be that difficult to overcome.

There’s more Wizards news to pass along:

  • Washington played well enough without Wall late last season to earn a playoff spot, but Ben Golliver of The Washington Post argues that tanking is the best long-term strategy. His advice is to reduce the workload for Beal, who is averaging 36.6 minutes per game, and unload as many veterans as possible.
  • Morris will see a specialist for a lingering neck injury, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Morris has been experiencing pain in his neck and upper back since being hit with an elbow in a December 16 game. Although he sat out two games this weekend, Morris remains optimistic about his prognosis. “It’s something where I think if it required surgery, they would have told me already,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that deep. I hope it’s not that deep.”
  • Wall’s absence will create more playing time for third-year guard Tomas Satoransky, who had 20 points in last night’s win over Charlotte. “Tomas is going to get a great opportunity,” coach Scott Brooks said in a tweet from the team. “He’s going to be more comfortable as the games go by. I think Tomas is going to excel in this. He’s ready for this. He had some moments last season that he saved our season.”

“Open Season” On Wizards’ Roster

John Wall‘s likely decision to undergo season-ending ankle surgery has created a sense of urgency in Washington to shake up the roster, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports.

The Wizards have backed off the trade market in recent weeks as they inched closer to playoff contention, sitting four and a half games out of the eighth spot with a 13-23 record. However, the prospect of finishing the season without Wall seems to sink any hope for the postseason.

“They can’t move Wall now. Way too hard,” a rival executive tells Smith.(Ian) Mahinmi? Why pay to move him either? (Bradley) Beal and (Otto) Porter? Sure, in the right deal. (Markieff) Morris, (Jeff) Green, maybe even flip (Trevor) Ariza again? Those guys are all easily moved. It’s open season on that roster now.”

Another unidentified front office member described Washington’s dire situation by saying, “They’ve got to move on from Beal or Porter now, just to clear up the cap some. Vultures are starting to circle.” (Twitter link)

Without at least one move to clear salary, the Wizards will add luxury tax payments to an extremely disappointing season. Washington projects to be about $5MM above the $123.733MM tax line and is in danger of being in the same spot next year.

Wall is currently third on the team in salary at about $19.17MM, but that number will balloon next season when his four-year, $170MM extension kicks in. His injury, on top of that contract, makes him virtually untradable.

Porter will earn $26MM this year, $27.25MM in 2019/20 and has a nearly $28.5MM player option for the following season that he seems certain to exercise. Porter’s production hasn’t matched his potential since being given a rookie scale extension, and the Wizards might have to attach another asset to get a team to accept his contract.

Beal, who is coming off an All-Star season and posting a career-high 23.8 PPG scoring average, would probably fetch the best return. But the Wizards have to decide whether they want to part with a core piece who is under contract for about $55.8MM over the next two years.

Another possibility is to trade away Ariza, who was acquired from the Suns earlier this month to boost Washington’s playoff chances. Ariza has an expiring $15MM contract, but he cannot be aggregated, meaning traded along with teammates in the same deal, which could limit the Wizards’ options.

Washington is eligible to apply for a Disabled Player Exception if Wall is lost for the year, Smith adds (Twitter link). If approved, the franchise would have $8.641MM to work with that could be used to sign, trade for or claim a player off waivers. The Wizards would have to apply by January 15 and use it by March 10, and any roster addition will count against the tax.

Woj: Nets Have Price In Mind For Spencer Dinwiddie

The Nets would “very much like to keep” guard Spencer Dinwiddie, but only at the right price, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski said today in an interview with Fordham’s student radio station (hat tip to NetsDaily).

Wojnarowski wouldn’t speculate on how much Brooklyn’s front office is willing to give Dinwiddie, but it’s obviously less than the four-year, $47.5MM extension he’s eligible to receive starting next Saturday. The Nets have until the end of June to  finalize an extension with Dinwiddie, who is currently making the league minimum. He will become a free agent July 1 if no deal is in place by then.

“I think the Nets would very much like to keep him and keep him long term but again, it’s negotiation,” Wojnarowski said. “It will be at a number — I don’t know what the number is for Brooklyn — but I’m sure they have in their minds a sense of what they’re willing to do and then how does that measure up to what the other options are, what it does to their cap space, what they want to do with D’Angelo Russell.”

Dinwiddie is having a career year in a reserve role, averaging 15.9 PPG and shooting 37% from 3-point range. Wojnarowski believes there will be a strong market for Dinwiddie if he reaches free agency and predicts the Nets will try to re-sign him if they can’t come to terms on an extension.

Wojnarowski touched on a few other topics in the interview, saying:

  • The Nets are unlikely to trade for an “established player” this season. Management seems content to keep the current core in place and try to make additions through free agency.
  • The Knicks seem like a long shot to land Kevin Durant because they don’t have a strong foundation already in place. He noted that elite free agents have historically gone to teams that are already equipped to contend for a title.
  • The Wizards would demand a high price if they elect to trade Bradley Beal. However, they may have to take on a long-term contract to unload the $81MM they still owe to Otto Porter.
  • Nothing is expected to happen with Sixers guard Markelle Fultz until “more clarity” is obtained on his physical condition.

Bradley Beal, Agent Deny That Beal Wants Trade

After a report surfaced on Monday suggesting that Bradley Beal wants out of Washington, the shooting guard and his agent both came out and strongly denied that rumor.

“That is absolutely not true,” agent Mark Bartelstein said of the report that Beal wants to be traded, per Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter links). “The only sources that would know Brad thinking’s are Brad and myself. And Brad’s focus is 100% on helping the Wizards play consistent, winning basketball.”

Meanwhile, Beal himself addressed the subject after the Wizards’ win over the Rockets on Monday night, speaking to Dennis Scott of NBA TV (video link) in an on-court interview.

“That’s nonsense,” Beal said. “I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, ‘If it didn’t come from the horse’s mouth, it wasn’t me.’ I got this Washington jersey on, I come in and work every day, until otherwise. This is where I want to be. I’m going to continue to show up and continue to work and continue, continue to get wins for us.”

While it may be true that Beal hasn’t asked to be traded and isn’t looking to leave D.C. as soon as possible, there have been plenty of indications that he’s not entirely happy with the Wizards. According to reports on the contentious team practice that took place earlier this month, Beal went on a tirade that day about the team’s culture, telling team officials that he’d been dealing with it “for seven years.” He also reportedly criticized GM Ernie Grunfeld during that practice.

Former Wizards beat writer J. Michael, who now covers the Pacers for The Indianapolis Star, tweeted earlier this month that front offices around the league believe Beal isn’t interested in staying with the Wizards beyond his current contract. Michael didn’t go so far as to say that Beal wants to be traded, but after Monday’s report surfaced, he noted (via Twitter) that the 25-year-old has long been frustrated by the situation in Washington.

Regardless of how he feels about the Wizards, Beal remains under contract through 2021 and seems unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. While Washington’s front office is reportedly willing to listen to inquiries on any of its players, the price tag for Beal would be astronomical, as he’s the club’s most valuable asset.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Beal, Rondo, Kokoskov

Warriors point guard and two-time MVP Stephen Curry could be back in action this week, according to an NBA.com post. He will go through a full practice on Tuesday with the possibility of playing against the Raptors on Thursday, coach Steve Kerr told the media. Curry has missed 10 consecutive games with a left groin strain.

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Any potential Lakers trade for Wizards guard Bradley Beal would likely have Brandon Ingram as its centerpiece, according to Eric Pincus in a Bleacher Report column. Los Angeles probably wouldn’t agree to deal Ingram plus either Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart, Pincus opines. However, a package of Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley would add up to enough salary to absorb Beal’s hefty contract. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope couldn’t be substituted for Rondo unless he agreed to the deal, due to a quirk in rules regarding players who re-sign one-year contracts, Pincus adds.
  • The Lakers’ offense has suffered without Rondo, who is currently out with a broken hand, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. The Lakers ranked fourth in scoring (116.9 ppg) and fifth in assists (26.0) before Rondo’s injury, but are 22nd in points (106.6) and 29th in assists (18.6) in the first five games without him. Rondo has been cleared for non-basketball activities but is still several weeks away from returning, Ramirez adds.
  • Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov believes his days as an assistant in Detroit were pivotal in his coaching career, as he explained to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. He was a young coach with the Pistons when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals on a regular basis. “I had the privilege of being with Larry Brown for two years and Flip Saunders for three years,” Kokoskov told McCosky. “I was very fortunate to learn from those great coaches and those great players. Just being a part of that group, with those guys all in their prime, I had a chance to steal the best from those guys. I learned a lot. Especially when you are winning.”

Wizards Notes: Porter, Wall, Morris, Rivers

As the underachieving Wizards mull the possibility of making a trade or two to try to turn their season around, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News argues that the man entrusted with making those deals has worn out his welcome in D.C. The firing of GM Ernie Grunfeld is “past due” for the Wizards, according to Deveney, who suggests that the franchise has already kept Grunfeld for about a half-decade too long.

In addition to some questionable roster moves and contract decisions from Grunfeld, player development has also been an issue in Washington, Deveney opines. One rival front office executive suggested to Deveney that Bradley Beal has improved more because of the work he does on his own than his work with the team.

Otto Porter does some nice things, good role player, but he has been the same player for the last three years, really. He could be better if he were somewhere else,” the executive said. “And [John] Wall, the game passed him by. He has had nine years to learn to shoot, and he still can’t shoot. I can’t go to my coach and tell him we are getting a starting point guard who can’t shoot. Not for $40MM a year.”

Here’s more on the Wizards from Deveney and others:

  • The Wizards have had a tough time finding value for their players on the trade market, according to Deveney. One executive told Deveney that – outside of Beal – Markieff Morris might be the club’s most interesting trade chip, since many contenders could use a tough, versatile big man. However, that exec was skeptical that any team would be willing to part with a first-round pick for Morris, who is on an expiring deal.
  • Speaking of Morris, his move to the bench has helped diversify the scoring ability of the Wizards’ second unit, says Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. It’s also an opportunity to get Morris a few more shot attempts, since he’s more of a focal point on offense for the second team than he would be when Wall and Beal are on the court.
  • Offseason acquisition Austin Rivers believes he’s getting the hang of playing alongside Wall and Beal, as Hughes details in a separate story for NBC Sports Washington. “I have to be more aggressive,” Rivers said. “They actually like that, too, because it makes it easier for them because I will attack and then they get easy shots instead of having to work for every shot.”

Heat Notes: 15th Man, Trade Options, Richardson

Even with Dwyane Wade back after his personal leave, the Heat find themselves a little short on backcourt playmakers, as Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, and Dion Waiters are all on the shelf due to various injuries. Miami has an open roster spot and could temporarily add a guard on a non-guaranteed contract to provide some depth, but has shown no interest in doing so for the time being.

While the luxury-tax penalties tied to any signing are surely a consideration for the Heat, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel suggests the team’s preference to stick with a 14-man roster for now is more about finding minutes for players who might otherwise be buried in Miami’s deep rotation.

As Winderman points out, adding a veteran point guard could have a domino effect on the rest of the lineup, potentially costing players like Wayne Ellington or even Bam Adebayo some playing time. It remains unclear when the Heat’s guards will return to action, but lengthy absences for Dragic and Johnson seem unlikely, so the club is in no rush to add reinforcements.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • The 6-11 Heat have dropped nine of their last 12 games and the need for a roster shakeup in Miami has “never been more obvious,” writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The Heat will likely contact the Wizards to check in on players like John Wall and Bradley Beal, according to Jackson, who hears that Miami holds Beal in particularly high regard. However, Jackson suggests it’s hard to imagine the Heat putting together an appealing enough package for Beal, and they’d probably only have interest in Wall if they could dump a couple of their own unwanted contracts.
  • In a pair of Ask Ira features this week, Winderman dug into the Heat’s decision to sit Kelly Olynyk on Tuesday and explored the likelihood of a trade involving Wayne Ellington.
  • Earlier this week, Josh Richardson was fined $25K by the NBA for throwing his shoe into the stands during a loss to the Lakers, according to a press release from the league.