Corey Kispert

Wizards Notes: Porzingis, Beal, Satoransky, Kispert

Kristaps Porzingis is showing that he can be a dominant scorer late in games, which makes the prospect of a future pairing with Bradley Beal very intriguing, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards only have two wins in the past 19 days, but Porzingis took over both of them, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter against the Lakers last week and 11 in the fourth quarter against the Pistons Friday night.

“I enjoy those clutch moments, those last possessions,” Porzingis said. “There’s more on the line. I think every basketball player enjoys those shots more.”

Beal hasn’t played since Porzingis was acquired from the Mavericks in February, so the Wizards haven’t gotten to see how their games fit together. They are hoping to keep Beal this summer and use them as the basis to build a contending team. For now, coach Wes Unseld Jr. is experimenting with the advantages that having the tallest player on the court can offer.

“He’s kind of a steadying presence. You can play through him,” Unseld Jr. said. “With his size and stature, you know he can get a shot off. Get him to a spot and let him do his thing. He made some big plays late.” 

There’s more from Washington:

  • Beal, who has a decision to make on his $36.4MM player option for next season, talked about his situation on Draymond Green‘s podcast this week (hat tip to James Herbert of CBS Sports). Beal appreciates that the Wizards front office has refused to include him in trade talks, but he’s still planning to keep his options open. “It’s kind of funny. I’ve never been a free agent,” he said. “It’s kind of reminding me of college recruiting. Like I hear every single game somebody’s recruiting me. Someone’s like tagging on me, whether it’s another player or whether it may be a coach or whoever it may be, somebody’s chit-chatting: ‘B, what you want to do this summer? What you doing this summer?'”
  • Tomas Satoransky made his first start on Friday since signing with the Wizards at the end of February, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. It may be a sign of hope for Satoransky, who has been through three trades, a buyout and an injury over the past seven months.
  • After fighting to earn minutes early in the season, rookie Corey Kispert is now a regular part of the starting lineup, Robbins notes in a separate story. Beal’s absence created an opening, and Kispert seized the opportunity. “There’s no substitute for NBA minutes, no matter how many you get,” he said. “So I’m just really happy that I have a chance to play through mistakes and play through all those things. It’s made me a better player and then consequently I make less of them.”

Wizards Notes: Player Development, Hachimura, Porzingis

Whether the Wizards push hard for a play-in spot down the stretch or resign themselves to a lottery berth and vie for draft positioning, developing their young players will be a top priority the rest of the way, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

As Hughes outlines, if youngsters like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, and Daniel Gafford thrive in the second half of the season, that will give the Wizards more options in the offseason — they could decide to build around those players or could try to trade one or more of them for a more established player.

Avdija, who is averaging 7.5 PPG on the season, has looked good as of late, scoring double-digit points in all three games since the trade deadline and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds in Monday’s win over Detroit. However, Hachimura’s developmental process may have hit another temporary snag during Monday’s victory.

As Hughes writes in a separate NBC Sports Washington story, Hachimura left the game in the first half due to a right ankle sprain. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after the game that he’s hopeful the sprain isn’t too severe, but it still might make sense for Washington to hold out the third-year forward until at least after the All-Star break.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Unseld said on Monday that there’s hope Kristaps Porzingis will be able to make his Wizards debut before the All-Star break (Twitter link via Hughes). Washington plays in Indiana on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Thursday, so we’ll see if Porzingis – who is day-to-day with a right knee bone bruise – is available for either of those games.
  • Although general manager Tommy Sheppard insisted a few weeks before the trade deadline that the team felt no need to move Spencer Dinwiddie, it was obvious something was “dramatically off-kilter,” writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Dinwiddie, who struggled to produce alongside Bradley Beal, never seemed comfortable with his role on the team, Robbins adds, noting that the point guard was “oddly passive” and probably didn’t have the ball in his hands enough.
  • Within that same story at The Athletic, Tim Cato considers what Porzingis can bring to the Wizards, suggesting the big man has reemerged as a strong defender when healthy this season and is no longer an obvious target for switches. However, Porzingis hasn’t been a reliable outside shooter in 2021/22, and his frequent injury-related absences resulted in some awkward readjustment periods when he’d return to the lineup after missing several games, says Cato.

Wizards Rumors: Sabonis, Grant, Beal, Bryant, Harrell, Dinwiddie

A number of people around the NBA think the Wizards will go “big-game hunting” at the trade deadline in an effort to ensure Bradley Beal remains happy with the situation in D.C. ahead of his upcoming free agency, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said on his latest podcast.

Scotto identified Pistons forward Jerami Grant and Pacers center Domantas Sabonis as two potential targets to watch for the Wizards. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report mentions the same two names in his look at Washington’s deadline options, referring to Sabonis as a player who has emerged as a “significant” target for the Wizards.

According to Fischer, there’s a belief Beal has signaled plans to re-sign with the Wizards in the offseason, and there has been no indication the team is willing to discuss him in trade talks on or before February 10. However, having slid down the standings since a 10-3 start, the club appears to be in the market for an impact player in order to help “solidify Beal’s standing” in Washington.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • One source with knowledge of the situation tell Bleacher Report that Beal hasn’t actively encouraged the Wizards to acquire Sabonis, but word around the league is that the Wizards star would welcome the opportunity to play with the big man, Fischer writes. The Kings and Pelicans are the other teams believed to have serious interest in Sabonis, per Fischer’s sources.
  • The Pacers‘ front office liked Rui Hachimura heading into the 2019 draft and considered Corey Kispert in the 2021 lottery, according to Fischer, who notes that at least two of Hachimura, Kispert, and Deni Avdija would probably have to be included in any package for Sabonis. The Wizards would also have to offer a player like Thomas Bryant or Montrezl Harrell for salary-matching purposes, plus possibly draft assets, and even that might not meet Indiana’s high asking price, says Fischer.
  • The Wizards have made outgoing calls to assess Harrell’s trade value, and rival executives believe they’re playing Bryant more lately in order to showcase him for a potential deal, writes Fischer.
  • Although the Wizards have made Spencer Dinwiddie available, his down year will make it more challenging to find a trade partner, per Fischer. “He needs the ball, he’s not good enough to have the ball, and he’s not a good shooter,” a Western Conference executive said to Bleacher Report.

Wizards Notes: Hachimura, Bryant, Dinwiddie, Caldwell-Pope

The slumping Wizards are due for lineup changes when Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are ready to start playing again, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Washington was one of the NBA’s early-season surprises with a 10-3 start, but has gone just 4-7 since then and has fallen to the middle of the Eastern Conference pack.

In a recent radio interview, general manager Tommy Sheppard said Hachimura, who is away from the team on a personal absence and hasn’t played yet this season, could begin practicing after a three-game road trip ends Wednesday. Sheppard expects Bryant, who is recovering from a torn ACL, to be back at practice within two weeks.

Once they’re available, Robbins expects coach Wes Unseld Jr. to make adjustments to his rotation. Davis Bertans is likely to see his minutes reduced, along with rookie Corey Kispert. Kyle Kuzma, who has been playing power forward in Hachimura’s absence, will probably see more time at small forward, and Deni Avdija will have a smaller role.

There’s more from Washington:

  • The Wizards are being cautious with Spencer Dinwiddie, who will be rested tonight in the second game of a back-to-back, Robbins tweets. The free agent addition is only 11 months removed from ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee.
  • Even though Washington lost to the Raptors on Sunday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope delivered his best game since being acquired from the Lakers in an offseason trade, notes Andrew Gillis of NBC Sports Washington. Caldwell-Pope delivered 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting, even though he said he felt less than 100%. KCP is one of four Wizards who haven’t missed a game this season. “You just gotta try to gut it out,” Caldwell-Pope said. “You’ve got to try to find that energy from somewhere and try to finish the game. Just do your job and do what you can do out there. Just give it all you’ve got until you can’t give it no more. We talk about effort so much, it’s a big part of how we play the game.”
  • The Wizards haven’t lost three straight games this season, and Unseld is eager to see how they respond after two straight blowouts, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Early in the season, we bounced back from these stretches,” he said. “This has kind of been the longest duration where things are kind of tenuous for us, so it’s certainly a test. We have no choice. We’ve gotta pull together, we’ve gotta dig ourselves out and we’ve gotta find a way.”

Southeast Notes: Wizards Preview, Avdija, Cooper, Hornets Injuries

In his ongoing series of team previews, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that the Wizards might not be a better overall team this season than they were in 2020/21, but he thinks they’re in a decent position to build around star Bradley Beal going forward.

By moving John Wall for Russell Westbrook, and then trading Westbrook to the Lakers, the Wizards acquired multiple players on smaller deals with less guaranteed money, thus gaining financial flexibility for 2022/23.

Hollinger identifies one area the team should definitely be improved: three-point shooting. The Wizards were dead last in three-point attempts per 100 possessions last season, even with renowned shooters Beal and Davis Bertans. New additions Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (.410 3PT%), Kyle Kuzma (.361), and Aaron Holiday (.368) all shot better than the Wizards’ team mark (.351) last season, and rookie Corey Kispert was considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft.

However, Hollinger thinks the team might regress defensively, as Bertans and Montrezl Harrell are both poor defenders who figure to see a good chunk of minutes together.

Hollinger projects the team to finish 38-44, 10th in the East, but thinks they’ll have their work cut out for them to actually hit that mark.

Here’s more from out of the Southeast:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija made his long-awaited return from a fractured ankle in Saturday’s preseason game, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards are high on Avdija and he’s expected to have more play-making opportunities this season, Hughes adds.
  • Hawks rookie Sharife Cooper is having an impressive preseason, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Cooper, the 48th pick in the draft, is on a two-way contract, and coach Nate McMillan likes what he’s seen so far, per Spencer. “I love the energy that he’s bringing,” McMillan said of Cooper. “He’s scrappy. He’s playing scrappy basketball out there. He’s trying to make a statement. He’s stepping up, and he’s not pacing himself.”
  • In two separate tweets, the Hornets announced Terry Rozier sprained his ankle and will be re-evaluated later in the week, while Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee are both out for tomorrow’s game at Miami due to health and safety protocols.

Unseld Jr.: Dinwiddie, Beal Will Be “Dynamic” Backcourt

Wes Unseld Jr. is excited about the talent he’ll have available with the Wizards in his first NBA head coaching job, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Although the former Nuggets associate head coach is leaving the No. 3 seed in the West for a team that had to go through the play-in tournament last season, Unseld believes Washington is ready to compete right away.

He’s particularly thrilled about the addition of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who agreed to a three-year, $62MM contract in free agency and was acquired in a complex five-team trade. Dinwiddie was a proficient scorer before missing most of last season with a partially torn ACL, and Unseld expects him and Bradley Beal to form a dangerous backcourt.

“On paper, it’s one of the most dynamic 1-2s, 2-1s, however you wanna call it, on the East Coast,” he said. “So, I’m excited to have both those guys. I think they’re about the right thing. I think they’re gonna play together, make us better. Honestly, the way they can score the ball, they’re gonna bail us out of a lot of tough spots.”

Unseld discusses several other topics in the lengthy interview with Katz:

On the versatility of Kyle Kuzma, who was acquired from the Lakers in the deal that included Dinwiddie:

“Whether you wanna call him a two, three or four, he’s gonna be out there. He’s gonna space the floor. He’s gonna make shots. I think the game has moved away from the standard point guard, two-guard, small forward, etc. I think you wanna put your best matchups out there.”

On sorting out playing time at center, where Daniel Gafford is expected to start, but Thomas Bryant will return from an ACL injury and newly-acquired Montrezl Harrell will also expect minutes:

“I made this point to those guys when I spoke to them. All of that is great, but all of our decisions are gonna be based on what’s best for the group. I may at times ask somebody to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of the group. There’s times when I may ask (them) to do more. And I think that’s a fair way to look at it, and I think it’s just one of our pillars. It’s about us. It’s about ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ ”

On the plans for first-round pick Corey Kispert, who joins a team loaded with young wing players:

“I don’t know. I never wanna paint myself into a corner, commit to something I’m uncertain of, but I think he has a good chance to be impactful. I said at draft night, he’s got a discernible NBA talent. His maturity, the fact that he’s played four years at a high level for a great coach — he’s disciplined. He understands his strengths. He’s gonna play to his strengths. And his ability to stretch the defense is a premium in the league.”

On the significant changes the Wizards have undergone since the draft:

“On a macro level, (changes to the team) don’t change our overall philosophy when it comes to spacing, playing with pace, shots, as far as what we value. That doesn’t change. I think you’ve got to shift your gears as far as some of the nuanced things you run. … I think as coaches, we all steal from each other, so there are gonna be some things that are very similar-looking to what you’re accustomed to.”

Corey Kispert Signs Rookie Deal With Wizards

The Wizards have signed Corey Kispert to a rookie contract, according to NBA.com’s transactions page.

Kispert, 22, was the 15th pick in this year’s draft. He earned first-team All-America honors at Gonzaga and helped the Zags reach the national championship game. Kispert put up career-best numbers as a senior, averaging 18.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52.9% from the field and 44.0% from three-point range.

Assuming he received 120% of the rookie salary scale, Kispert will earn about $3.38MM in his first season and can make up to $16.36MM over the four-year deal.

Wizards Rumors: Westbrook, Beal, Dinwiddie, Neto, Kispert, Bryant

After spending the 2020/21 season with the Wizards, Russell Westbrook contemplated his future and found he had a growing desire to join the Lakers, according to Shams Charania and Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Westbrook’s desire to play for his hometown team intensified after he spent time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at LeBron’s home about two weeks ago and the trio discussed the idea of teaming up, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Turner says James and Davis spoke in that conversation about changing positions if it’s best for the team, with LeBron willing to play more frequently at the four, with AD at the five.

Westbrook recently informed the Wizards that he’d like to be dealt to the Lakers if they could find a trade that worked, per Charania and Katz, and the two teams did just that on Thursday, reaching an agreement on a blockbuster deal that will send Westbrook and two future second-round picks to L.A. for Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and No. 22 pick Isaiah Jackson. Washington is flipping Jackson to Indiana in a deal that will involve Aaron Holiday and No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd.

One of the primary reasons Westbrook originally wanted to play in D.C. was the presence of head coach Scott Brooks, according to Charania and Katz, who note that the star point guard lobbied for the Wizards to retain Brooks. After the team decided to part ways with Brooks, Westbrook preferred an established coach, sources tell The Athletic, but Washington opted for a first-timer in Wes Unseld Jr.

Here’s more on the Wizards and how the Westbrook trade affects their offseason:

  • Bradley Beal had no issues with the Westbrook deal and hasn’t expressed a desire to leave Washignton, sources tell Charania and Katz. For now, the Wizards remain confident they can keep the All-NBA guard long-term.
  • The Athletic’s duo reiterates that Spencer Dinwiddie is a potential Wizards target worth keeping an eye on, though a source tells Charania and Katz that the Nets wouldn’t be inclined to sign off on a sign-and-trade of Dinwiddie for Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma alone. Dinwiddie is also expected to receive interest from the Nets, Heat, Knicks, and Raptors, among others, per The Athletic.
  • Elsewhere on the point guard front, a reunion with Raul Neto is a possibility for the Wizards, sources tell Charania and Katz. The team also agreed to acquire Aaron Holiday, having grown “enamored” with him prior to the 2018 draft. Washington tried to trade for Holiday a year ago, according to The Athletic.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, one of Beal’s closest friends in the NBA, is the type of three-and-D player the Wizards have long sought, Charania and Katz observe.
  • Corey Kispert was 10th on the Wizards’ draft board entering Thursday night, and the team considered the possibility of trying to trade up for him before landing him at No. 15, write Charania and Katz.
  • The Wizards are preparing for Thomas Bryant to miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. A source tells The Athletic the club is hoping Bryant will be able to return by December.

Draft Rumors: Knicks, Duarte, Thunder, Pacers, Kings, Giddey, Nuggets

With the draft just over 24 hours away, here’s some of the latest rumors:

  • The Knicks hold the Nos. 19 and 21 picks on Thursday but they’re aggressively trying to move into the lottery with the hope of landing Oregon guard Chris Duarte, draft expert Chad Ford tweets. The Hornets (No. 11) and Pacers (No. 13) are among the teams that appear willing to trade down. The Knicks are trying to leapfrog the Warriors (No. 14) and Wizards (No. 15), the teams most likely to pick Duarte ahead of them. However, a package of their two first-rounders alone won’t get it done, Ford adds. The Thunder have also held discussions with Charlotte regarding the No. 11 pick, Ford reports in another tweet.
  • Duarte may not last beyond the Pacers, either, unless they deal the pick. According to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link), Indiana’s selection is expeccted to come down to Duarte and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, assuming both are still available.
  • If the Knicks can’t move up, West Virginia point guard Miles McBride and VCU point guard Nah’Shon Hyland are potential targets at No. 21, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report tweets.
  • The Kings (No. 9) are taking a long look at Australia’s Josh Giddey, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. The Kings not only interviewed Giddey, they made a trip to Las Vegas to see the 6’8” guard work out with the Australian national team.
  • The Nuggets (No. 26) have fielded some calls from teams in the 20-25 range looking to trade down, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. One of those teams is apparently the Lakers (No. 22).

Draft Notes: Garuba, Butler, Pacers, Pistons, Kispert

Usman Garuba is generating buzz a potential mid first-round pick, but the terms of the Spaniard’s contract with Real Madrid represent an obstacle in getting him stateside for the 2021/22 season. According to Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com, Garuba’s NBA buyout clause with the Spanish club is worth three million Euros.

An NBA team can contribute to a player’s buyout with his international team, but only up to $775K (about €655K). That means that if Garuba wants to make the leap to the NBA right away, most of the buyout would have to come out of his own pocket. To make matters worse for the 19-year-old, the amount of that buyout increases by one million Euros every year until 2024, per Urbonas. Garuba’s contract with Real Madrid runs through 2025.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic observes (via Twitter), Garuba’s buyout is “insanely large” relative to other international contracts, but it may well be negotiated down to something more reasonable when the time comes for the big man to make the move to the NBA — which could happen in the coming weeks.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have released the final versions of their respective big boards for the 2021 draft. The two draft experts have also put out updated versions of their mock drafts at Bleacher Report and SI.com.
  • Among the noteworthy items in Woo’s mock draft: Some teams have concerns about the condition of Jared Butler‘s knees, and the Pacers have thus far rebuffed efforts from teams below them to move up to No. 13. If Indiana keeps that No. 13 pick, the team is likely to target a more experienced prospect such as Corey Kispert, Davion Mitchell, or Chris Duarte, says Woo.
  • Woo also reports that there has been some “real disagreement” within the Pistons‘ front office about what to do with the No. 1 pick. However, he expects Detroit to ultimately select Cade Cunningham. In his latest mock draft at ESPN.com (Insider link), Jonathan Givony cites sources who say a Pistons commitment to Cunningham could be “imminent.”
  • Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert told reporters this week that the Spurs (No. 12), Wizards (No. 15), and Pelicans (No. 17) were among the teams he worked out for during the pre-draft process, as Mike Vornukov of The Athletic tweets. Based on reports, it looks like Kispert has worked out for every team in the 7-15 range except for the Grizzlies, who recently agreed to acquire the No. 10 pick from New Orleans.