Washington Wizards

Porter, Wall Offseason Priorities

Re-signing Otto Porter and working out an extension with John Wall are the Wizards‘ top priorities for the offseason, relays Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic. The first order of business involves Porter, who is headed toward free agency after four seasons in Washington. The Wizards have until Friday to submit a qualifying offer of about $7.4MM to make him restricted, which means the franchise could match any offer he receives. Team president Ernie Grunfeld views the 24-year-old as part of the future in Washington. “We’ve said all along that we want to keep our core group of young players together and Otto is an important part of what we’re trying to do,” Grunfeld said. “When free agency starts, we’ll see what we can do and work things out to keep him here.”

Southeast Notes: Howard, Billups, Frazier, Wade

Dwight Howard, recently traded to the Hornets from the Hawks, discussed his excitement to be in Charlotte, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Howard spoke glowingly about his new owner, Michael Jordan:

“I’d just done a 2 ½-hour workout. After I was done talking to him, I wanted to jump back into the gym. That’s how he motivated me. You’re talking about the greatest basketball player to ever play. For him to call you on the phone and say, ‘I believe in you!’ ”

Howard also discussed his reunion with head coach Steve Clifford, his disappointment of lasting just one season with him hometown team, and how he will make a difference in the Charlotte community.

Here’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Hawks GM Travis Schlenk says that three or four teams were interested in trading for Dwight Howard, but the Hornets made the best offer, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.
  • While the Cavaliers await a decision from Chauncey Billups, another team covets the former NBA Finals MVP’s wisdom in the front office: the Hawks, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Billups recently interviewed for a front-office position with Atlanta.
  • Hornets GM Rich Cho says the team will be looking for a backup point guard and more overall depth in free agency, tweets Jordan Greer of The Sporting News.
  • The Magic‘s new president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, explains why the team traded two picks in a deep draft, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Weltman explained:  “We felt that at a certain point that the draft flattened out, and once we got past that point, we had three more picks, and we didn’t want to bring four rookies in. So what we did is we tried to identify kids that we thought could possibly be there later that we liked as much [as a] higher [pick]. And could we defer those assets [and] move them along to maybe turn them into future pieces and still come up with something that we liked?”
  • The Wizards believe that Tim Frazier can contribute right away, reports Chase Hughnes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, in an interesting piece full of great quotes from Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks.
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes that Dwyane Wade, who has come up often as a Heat target this offseason, is not necessarily leaving Chicago so soon despite the Bulls’ obvious entrance into rebuilding mode after dealing Jimmy Butler on draft day.

Wizards Reach Agreement With Kris Jenkins

The Wizards have reached a free agent agreement with Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, tweets David Aldridge of TNT.

Jenkins is best known as the hero of the 2016 NCAA championship game, when he sank a last-second shot to defeat North Carolina. The 6’6″ forward returned to the Wildcats for his senior season and put up 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Washington didn’t have any picks in tonight’s draft and will be looking for inexpensive players to help rebuild its bench, so Jenkins may have a chance to make the 15-man roster.

Wizards Notes: Frazier, Burke, Gortat, Tax

Finding a reliable backup for point guard John Wall and fortifying their bench are two of the Wizards’ top priorities heading into the offseason, and on Wednesday, the team made a move that may have checked both boxes. Washington sent the No. 52 overall pick to New Orleans in exchange for guard Tim Frazier, who saw plenty of action at the point for the Pelicans this season and will earn a modest $2MM salary in 2017/18.

While there’s no guarantee Frazier will be the answer as Wall’s backup, he’s a solid rotation player and the Wizards didn’t have to give up much to get him. According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, Frazier has been on the Wizards’ radar for some time, and the club also tried to acquire him at February’s trade deadline.

Here’s more out of Washington:

  • Trey Burke, who handled point guard duties for part of the 2016/17 season, is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but the Wizards won’t tender Burke a qualifying offer, per J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com. With no QO in hand, Burke will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
  • At season’s end, Marcin Gortat questioned his role in Washington and suggested he may seek a trade, but Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld sounds like he expects to retain the veteran center, according to Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic.com. “I’ve talked to March,” Grunfeld said. “March is with us. March, we’ve had him for four years. He’s averaged a double-double for four years. He’s been in the second round for three out of those four years and is a big part of what we’re doing. Everybody has frustration after a tough loss and a tough series. March is with us and he’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing.”
  • Grunfeld also acknowledged that the Wizards should be willing to go into the luxury tax territory this offseason, if necessary, Hughes writes in a separate CSNMidAtlantic.com story. “We’ll see how everything goes. If it’s the right player, I don’t think we have a problem going over,” Grunfeld said.
  • According to TNT’s David Aldridge and Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post (Twitter links), the Wizards are open to buying their way back into the second round of Thursday’s draft if the opportunity arises. Currently, the team has no picks.

Wizards Acquire Tim Frazier From Pelicans

8:32pm: The trade is official, the Pelicans confirmed in a press release.

7:32pm: The Wizards and Pelicans have agreed to a trade that will send guard Tim Frazier to Washington, reports Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. According to Scotto (via Twitter), the Pelicans will receive this year’s No. 52 overall pick in the deal.Tim Frazier vertical

Frazier, 26, signed a two-year contract with the Pelicans last summer after impressing the team in a brief 2015/16 audition. He appeared in a career-high 65 games (35 starts) for New Orleans this past season, acting as the starting point guard early in the year when Jrue Holiday was unavailable, then re-entering the starting lineup late in the season after the Pelicans traded several guards. For the season, Frazier averaged a respectable 7.1 PPG and 5.2 APG.

Despite a solid year for the Pelicans, Frazier apparently wasn’t in the team’s plans going forward. New Orleans will send the Penn State product to the Wizards, who have been in the market for a point guard capable of backing up John Wall after Brandon Jennings and Trey Burke underwhelmed in 2016/17.

Frazier will be an inexpensive bench option for the Wizards, who will be on the hook for his modest $2MM salary next season. Although Washington is currently well over the cap, the team can take on Frazier using a traded player exception created in a February deal with the Nets.

That trade exception, worth approximately $2.5MM, will be used to absorb Frazier’s current salary of $2.09MM. Meanwhile, the Pelicans will create a TPE worth Frazier’s salary, though that exception will disappear in July if the team uses cap room.

With Frazier no longer in the picture, the Pelicans have two guards – E’Twaun Moore and Quincy Pondexter – on guaranteed contracts for 2017/18, with two more – Jordan Crawford and Quinn Cook – on non-guaranteed deals. Fortifying the backcourt and potentially re-signing Holiday will be top priorities for New Orleans this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards' Pursuit Of Paul George Will Be Difficult

Paul George Trade May Not Happen Before The Draft

The Pacers have talked to several teams about trading star forward Paul George, but don’t feel pressured to complete a deal before Thursday’s draft, writes Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star.

Team president Kevin Pritchard has had discussions with the Rockets, Cavaliers and Lakers about moving George, and the Wizards and Clippers have also expressed interest. However, the Pacers haven’t liked any of the offers enough to move forward with a deal.

George has been on the trading block since his agent told the Pacers on Saturday that he plans to opt out of his contract next summer and prefers to join the Lakers.

The Pacers are hoping trade offers will improve tomorrow afternoon in anticipation of the draft. However, George’s public statements about wanting to go to L.A. are limiting what teams are willing to part with.

A source told Taylor that the Pacers may decide to listen to offers all summer, and maybe into training camp, before making a deal. Another source speculated that George’s value will continue to drop the longer the Pacers wait.

After Tuesday’s trade with the Nets, the Lakers reportedly offered Indiana both the 27th and 28th pick along with their choice of Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson in exchange for George. A source said the Pacers are holding out for a significantly better offer.

Another source said that George wouldn’t object to playing for the Pacers next season if no deal is completed.

Draft Notes: Mitchell, Jackson, Tatum, Ferguson

Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell will hold a last-minute workout for the Knicks today, posts Ian Begley on ESPN Now. The sophomore out of Louisville, whose session was originally scheduled for Tuesday, is being considered with the No 8 pick, Begley adds, along with French point guard Frank Ntilikina, Kentucky guard Malik Monk, Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen and others. Team president Phil Jackson is intrigued by Mitchell’s defensive prowess and athleticism and likes the fact that he prefers to work out in a group setting to showcase his defense. Joining Mitchell today will be Villanova’s Josh Hart, Miami’s Davon Reed, Iowa State’s Naz Long and others.

There’s more draft news on the eve of the big event:

  • The Celtics have received Josh Jackson‘s medical records, but the Kansas forward still refuses to work out for the team, tweets Chad Ford of ESPN.com. Boston appears to be leaning toward Duke’s Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick, Ford states, but no decision has been made.
  • Ford still has Jackson as the third selection in his latest mock draft, which was released today. Markelle Fultz remains No. 1, followed by Lonzo Ball, with the rest of the top 10 as Tatum, Jonathan Isaac, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr., Monk, Zach Collins and Markkanen.
  • Terrance Ferguson recently pulled out of workouts with the Pistons, Hawks and Bucks, tweets Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated. It’s possible that Ferguson received a draft promise from the Nuggets or Nets or he may have been responding to poor workouts (Twitter link).
  • A 7-footer with a soft shooting touch, Markkanen is drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, writes Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. Some scouts believe the 20-year-old Finnish star is the best 3-point shooter in the draft. “It’s probably not fair to him to have some young guy compared to a Hall of Fame player and champion,” Markkanen said of Nowitzki. “We have similarities because of the height, being from Europe and shooting. But I have a long way to go before I’m in the same category as him. Hopefully, I can get there one day.”
  • The Wizards will work out six players today, the team announced on its website. They are French center Alpha Kaba, Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain Jr., VCU’s JeQuan Lewis, Eastern Michigan’s Jalen Ross, Niagara’s Tahjere McCall and East Tennessee State’s Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

Wizards Will Add G League Affiliate

The Wizards will become the 27th NBA team to have their own G League franchise, starting play in 2018/19, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

The team name has not been chosen, but it will play in a not-yet-built facility in Southeast Washington, D.C., that will also house a practice court for the Wizards and serve as the home arena for the WNBA’s Mystics.

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said the organization will benefit from having its own G League affiliate, especially one located so close to the parent team.

“The NBA G League has been a great resource for us over the years, both for calling up talent and for allowing young players on our roster to gain more on-court experience,” he said. “Having our own team, selecting the front office and coaching staff and being able to implement our system will allow us to further enhance our player and staff development program moving forward.”

This season, Washington primarily used the Delaware 87ers, an affiliate of the Sixers, for its G League moves Buckner notes that the Wizards have signed 17 players out of the minor league since its creation.

The Pelicans, Nuggets and Trail Blazers are now the only teams without a direct G League affiliate, although New Orleans has plans to add a team in 2018/19, tweets Adam Johnson of D-League Digest.

Formerly known as the D-League, the organization officially changed its named this week with its purchase by Gatorade.

Lakers, Pacers Engage On Paul George Talks

8:40pm: The Lakers engaged the Kings on a potential trade that would have involved the No. 2 pick going to Sacramento in exchange for Nos. 5 and 10, reports TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter links). According to Aldridge, the Lakers’ goal was to package one of those Kings’ picks with one of the Lakers’ late first-rounders and a player in an effort to get George. However, the Kings turned them down.

Meanwhile, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter links) hears that the Lakers and Pacers are currently at a “standstill” in their talks, though it remains “highly likely” that Indiana will move George this week.

6:11pm: In the wake of their trade agreement with the Nets, the Lakers have offered the Pacers either Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle along with the No. 27 and No. 28 picks in exchange for George, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). ESPN’s Marc Stein also reported the details of that package (via Twitter).

1:56pm: The Lakers and Pacers have engaged on trade talks for Paul George, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. No deal is imminent at this point.

Los Angeles is considered George’s likely destination in 2018, raising questions about how aggressive the Lakers would be on the trade market for him. If the Lakers expect George to sign with them as a free agent a year from now, there would be little reason for the club to pursue him now and give up key assets to land him. However, it appears the Lakers are at least kicking the tires on what it would take to acquire George and get him in the fold sooner rather than later.

As for what the Lakers may be willing to offer, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical suggested earlier this week that the club isn’t expected to put the No. 2 overall pick or Brandon Ingram on the table. Wojnarowski said that a combination of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and the No. 28 pick might be the most the Lakers are open to giving up, though there’s no indication yet that those are the players being discussed by the two teams.

D’Angelo Russell is another player the Lakers could make available in George talks — ESPN’s Chad Ford reported (via Twitter) that the team may be dangling Russell in an effort to pick up another lottery pick. However, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders suggests (via Twitter) that’s not accurate, noting that Russell and George share an agent, who would likely prefer to see his two clients together in L.A. (Twitter link) — Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) confirms as much. For what it’s worth, Randle is an Aaron Mintz client as well.

If the Lakers and Pacers make a serious effort to work out a deal, don’t expect Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov to be involved. The Lakers are resisting that sort of salary dump at this point, since it would cost them draft picks or a young player, tweets Wojnarowski. Pincus adds (via Twitter) that removing Deng and/or Mozgov from the Lakers’ cap likely won’t become a priority until 2018, when the team goes after free agents.

While the Lakers are George’s preferred destination, a number of teams are reportedly exploring the possibility of landing the star forward, even as a one-year rental. The Clippers, Cavaliers, and Rockets have been cited as possible trade partners for Indiana, and according to Amico Hoops, the Wizards are also investigating the possibility of a deal.

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