NBA players who are deserving of All-Star consideration

This is not about LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Rather, it’s focused on the players who are playing well enough to receive serious consideration but aren’t quite locks to play in the All Star Game. For simplicity’s sake, any player who is an obvious All Star (Joel Embiid) or has been selected to the All-Star team two of the last three seasons (Kemba Walker, LaMarcus Aldridge) was not considered. Further, context matters. If certain players are not playing up to expectations (Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons) or having weird seasons (Jimmy Butler), they weren’t included either.

With that introduction, here’s the list of NBA players who are deserving of All-Star consideration.

1 of 15

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal is probably too good to even be on this list, but I’m including him because he has made only one All-Star team so far in his career. His stat line (25 points, five rebounds and five assists) would suggest that he’s a virtual lock to make the All-Star team from the Eastern Conference. His play since John Wall got injured would also indicate that he’s a shoo-in for an All-NBA team, as he is averaging over 29 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. He’s elevated his game from borderline All-Star to clear-cut All-Star in his seventh NBA season.

Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday is an elite player. Yeah, I said it. The stats are quite good — 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game — but watching him live is a treat. He’s a rugged defender who will man up on anyone, from Damian Lillard to James Harden to Kevin Durant, on defense. On offense he’s as smooth as any guard in the league at finishing at the rim — left hand, right hand; it doesn’t matter. He deserves to be recognized as one of the top guards in the NBA.

3 of 15

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic is set to be the first rookie to make the All-Star Game since Blake Griffin did it in 2011. Doncic will likely get voted in by the fans, but he’s played so well this season that he has a compelling case either way. His numbers are awesome — 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game — and his highlights are even better. Expect this to be the first of many All-Star Game selections for the Croatian prodigy.

Clint Capela

Although he has a thumb injury and will likely miss the All-Star Game, Clint Capela still deserves All-Star consideration and recognition for the season he’s had. With his teammate James Harden on a historic tear lately, Capela’s marked improvement has barely been a story despite his averaging 18 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game. The advanced statistics are also quite favorable for the fifth-year big man from Switzerland, as he ranks in the top 20 in a number of categories, including player efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating and offensive win shares. He’s an All-Star-caliber player no matter how you slice it.

Blake Griffin

Believe it or not, Blake Griffin hasn’t been an All-Star since 2015. Despite averaging a career-high 26 points per game to go along with eight rebounds and five assists, Griffin somehow isn’t a lock to be an All-Star this year, but he absolutely should be. He used to rely on his athleticism to impact games, but now he’s one of the best big man playmakers in the league and a more than adequate shooter (48/36/76 shooting splits). He may not be as aesthetically pleasing to watch as he once was, but give credit where credit is due.

Tobias Harris/Danilo Gallinari

The two best players on the Clippers, Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, are having great seasons and deserve All-Star consideration. If one of them earns a spot, it will probably be Harris, who actually won Western Conference Player of the Month in November and is averaging 20 points and eight rebounds on insanely efficient shooting splits (50/44/89). Gallinari is also shooting the crap out of the ball this year with shooting splits (45/45/91). Even if he doesn’t make the All Star team, Gallinari is playing the best basketball of his career right now.

Devin Booker

With no real NBA point guards on their roster, the Suns have decided to put the ball in Devin Booker’s hands this season in a James Harden-esque lead guard role. The increased usage has paid dividends so far: Booker is averaging an impressive 25 points and seven assists per game. Are his offensive stats enough to justify an All-Star selection? Possibly, but he has his team’s putrid record and the sheer number of great guards in the Western Conference working against him.

JJ Redick

JJ Redick is having a Benjamin Button-like finish to his career, posting career-highs in scoring each of the past two seasons. Despite being 34-years-old, Redick is averaging almost 19 points per game and is arguably the second-most important player on the 76ers besides Joel Embiid because of his ability to space the court. Why not reward Redick with his first-ever All-Star team selection of his career? If he makes the team, he’ll be the oldest first-time All-Star in NBA history.

Steven Adams

Steven Adams, who is still only 25 years old, has steadily improved every season of his career. At this point, he’s an All-Star-caliber center for the Thunder. In addition to anchoring the fourth-best defense in the NBA, Adams is averaging a career high in points (15.4 per game) and rebounds (10.1 per game). He’s the perfect selfless teammate and bodyguard for an intense franchise player like Russell Westbrook. Even if he doesn’t make the All-Star team, he’s playing as well as anyone could in his role with the Thunder.

Pascal Siakam

Along with Kawhi Leonard’s return to superstardom, Pascal Siakam’s leap has the Raptors playing better than any team in the NBA halfway through the season. Siakam spent his first two years as a defensive specialist off the bench for Toronto, but this season he broke out and became a contender for the Most Improved Player Award. His stats are nice — 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game — and his defense is excellent. He also jumps off the screen a bit by making winning plays all over the court.

Full List

By: Pat Heery

25 questions heading into the second half of the NBA season

1. Should the Pelicans trade Anthony this season or this summer?

The Pelicans are in 12th place in the Western Conference, and it’s time they start thinking about trading Anthony Davis. If they deal him this season, the Lakers might be willing to part with three of their four young assets (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). The 76ers might be willing to dangle Ben Simmons, too. Heck, the Warriors could even offer Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If New Orleans waits until the summer, the Celtics will be eligible to acquire Davis (a provision in the CBA is preventing them from doing so this season without including Kyrie Irving) and could offer a package including Jaylen Brown and their war chest of valuable future draft picks. The Knicks could offer their unprotected 2019 first-round draft pick and Kevin Knox. The only downside to waiting for the summer is that if Davis demands a deal to a specific team, the Pelicans lose all their leverage. Lots to consider in the Big Easy, and none of it is all that promising.

2. What does the Lakers starting lineup look like this spring?

The best-case scenario includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A lineup with those two could win the title. The next best scenario probably involves James, Bradley Beal and whichever two youngsters remain. This lineup could hang with any team in the league but is probably an underdog in the Conference Finals and Finals. The worst-case scenario would be if they make no major moves at the deadline because their current lineup likely has a Conference Finals ceiling and it’d be malpractice to waste a year of LeBron’s prime, like when the team has a number of trade chips.

3. Which teams mortgage their futures at the deadline?

Out West, the Pelicans are sure to be in the middle of everything, as they hold the crown jewel in Anthony Davis. Yet there’s a chance the Pelicans hold onto Davis and make a big trade of their own — we know they were in the mix for Jimmy Butler earlier this year. Everyone knows that the Rockets and Lakers will be looking for deals too. The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, so keep an eye on them as well.

Out East, any of the top five teams could justify pushing their chips in and try to capitalize on the Warriors’ perceived vulnerability. Also, keep an eye out for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — they’ve straightened things out as of late and have been trying to land a blue-chipper ever since LeBron James left.

4. Does Michael Jordan deal Kemba Walker?

The conundrum of Kemba Walker: He means everything to the Hornets and wants to remain the face of the franchise, yet they can’t compete with him on their roster. He’s not quite elite enough to carry Charlotte deep into the playoffs, yet he’s too good to not carry the team to a .500 record. With no cap room (maybe you shouldn’t have maxed out Nic Batum, MJ!) and hardly any trade assets (maybe you shouldn’t have turned down four first-round picks to draft Frank Kaminsky, MJ!), Michael Jordan needs to seriously consider trading Walker for some future draft picks and/or cap relief if the Hornets ever want to quit toiling in mediocrity.

5. What do the Blazers do at the trade deadline?

The Blazers are having another solid season. They’re 25-17 and have an average offense and defense. They won’t miss the playoffs, but they probably won’t make it out of the first round if they don’t make a move at the trade deadline. Is this the year they break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? How does the passing of owner Paul Allen impact the team’s previously unwavering loyalty to its dynamic backcourt? Would the Wizards ever consider a Bradley Beal for McCollum plus an unprotected 2020 first-rounder swap?

6. Which teams should blow it up at the deadline?

A couple of teams that are teetering on the brink of falling out of playoff contention should seriously consider blowing up their rosters by trading away assets for future draft picks and high-upside prospects. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. At 17-25, no John Wall for the rest of the year and no cap space, the team should absolutely be looking to trade Otto Porter and his massive contract, Markieff Morris and his abrasive attitude and even Bradley Beal if a team like the Lakers offers multiple prospects and draft picks.

Just above Washington in the standings, the Magic, Pistons and Hornets are all fighting for the eight seed. If any of them falter, they’d be obvious “tank” candidates. In the West, everything is still congested in the standings, but the Grizzlies and Pelicans will want to listen to offers for their respective stars if they’re on the outside looking in a month from now.

7. Do the Bucks have enough to compete for a title?

When LeBron James was 24 years old, he won his first MVP and led the Cavs to a league-best 66 wins. He was so transcendent that the team didn’t think it needed to improve a roster with Mo Williams as its second-best player at the trade deadline. Everyone knows how that worked out for Cleveland — the Orlando Magic caught fire in the Conference Finals and upset the Cavs.

Milwaukee Bucks fans should be scared to death of history repeating itself with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. Giannis is also 24 years old and an MVP front-runner, and he’s leading a surprisingly good Bucks team to the top of the conference as the deadline nears. While the Bucks have better secondary options than the 2009 Cavs had, their current roster is probably another scorer and versatile forward away from being threats to win it all.

8. Are the Raptors finally a legitimate title contender?

These dinosaurs are legit. Unlike past years, they have a roster built for the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is back to being the Kawhi Leonard of old (albeit, a little better on offense and a little worse on defense). Danny Green is having his best season in years. Same goes for Serge Ibaka, whose switch to small-ball center appears to have triggered a Benjamin Button-like reverse aging in his body. Kyle Lowry is second in the league in assists, too.

And who could forget Pascal Siakam — wow, where the hell did this guy come from? In his third season, he’s made the jump from solid defensive presence off the bench to potential All-Star and two-way terror on the court. He’s always sprinting, making offensive players uncomfortable on defense and pushing the envelope on offense — just making winning plays all over the court. He’s like Toronto’s own mutated version of Draymond Green. If you haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out on the best spin move in the NBA.

9. Are the Houston Rockets still contenders?

James Harden probably answered this one at Golden State last week where he put on one of the most impressive performances of his career. His three-pointer between the outstretched hands of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the climax point of an on-going, 15-game stretch in which he’s averaging over 40 points per game. We know Harden will keep stuffing the stat sheet, but we also know that he’s prone to wear down in the playoffs if another teammate isn’t there to lighten his load. Can Chris Paul get back on track once he returns from his hamstring injury? Does Houston trade for another shot creator at the deadline?

10. Are the Nuggets a legitimate title contender?

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference has been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. Jokic is proving to be a one-man elite offense, as the Nuggets have been able to withstand significant injuries to a number of their key players, including Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Even if they sputter at some point during the second half of the season, they should finish with a top-four record in the West. The question then becomes what is their ceiling this season with a roster comprised mostly of players with little to no prior playoff experience? A safe bet is that they’ll win their first-round series and then lose a close battle in the second round to a more experienced team like the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder or Lakers. Regardless, the future is bright in Denver.

11. Have the Thunder quietly built a defensive machine to upset the Warriors?

With Paul George playing at a first team All-NBA level this season and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant playing excellent two-way basketball, the Thunder might be the team best equipped to take down the Warriors. Notice I didn’t mention Russell Westbrook? That’s because the Thunder are often winning games in spite of Westbrook. While he is taking two fewer shots per game and has recommitted himself to defense (leading the league in steals), his shooting splits and shot selection are abysmal. He’s a key reason why OKC has the worst field-goal percentage in the NBA. It’s so frustrating because this team could absolutely steal some games from the Warriors in a series (they’re 3-2 vs. Golden State since acquiring Paul George) with its defense and overwhelming athleticism. However, Westbrook has to be a much more efficient player for the Thunder to take down Goliath.

12. Can the 76ers avoid a chemistry catastrophe?

There are layers to this one. For starters, the relationship between franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, is somewhere between “working partnership” and “icy.” It’s probably closer to the latter right now after their recent rebounding collision and Embiid’s subsequent freak-out. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Jimmy Butler is apparently already comfortable dressing down head coach Brett Brown in front of teammates about his role in the offense. Some teams can excel amid chaos like this; others fall victim to it. Will the Eastern Conference’s most talented team straighten things out for a long playoff run? Or will it implode from within?

13. Do the Pacers have enough offensive firepower to win the East?

It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but the Indiana Pacers are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re currently in third place and have the NBA’s third-highest rated defense despite missing their star, Victor Oladipo, for 11 games this season. Their defense and plethora of excellent role players will keep them in every game come playoff time, but can Oladipo carry their offense enough for them to make a deep run? Look for the Pacers to add some more scoring pop at this year’s trade deadline.

14. What is the Clippers’ ceiling?

How many players do you think a casual NBA fan could name on the Clippers? Three? Four? Despite having no star power, the Clippers are 24-16 and in fourth place in the loaded Western Conference. This is no longer a cute story about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts — this team is legitimately good. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all good players and have destroyed unsuspecting opponents this season.

How good are they? Can they win a playoff series? It’ll depend on the matchup and whether they pick up a better two-guard (Avery Bradley stinks now) and rim protector (Gortat isn’t cutting it). They could probably take down any team without an MVP-caliber player in a seven-game series, so if they play the Spurs, Blazers or Jazz in the first round, they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance to advance.

15. Will Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward get back on track?

If someone told you that Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were averaging only a combined 23.6 points per game, you’d probably assume that the Celtics were having the season from hell. Fortunately for Boston, the “Marcuses” (Morris and Smart) have stepped up their respective games and covered for Brown’s and Hayward’s struggles. The team is comfortably in fifth place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and will always have a chance in any playoff series with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and the Marcuses playing well. However, if the Celtics want to compete for a title, they’ll need at least one of Brown or Hayward to start playing better. Both have shown some signs of life recently, but an occasional good game won’t suffice come May and June.

16. Do the Jazz have another magical second half in store?

Quin Snyder has been a second-half miracle worker in his tenure as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Last season, after a 17-24 start to the season, the Jazz ripped off a 31-10 record the next 41 games and rode that momentum to a first-round upset over the Thunder. At 20-21 through 41 games this season, Snyder will need to once again work his second-half magic to get Donovan Mitchell and Co. back on track.

17. How does DeMarcus Cousins fit in with the Warriors?

As they attempt to three-peat and win their fourth title in five seasons, the Warriors are struggling with mental and physical fatigue. Even when they’re at full strength, they seem as vulnerable as they’ve seemed since Kevin Durant joined the team. That could all change when DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut. Will the Warriors be rejuvenated by their “new toy” and find new ways to throttle teams? Or will Cousins’ overwhelming but unnecessary offensive talent hurt the team’s on-court chemistry? Boogie’s commitment to defense could ultimately dictate this one.

18. Can Steph Curry really go 50-45-90 again?

Remember when Steph Curry won the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2015-16 and forced us to recalibrate how basketball was going to be played moving forward? That season he averaged 30.1 points per game and joined Steve Nash as the only players to ever join the 50-45-90 Club (FG percentage-3FG percentage-FT percentage). Well, he’s doing it again this season. Right now he’s averaging 28.9 points per game on 48-44-91 shooting splits. (And he’s been in a slump lately too.) Thanks to the equally ridiculous seasons guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having, hardly anyone seems to be noticing how insanely well Curry is shooting this year.

19. Can we hand Luka Doncic the Rookie of the Year, already?

Barring injury, the answer is yes. Doncic has been a revelation in Dallas and is must-see television every time he steps on the court. He might even get voted in as an All-Star Game starter. And while he shouldn’t be an All-Star starter, nobody should have any issues with him making the team because he’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game and absolutely has a case as being one of the 12 best players in the Western Conference this season.

20. Should the Knicks even bother bringing Kristaps Porzingis back this season?

If you recall, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL just before the All-Star break last season. With a crappy roster in place and their sights set on Kevin Durant, the Knicks have been in no rush to get their young star on the court before he’s completely healthy. They are going to evaluate Porzingis in mid-February, but there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all this season.

Should he play? On one hand, it’d be nice to get him back on the court for about 10-15 games to help him get his rhythm and confidence back heading into the offseason — this is what the Pacers did with Paul George following his broken leg. On the other hand, with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they might not want Porzingis winning games for them and screwing up their lottery odds.

Full 25

By Pat Heery

Wizards reportedly willing to trade John Wall, Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards are off to a terrible start this season, and the team’s front office may not be willing to be patient to see if things will turn around.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Wizards are giving teams the impression that they are open to trading any player on their roster, including John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington would reportedly prefer to build around its All-Star backcourt, but the belief is that the current roster may no longer be able to coexist.

Wojnarowski adds that the Wizards had previously chosen not to include Wall and Beal in trade discussions involving star players like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, but the team’s 5-11 start has the front office reconsidering. Another possibility would be to shop Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre in an attempt to bring in a third star, but the Wizards have not seen much interest in those players on the trade market.

Beal is three years younger than Wall, who will be owed $42 million per year for four years starting next season. Wall also has a 15 percent trade kicker in his deal, so he may be tougher to trade than Beal.

A fresh start could make sense for Wall if things keep trending in the direction they have been heading, as he recently had to defend himself against criticism that he parties too much. However, it seems like the return for Beal could be more significant if the Wizards are looking to rebuild.

The Wizards fell at home to the Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Sunday, and head coach Scott Brooks unloaded on the team for a lack of effort.

By Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

Bradley Beal Becomes Youngest Player To Hit 700 Threes

Written by Rexwell Villas at Clutch Points.com

When Bradley Beal knocked down the first of his two 3-point makes Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Washington Wizards shooting guard didn’t just add three points to the scoreboard — he also became the youngest ever in NBA history to bury 700 career triples.

This according to NBA.com/stats‘ tweet, welcoming Beal to the 700 3-pointers club.

With his accomplishment, Bradley Beal has bested the likes of former Wizards sharpshooter Gilbert Arenas, J.R. Smith, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant as the youngest ever to drain 700 long bombs.

Beal, who finished the Bucks game with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field with five assists, a steal, and a block to help lift Washington to a 99-88 road win, leads his team this season with 38 3-pointers in 17 games so far. He is knocking down 2.2 threes per game on 37.3 percent shooting.

Since entering the league as a third-pick overall by the Wizards in the 2012 NBA Draft, Bradley Beal has shown terrific sniping from behind the arc. After making 91 3-pointers in his rookie season, he’s buried at least 105 treys and shot no worse than 38.7 percent from long distance in each of the succeeding four campaigns.

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Why The NBA Picked Anthony Instead of Beal

Written by James Herbert at CBSSports.com

When the NBA announced Wednesday that Carmelo Anthony would replace the injured Kevin Love in Sunday’s All-Star Game, there was an immediate public outcry. Anthony has been great (on offense) lately, but the New York Knicks have a 23-34 record heading into the break. Surely Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal — and perhaps Boston Celtics center Al Horfordand Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, among others — is more deserving.

Beal himself doesn’t understand the league’s logic. He said Thursday that “the process of it does not make sense,” via the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner:

“I’ll never say a player doesn’t deserve to be on the all-star team. For one, Carmelo is a great player. Hell, he’s been one of the best offensive threats in the league for years now, and I’m taking absolutely nothing away from him. But the process of it does not make sense. If they reward winning, then I don’t understand how the decision was made,” Beal said Thursday morning. “It was kind of weird to me.”

When it was announced that Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love would miss the All-Star Game, Beal was among those considered for the open spot. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, stayed in contact with the league office and pushed for Beal. What’s more, Beal’s play as well as the 33-21 Wizards’ rise in the East standings seemed to make him a front-runner to fill the position. Instead, late Wednesday night, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver picked Anthony, replacing one forward with another.

“I don’t get it,” said Bartelstein, who represents numerous NBA players. “The reality of it is, if the coaches took a vote today for the guy who should be in the All-Star Game, there’s no doubt in my mind it’ll be Brad. I just think it’s wrong.

“I certainly talked to the league office. We make a strong statement all the time of how winning is rewarded, and I don’t understand. There’s no team winning at a higher level than the Wizards are right now. So Brad’s in the center of all that. Nobody can question he’s playing not just at an all-star level but at an elite all-star level.”

Although the Wizards have the best record in the Eastern Conference since Dec. 1, Bartelstein believes the league made the decision by taking into account the coaches’ voting of all-star reserves, which was announced Jan. 26. Since that point, the Wizards have an 8-1 record, as Beal has averaged 24.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting overall with a .451 percentage from beyond the three-point arc.

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Lakers Fans Outnumber Wizards In DC, And It Pissed Bradley Beal Off

Written by Candace Buckner at Washington Post.com

Throughout the Washington Wizards’ home winning streak, Bradley Beal has gushed over the Verizon Center fans. Even though the arena has not sold out since the streak began in early December, Beal has found ways to link the team’s success to the support at home.

But Thursday night, as the Wizards downed the Los Angeles Lakers for their 16th straight home win, securing the second-longest streak in franchise history, Beal felt the home cooking was spoiled by the presence of Lakers fans.

When asked if John Wall’s fourth-quarter takeover (16 points, including eight straight) was spurred by opposing fans who loudly cheered on their Lakers, Beal did not hold back.

“I’m sick of that, too,” Beal said. “That’s terrible. I feel like we were on the road today.”

Last year, the Lakers arrived in Washington for their first road trip after Kobe Bryant announced his retirement. Naturally, a sea of purple and gold filled Verizon Center. Now, even with no Kobe and a young Los Angeles team riding an 11-game road losing streak, scores of Lakers loyalists made up a large portion of the announced crowd of 16,473.

Meanwhile, the Wizards (29-20) have won 13 of their past 15 games overall and own the best record in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1. Yet the Wizards average one of the lowest attendances in the league (15,657) and have had a less than enthusiastic response from the home crowd during their rise. Still, after this latest win, Wall repeated a similar line he has used throughout the streak.

“We couldn’t do it without our fans, they’ve been amazing for us,” Wall said. “We’re coming out and understanding that if you want to be a playoff team, you want to go far, you’ve got to take home court and that’s something we’re doing.”

Wall admitted he wasn’t pleased with the presence of Lakers fans — “No, I wasn’t” — but understood why the franchise still attracts so many fans.

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Are The Wizards Actual Contenders? Looks like it

Written by Kurt Helin at NBC Sports.com

1) Wizards drop Knicks for 15th home win in a row, Washington may be the second best team in the East. Remember when the Wizards started the season 2-8? All the talk was about how John Wall and Bradley Beal didn’t get along, how Marcin Gortat was ripping the bench’s play, and what the heck was Scott Brooks doing?

If you don’t remember, that’s okay. What you need to know is that since Dec. 1 the Wizards are 22-9, the best record in the Eastern Conference for that stretch. After dropping the Knicks 117-101 Tuesday, Washington has won 15 games in a row at home. Beal had 28 points, while Wall was making it look easy, spinning around the Knicks’ defenders.

What’s gone right in Washington starts with health. Beal and Wall are both finally healthy at the same time, and it turns out when they play together for an extended stretch they do have chemistry — when those two are on the court together, the Wizards have outscored opponents by nine points per 100 possessions this season. Coach Scott Brooks deserves some of the credit for this health. Former coach Randy Wittman was old school and would run three-hour practices at times, rarely relented on making the team work off the court, and by the end of the season the team was worn down and injured (with Beal battling stress fractures). Brooks is a modern coach who keeps his practices tight and is a big believer in time for recovery. It shows.

The Wizards five starters (Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat) outscore opponents by 11.3 per 100 this season — that’s third best in the NBA among five-man lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together. The only lineups that have been better are the Warriors’ starters and the healthy Clippers’ starters — not the Spurs’ starters (+10), not the Cavaliers’ starters (+9.3), not anyone. Brooks has kept the defensive game plans consistent while diversifying the offensive sets — it’s not just Wall pick-and-rolls anymore, there are flex sets and Wall works off the ball at times. The bench that struggled early has rebounded, led by the defensive energy (and some scoring) from Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Kevin Durant Will Not Be Coming to DC, and That’s Ok

To me, NBA free agency is like Christmas. The excitement for it festers months before it happens. It allows bad teams to try and reset their roster, and allows good teams to try and upgrade their team. Jeff Teague is now a Pacer and Derrick Rose is a Knick, and both Indiana and New York’s teams looks stronger because of it. Speculation as to where players will end up is always a mouth-watering past time, as it allows you to suspend belief, and think maybe this year we’ll get a star. And just like Christmas, there is always going to be a big ticket item that everyone desperately wants. In 2010 and 2014, it was LeBron James who teams were lining up to woo. In 2012, it was Dwight Howard, though more through a trade. This year, the big ticket item is undoubtably Kevin Durant.

The OKC forward is coming off a Western Conference Finals Birth, in which he was 1 game away from playing James’ Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. He has set up several meetings with NBA teams including the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Celtics, Heat and Warriors. What’s surprising about this is that he has excluded teams like the Lakers and even his hometown Wizards.

Just like James and Howard’s movement, the speculation as to where Kevin Durant will go is nothing new. Earlier this year, analysts believe it was lock for Durant to go to Golden State and join Steph, Klay and Draymond in Oakland. For the past three years, Wizards fans have lived with the mantra “KD to DC”. And as a Wizard’s fan, it’s painful to watch our hometown boy actively stay away from the area he grew up in. Durant has no interest pulling a LeBron and returning home to win a title for his city. And that’s fine, because honestly, it’s our fault he’s not coming.

Durant has never been one to shy away from his love of DC. He goes to Redskin games, he has a curly W tattoo, and speaks highly of the core within the Wizard’s system. Which is exactly why he has decided to go elsewhere. Earlier in the season, and in seasons past, when the Thunder travelled to Washington, Durant has received a heroes welcome. And while it’s nice to treat a local athlete with that much respect, it is a detriment when you disrespect our own players in doing so.

Prior to this disastrous season for the Wiz, we looked like a very good team. John Wall is a top 5 point guard, and in this writer’s opinion, top 3 when it comes to pure point guards. Bradley Beal is a talented 2 guard, whose career has been marred with injuries, but is lights out when he can play, and will demand a max deal himself this summer. Established veterans like Ramon Sessions and Marcin Gortat are reliable players with leadership in the locker room. The core of this team made the second round of the Playoffs two years in a row, and had Wall not broken his hand, might have beaten Atlanta in 2014-2015 to move to the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet with all of this talent, we are still focused on the prodigal son who is KD. We cheer for him and create shirts and signs all saying “KD to DC” while ignoring that fact that John Wall is a bad bad man. We focus on the negative instead of looking at the Wizards and thinking “there’s a lot of potential in the team” and rallying behind them.

So Kevin Durant is not coming to DC. Had we cherished what we have and shown KD that this was a good fan base, maybe he would’ve come. Or maybe not, but for the sake of this article, I will assume it was a major factor into his decision. So is the story of DC sports fans; we’re fickle. We covet other teams stars and ignore our own. We boo our teams relentlessly if they lose, and if they win, we usually leave early to beat traffic. I’m guilty of these practices, despite how passionate I am about DC Sports. We expect failure, because it is what we are used to. Deep down, we all thought that the Penguins would beat the Caps this year, the Wizards wouldn’t beat the Hawks in 2014-2015, the Skins wouldn’t defeat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and that Kevin Durant wasn’t coming to DC. We’re constantly filled with the uneasy feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. So why don’t we just embrace our teams? Failure might be around every corner but so what? That’s the beauty of sports; the past does not matter, all that matters is right now.  Wasn’t Cleveland’s title this year so much sweeter, because it seemed so impossible? DC will win a championship in my lifetime, I believe that strongly. When it happens, we will celebrate just as much as Cleveland did this year. So Kevin Durant isn’t coming to DC. That’s ok, we already have stars that deserve to be cheered.

Wizards Holding on for Dear Life

Before the NBA Season began, the Washington Wizards were penciled into a potential Eastern Conference playoff spot. After two consecutive Eastern Conference Semi-Final appearances, this team looked poised to have a breakout year. Most Espn writers predicted the team to acquire the 5th spot in the East, while a few local reporters thought they would take a step in improvement, predicting the team to be the third best team in the East. Unfortunately, that has not happened, as the Wizards have regressed while PG John Wall is having a career season. You can credit the regression towards the loss of veteran forward Paul Pierce, or  to injuries of Bradley Beal or the Wizards failure to adapt to their small ball offense, but regardless of the reason, the Wizards have underperformed this season.

This is not say there is no hope for the Wiz. The team has come out strong since the trade deadline, trading a first round pick and two bench warmers (Dejuan Blair and Kim Kardashian’s ex husband Kris Humphries) stretch forward Markieff Morris, hoping he may be the missing piece to their team. This trade is a gamble, as the first round pick was protected, meaning that if Morris is good enough to keep the Wizards mediocre, but not good enough to help them make the playoffs or bad enough to secure a top 10 pick, the Wizards will have mortgaged their future in an attempt to salvage a third straight playoff appearance.

Elsewhere for the Wiz, John Wall has his highest points per game, steals, and rebound averages in his career this year.  After a strong February, in which the Wiz won 8 out of 14, including beating the #1 team in the East, Cleveland during that stretch, March has hit them like brick wall. While they’ve positioned themselves in the 10th spot in the East,  they are 2.0 games behind the 9th place Bulls and 2.5 games behind the 8th placed Pistons. They have lost their last three games, including a one point loss against the Indiana Pacers, an overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, and another game against Lebron’s Cavs in which they were whooped by the former Eastern Conference champs.  While they currently are in a downslide, with games against both the Pistons, the Bulls, and the 5th place Atlanta Hawks, the Wiz’s playoff chances are still alive.

That being said, unless the team kicks their effort up into the next gear, it seems unlikely for the team to make the playoffs. After a four game win streak that put themselves back in position to make the playoffs, the Wizards are back a hole after losing three straight. With eleven games against potential playoff contenders in their final 19 games, the Wizards need to seriously step up if they want to make the playoffs. Even still, if they barely make the playoffs, they will be facing the best team in the east in Cleveland. Now is the time for the Wizards to make a serious playoff push, hopefully winning enough games to win the 6th spot and face the Boston Celtics, instead of squeaking into the playoffs as an 8th seed, and a potential first round sweep for the Eastern conference elites.

While the Wizard’s playoff chances aren’t dead yet, it might be best to start looking for a coffin. Unless this team can come together and play their small ball offense to the best of their abilities, the future is bleak. And while my irrational Wizards fandom can easily see this team winning 18 of their last 19 (no way they beat the Warriors though), the realist in me can see the writing on the wall; no pun intended.