Dwight Howard Looking to Make Impact with Wizards

dwight-howard-wizardsThe Washington Wizards have signed 8-time All-Star center Dwight Howard. The Wizards were in need of a quality starting center after trading Marcin Gortat.

Howard has rubbed certain teammates/coaches the wrong way during stints in Orlando, LA, Houston, Atlanta, and Charlotte. But Washington point guard John Wall actually reached out to Howard to get him on the team.

The 3-time Defensive Player of the Year brings good rim protection to a team that doesn’t have any shot-blocking presence. Howard should also lead the squad in rebounds, assuming he stays healthy.

Will Howard Fit In with Wizards?

The biggest issue with Howard isn’t his talent, but rather how his attitude will fit in with the team. He’s typically known as a fun-loving player who doesn’t always give a consistent work ethic.

This combination rubbed Kobe Bryant the wrong way when Howard played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Dwight also demanded the ball more while playing alongside James Harden in Houston. He didn’t had much luck in Atlanta or Charlotte either, given that he only spent one season with each.

john-wallThere’s no problem with Howard’s production, though, since he has continually put up numbers throughout his career. Now 32 years old, Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks for the Hornets last season. He’s also been durable since injuring his back in Houston, averaging 75 games over the past three years.

Washington could use an upgrade at starting center over Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. The last time that the Wizards had really good big men running the paint was when Antwan Jamison and Brendan Haywood were on the roster almost a decade ago.

The Wizards ranked 21st in the NBA in rebounding and 22nd in blocked shots. Gortat was the leading rebounder at 7.6 per game, while Wall led the team in blocks as a point guard. Howard will immediately provide a positive impact in both categories.

Howard should Benefit from Playing with Wall

One of Howard’s biggest problems on previous teams he’s played for has been complaining about not getting the ball. This shouldn’t be a problem with Washington, though, thanks to Wall and his passing talents. The All-Star point guard has averaged 9.2 ssists per game in his career, including 9.6 last season.

Additionally, Dwight has always played his best when he’s flanked by three-point shooters. The Wizards have several players who can shoot the three, including Otto Porter Jr., who ranked fourth in the league last year with 44.1% shooting.

Wall, Bradley Beal, and Austin Rivers all shot over 37% from beyond the arc. Markieff Morris (36.7%), Jodie Meeks (34.3%), and Kelly Oubre Jr. (34.1%) can also hit three’s when open.

All of these shooters will help the Wizards provide good spacing for their newly acquired big man. In return, Howard will serve as a strong post presence and provide the rim protection that this core Wizards unit has never had.

Wizards Now Have a Higher Ceiling

We discussed the potential downsides to adding Howard. But Washington is willing to take this chance when considering that they haven’t been able to make a breakthrough with their current unit yet.

dwight-howard-rocketsThis team largely underachieved last year after finishing 43-39 and sneaking into the playoffs as the eighth seed. They were quickly ousted by the Toronto Raptors in six games.

If Washington wants to take the next step, they have to take a big chance. And Howard at least has the talent to be worth the possible headaches he brings.

It’s very possible that the Wizards have quietly had the best offseason out of any Eastern Conference team. They added Howard, Rivers, Jeff Green, and drafted Troy Brown Jr. In the first round. One can make a case that their roster features more talent than any other team in the East.

Here’s a look at their projected roster before the season starts:

  • (Starters)
  • PG John Wall
  • SG Bradley Beal
  • SF Otto Porter, Jr.
  • PF Markieff Morris
  • C Dwight Howard
  • (Bench)
  • PG Tomas Satoransky
  • SG Austin Rivers
  • SF Kelly Oubre, Jr.
  • PF Jeff Green
  • C Ian Mahinmi
  • SG Jodie Meeks
  • SF Troy Brown, Jr.
  • PF Jason Smith
  • C Thomas Bryant

Lebron James famously left the East for the West this offseason. That said, any Eastern Conference team could step in and earn a trip to the Finals.

Don’t be shocked if Washington is able to do so on the strength of their new additions and a roster that already had talent before the offseason began.

Kawhi Leonard may Not Join Lakers due to LeBron James

kawhi-leonard-clippersESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently reported that Kawhi Leonard was hesitant about joining the LA Lakers in free agency next season. The alleged reason why is that LeBron James is already there.

Leonard, who became unhappy with the San Antonio Spurs last season, named an LA team (Lakers or Clippers) as his top trade destination. However, the Spurs instead shipped him to the Toronto Raptors in a deal for DeMar DeRozan.

Many speculated that Leonard would eventually leave San Antonio for the Lakers in the 2019 offseason if he wasn’t traded. After all, this would allow him to form a powerful duo with James.

But now it’s unclear where he’ll go based on Smith’s report. Smith isn’t the only one who wonders if the Lakers are now off the table for Leonard. Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania also recently questioned where the All-Star forward will go, which you can read about below.

Leonard Not Interested in Joining Super Team

Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Charania sounded skeptical on which uniform Kawhi Leonard will be playing in next season. Here’s what Charania said on The Herd:

kawhi-leonard-cavs-1“One thing that’s been made abundantly clear. I’m going to stress this. There’s no guarantee if Kawhi Leonard hits the market next summer that he’s going to sign with the Lakers, period. I think his options have broadened a little bit, just inside L.A. There’s another team, obviously, in L.A. I think he’d be very much open to the Clippers.

“And there’s a belief around the league that if the Sixers came hard, that there could be a potential there for him potentially being there long-term.

“I don’t think there’s much interest in the Boston Celtics scenario for him.

“Around Kawhi, what’s been made abundantly clear is there’s not an interest to go join a super team. I don’t think he’s jumping for joy that LeBron James is in LA with the Lakers. If anything, that’s going to make him look maybe more toward the Clippers.

“Because this is a guy that won Finals MVP against LeBron James. You think he’s amped up and wants to join LeBron now? I think that’s been overstated, and the Spurs are beginning to realize that and beginning to realize that we might have a broadened market for him.”

Where will Leonard End Up?

When Leonard said that he wanted to be in LA, many automatically assumed that he meant the Lakers. But the current Raptors forward also seems interested in joining the Clippers too.

kawhi-leonard-rockets-game-6This means that the Clippers might try extra hard to pursue him in the summer, especially since they’ll have the necessary cap space. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have a bevy of young talent, are also in play for Leonard.

There’s even the possibility that the Raptors are able to retain Leonard past the 2019 season. After all, the OKC Thunder were able to convince Paul George to re-sign for a 4-year deal. Before this, George seemed adamant about playing for the Lakers.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Leonard in the 2019 offseason.

Lakers 2019 Futures Improve Greatly with LeBron James Signing

lebron-james-lakersThe L.A. Lakers were hardly expected to compete for the 2018-19 NBA championship going into the offseason. After all, they were a young team coming off a 35-win season.

But then LeBron James signed a four-year, $154-million deal with the team. James, who’s been to the conference finals for eight consecutive seasons, is the superstar that L.A. needs to compete.

Even still, most fans and experts don’t expect the Lakers to give the defending champion Golden State Warriors a serious challenge. The Warriors return a core that’s gone 8-1 in the last two NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, L.A. features younger players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. This is certainly a promising group. Nevertheless, nobody expects them to compete for a championship right away.

The interesting thing, though, is that both online and land-based sportsbooks are suddenly giving Cleveland a very strong chance to go deep.

Lakers 2019 Championship Odds

Here’s a look at how our GTBets NBA futures stand as of now regarding the main contenders:

  • Golden State Warriors -200
  • Boston Celtics +550
  • Houston Rockets +800
  • L.A. Lakers +800
  • Philadelphia 76ers +1300
  • Oklahoma City Thunder +5000
  • San Antonio Spurs +5000
  • Toronto Raptors +5000

lakers-2019-futuresYou can see that the Lakers are currently tied for the third best odds with Houston. The Rockets lost Trevor Ariza to free agency recently. But they also return most of a team that took Golden State to seven games.

LeBron and his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, knocked off Boston in seven games. But the Celtics had notable injuries in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

The teams that are behind the Lakers in odds also figure to be close competitors. But it does feel like L.A. currently has an edge over everybody outside of the top four.

Can the Lakers Really Win the 2019 NBA Title?

Normally, being tied for third in terms of odds would mean that you’re a serious threat to win the title. But the Golden State Warriors have made many contenders obsolete within the past few years.

The Warriors feature two perennial MVP candidates in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, along with two more All-Stars in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They also bring Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and David West off the bench, all of whom might be starters on some teams.

Houston gave Golden State the toughest run that they’ve had within the past two years. The Rockets and Warriors went to seven games. But as you can see from the odds, Golden State is still widely regarded as the favorite.

LA should Improve Greatly

Even if the Lakers don’t emerge from the Western Conference this year, they have plenty of potential.

The roster can other improve from within — thanks to the young players — or it can improve through free agent signings and/or trades.

L.A. has enough cap space to sign at least one more max player. This could happen in the 2019 free agency period, or Magic Johnson could decide to make a trade.

Magic has previously said that he’s looking at a two-year plan with this team. They already have LeBron. Now they have a full season to elevate themselves to worthy contender status.

Cavs Look for Kemba Walker Trade in Effort to Keep LeBron

kemba-walker-to-cavsThe Cleveland Cavaliers are working on a trade that would bring Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker to the team. This move is seen as a last-ditch effort to keep LeBron James from leaving in free agency.

LeBron led Cleveland to the 2018 NBA Finals. But the team was swept by a far more-talented Golden State Warriors squad. James’ lack of supporting cast is largely seen as a reason why the Cavs couldn’t compete with Golden State.

Bringing Walker in could help LeBron compete for another championship if he decides to stay in Cleveland. Walker averaged 22.1 PPG and 5.5 APG last year for the Hornets.

What are the Chances of the Cavs Pulling off the Walker Trade?

One roadblock working against Cleveland is their lack of assets. They drafted Alabama guard Collin Sexton with the eighth overall pick. But beyond him, it’s unclear what the Cavs could really offer Charlotte in a potential rebuilding effort.

Packaging Kevin Love in the trade would hurt Cleveland’s chances of playing for a title again. Ultimately, this may come down to sending Sexton and expiring contracts to the Hornets.

Here’s more from Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger on what the team hopes to accomplish:

“The Cavs continue to explore the possibility of working a deal with the Charlotte Hornets for two-time All-Star Kemba Walker, two league sources told B/R on Thursday night. Their best chance at such a deal would seem to have involved the eighth pick in the draft, which didn’t happen. One person close to Walker said Thursday night that he still believes such a deal is “possible.”

Another league source pushed the notion of a trade for Walker one step further when it comes to the Cavs’ chances of keeping LeBron: Acquiring Walker, the person said, “is the only way LeBron stays.”

Hornets GM Wants to Keep Walker Around

It also doesn’t help the Cavs’ chances of completing a Kemba Walker trade when considering that new Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak likes what he sees in the 2-time All-Star.

Kupchak said that he believes Walker is “the focal point of this franchise going forward.” He expanded on these comments by telling ESPN the following:

“I don’t think it is anybody’s goal to lose him in free agency. But going forward, in the community, in the franchise, this is a player that we hope is with us. Not only for the next couple of years, but ends his career here.”

Dan Gilbert Issue Looms Large

LeBron James has shown love for his home state of Ohio. But it’s hard telling how far this love goes when considering that he’s had issues with Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

The beef started when James originally left Cleveland in 2010, prompting Gilbert to write a scathing letter while addressing fans about the team’s future. LeBron still came back to the Cavs in the 2014 offseason, because he wanted to win a championship for Ohio. However, he hasn’t enjoyed the greatest relationship with Gilbert ever since.

NJ.com’s Chris Sheridan reports that the two even have strong differences of opinion on politics. James isn’t a Trump fan, while Gilbert avidly supports the President.

Taking everything into account, it makes perfect sense why the Cavs need a miracle trade to keep James in Cleveland.

Clippers Trade Package for Kawhi Leonard Revealed

kawhi-leonard-clippersSan Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard wants to return to his hometown Los Angeles after requesting a trade. Many initial rumors centered on the Lakers, which have plenty of young players to offer. But the L.A. Clippers have also jumped into the mix and are already offering a trade package.

According to the L.A. Times’ Tania Ganguli, the Clippers are willing to give Tobias Harris and either the 12th or 13th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It’s unclear if this is enough to land a player of Leonard’s caliber. He was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and is arguably the league’s best two-way player when healthy. Meanwhile, the Clippers are only offering a quality starter and a late lottery selection for an elite player.

Reports have suggested that San Antonio doesn’t want to trade Leonard to a Western Conference team. But odds are that they’ll take the best deal, especially if it’s to a (currently) non-contending team like the Clippers or Lakers.

Clippers Concerned about Leonard’s Injury

Kawhi Leonard only played in nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury. San Antonio and their medical staff’s handling of the injury is why he wants to leave.

But according to CBS Sports, neither the Clippers nor Lakers are convinced that Leonard is over the injury. He suffered a deep thigh bruise in the 2016-17 season, which has had complications ever since. One medical opinion suggests that the bruise may have atrophied and is affecting other tendons in the leg.

Here’s more from CBS:

kawhi-leonard-clippers-3“Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.

“While the Lakers are open to trading any player on their roster, how much they are willing to give up depends on their confidence in his health.”

The Lakers have attractive young pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. But San Antonio would likely want two of these players in the Leonard trade. Making such a deal would signal the Spurs’ desire for a rebuild.

The Clippers don’t have the same caliber of young players as L.A. But they potentially have more to offer when looking at their roster and the 12th and 13th first-round picks.

Clippers could Immediately Become Title Contenders

kawhi-leonard-clippers-2The Clippers were surprisingly competitive last season after trading Chris Paul (offseason) and Blake Griffin (mid-season). They finished 42-40 and were in the playoff mix until the last couple weeks of the season.

Barring a trade, the team returns DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, and Harris. Adding a piece like Leonard could instantly make L.A. a top team in the West.

The same could be true of the Lakers. Although they don’t have as many good veteran players, a year of improvement and adding Leonard could make them significantly better. Plus, the Lakers have enough cap space to make a future deal with Leonard work.

Cleveland Cavaliers Eye Kawhi Leonard in Trade

kawhi-leonard-cavs-1Kawhi Leonard has announced his desire to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard’s trust in the team eroded during the 2017-18 campaign based on how they dealt with his quadriceps injury.

Many potential suitors are lining up to land the former Finals MVP. This includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are dangling what few assets they have in hopes of getting the superstar forward.

According to Cleveland.com, the Cavs have made calls to San Antonio in hopes of making a deal. This comes amid the uncertainty on what LeBron James will do in the offseason.

Can Cleveland Pull Off This Trade?

kawhi-leonard-cavs-2The problem for the Cavs is that they don’t have enough pieces to compete with Boston or the L.A. Lakers, both of which are rumored to be in the Kawhi sweepstakes.

They have All-Star forward Kevin Love, Brooklyn’s first-round pick (eighth overall), and a few young players. Love is the most-attractive piece here, but he also plays the same position as San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge.

That said, it’s hard to see Cleveland having enough to land Leonard, who, when healthy, is one of the league’s top-5 players.

Should Cleveland Even Try to Make This Deal?

Trading for Leonard now is tricky, because he has just one year on his contract. He’s most interested in playing for the Lakers. But if the Spurs trade him elsewhere, then it might just be a one-year rental.

Therefore, Cleveland needs a long-term commitment that Leonard would even be interested in re-signing. Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto highlighted the dangers in making this deal without a commitment:

“Trading for Leonard for one year with no commitment to his future is a risk for any team. Oklahoma City did that for Paul George, shipping Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana last summer. George had a year left on his contract. He said he wants to play in L.A. Oladipo and Sabonis have helped revive the Pacers and will be part of the team for the next few years.”

Another side to consider is if Leonard is truly over his quadriceps injury. L.A. is reportedly cautious on the deal, because they don’t know if he’ll be healthy. That said, Cleveland could make this deal only to end up in another Isaiah Thomas situation.

Why do the Cavs Want Leonard?

There’s a sense of mystery on why Cleveland is so interested in Leonard. Is it because they want to bolster their roster in a last-ditch attempt to keep LeBron. Or are they simply hoping to be competitive after he leaves?

The latter makes little sense, considering that the Cavs would have to give up a major piece(s) just to get Leonard. But adding him alongside LeBron could make them stronger contenders to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. They’ll also have to stave off an improved Boston Celtics team in the East.