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Capital Basketball

A Washington Wizards centered blog about all things NBA

Three Steps to the Wizards Success in the Future

The Wizards need a new plan. Our dreams are dead. Things have not been going well for the Wizards lately, and Durant's complete shunning was the final nail in the coffin of our current plan. They certainly weren't a bad team the past three years, they had young developing talent and great roleplayers. However a very limited coach, predictable strategies and ignoring many of the small things that all the great teams in the NBA do now to stick with traditional basketball doomed us to never be more than a playful capable team. Our terrible GM also decided on multiple times to mortgage our future by trading players with potential for veterans on the downturn without giving them time to develop, which might have improved us in the short term but no where near enough to turn the Wizards into a true contender.

Grunfeld also decided, as we all know, to put all his eggs into one basket. While putting things into baskets tends to be a great thing to do in the sport of basketball, you always need to put things into at least two baskets, no team can win a game without scoring in the second half. And the Wizards, while doing everything right in order to make the dream seem possible, squandered their first half lead with a terrible 2015-16 season, among many other factors, and clearly lost the game. We are now left with a roster that could be much better had we had other projects in the oven, and a coach who frankly may have been the worst coach on the market, with a contract so high that firing prematurely might not be an option for a tight pocketed owner like Ted Leonsis. A new GM would certainly help us moving forward. Let's hope Leonsis can agree.

Unfortunately knowing our GM, he'll aim for the next best thing and attempt to sign a top 10 free agent in this season to a four year max deal. This is the last thing the wizards want to do. With the exception of Durant, no 2016 free agent is the type of game changer the Wizards need to turn back the collapse and thrust them into championship contention. Derozan and Horford are great players, but neither is quite the right fit on the Wizards nor can they realistically be expected to leave their current teams. Nicolas Batum, Hassan Whiteside and Ryan Anderson are also players who hover right beneath all star quality and might be good fits on the Wizards, but none of them are simply talented enough to force a team into contender status, and are certainly going to be overpaid. Joakim Noah, Dwayne Wade, Pau Gasol and Chandler Parsons simply are just too old or injury prone to be the force we need. Having bet everything on Durant, the Wizards seem to have no options left to give the fanbase what was promised

Ryan Anderson is by far the best fit with the Wizards of any player left as an option. His all around offensive talent and marksmanship abilities would seem to do wonders around Wall, but he is not quite a max player, despite the contract he will get, especially considering his extreme defensive liabilities. Batum has a diverse all around skillset, but has shown himself to be inconsistent when it really matters and does not seem to be the best fit among the Wizard's draft built core of Wall, Beal and Porter. Hassan Whiteside would be a rebounding and defensive powerhouse who would thrive alongside John Wall, similar to Deandre Jordan with Chris Paul, but we would be left without an offensive kick that we require. We could attempt to sign both Whiteside and Anderson together, but we would be forced to trade Gortat's contract and simply not have enough money to get any quality roleplayers remaining, nor the talent to do anything more than to be stuck in the middle of the playoff pack for the next four years.

The Wizards simply cannot thrust themselves into contender status this summer with off season moves. Wall, Beal and Porter are all still improving, and soon the two former third overall picks may be talented enough to join Wall in stardom, and our only option is to rely upon that and continue to build around them. The 2013-14 and 2014-15 Wizards, while never true contenders, were certainly a team on the rise. If we can take a step backwards we can continue to climb forwards. Buying players for one year to basically stall a season for Durant was a huge mistake. However, the Wizards can correct that mistake by doing something similar, buying players for two years. If any of the top free agents, particularly Anderson, could be lured in on a One and One deal, the Wizards should do it, but certainly not a four year max. If the Wizards ever want to be a true contender in this league, before John Wall is out of the prime of his career, they need to follow three steps.

1)     The first step is to acquire more young pieces with potential in free agency. Targeting any established, on the downswing veteran roleplayers, like Ernie has done the past two years, would be a huge mistake. With the Wizards cap space we have tons of options. Teams like the Celtics, Sixers and Magic are going to be forced to shed young players with potential on team options or fail to extend a qualifying offer or match sheets as restricted free agent rather than pay to retain them with their overload of youthful talent. Grabbing a few of them in free Agency to play together on the second unit might result in some becoming great serviceable players in two years time. 

2)     The next step Wizards need to do is put themselves in the game to collect players on contracts for the next year or two whom other teams are deciding to part with.  Teams in contention will need to shed some salary in order to pursue big named free agents and would prefer to trade rather than waive players, often for next to nothing. Brooklyn already attempted to so with their former starting point guard in Jarett Jack. Teams like the Clippers, Cavs, Warriors, Spurs and Thunder all have players, young and old whom they'll be looking to part with. The wizards acquired Jared Dudley this past season in exactly that way, only giving up a top 55 protected pick in order to take on the Salary of a perfect fitting roleplayer. These are the types of players who while on the downturn, can immediately give our bench a boost and inspire a winning mentality in the team

3)   The last step the Wizards need to do is to retain some of their own free agents. I might be a bit biased because of my love for the team, but I still believe players like Dudley, Nene, Temple and Sessions all are quality players whom could still thrive on the Wizards given a better coach at the helm. It is tough to say Scott Brooks is that, but who knows. Keeping chemistry alive may be smart and home town discounts certainly are not unheard of in this league. The Wizards may not have made the playoffs last year, but they were only a few games out and with a better implemented defensive system (what was with the disgusting always switching on pick and rolls Wittman insisted on?!) , the ability to adapt and change our gameplan mid game and hopefully not losing so many players to injury for half the season, they would have been a clear playoff team. 41-41 might have been a disappointing record but it wasn't too much of a huge step back, only a few games different.

This plan will come to it's conclusion during the pre 2018/19 season free agency, the last year of Wall and Gortat's contracts. Wall should be a completed player and a superstar by then, with Beal and Porter on the verge of Stardom if not already basking in it. Other players may have taken a leap themselves, who knows how much of his potential Kelly Oubre will have achieved. This is the time the Wizards will try to strike in free agency, the books will clear again, Gortat's contract will be on his last year and therefore easy to move to a bottom tier team who has the space for a pick if he is no longer a viable starting center. The Wizards will be able to retain or shed other players and will have a good choice in attempting to find the perfect piece to push them the final step to being a true championship capable team. The 2018 summer might not have a player like Durant in it, but it certainly has a wealth of great players who will be free agents. The clear cut choice right now is a big man with key ties to Washington who seems to clearly have a desire to jump ship, in Demarcus Cousins. Acquiring him might even be possible at the 2017/18 season trade deadline! Other players who may or may not be free agents at the time who have all star potential or are already there are Paul George, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, and most of the incredibly deep 2014 draft class will be restricted. The Wizards should have ample cap space, an already established system and roster, and be able to shoot for the stars gathering the best possible pieces to compliment our roster. 

While no one wants to wait, everyone wishes it were possible to win now, that simply is not obtainable at this time. Waiting and growing to a point where the options are endless is the best option we have moving forward. Complete the natural rebuilding process we started with drafting Wall or we will be stuck forever in the middle of mediocrity


Hack-a-Shaq Solutions

This past season saw a huge rise in a terrible strategy, intently fouling bad free throw shooters off the ball in order to have them hopefully miss the foul shots to regain possession. It was a downright plague in the post season, players like Deandre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala and Rajon Rondo having to leave the game for large portions of time in order to prevent this from ruining the flow of the game. The strategy is named after Shaquille O'neal, the soon to be hall of fame center who was infamous for his terrible free throw shooting. Shaq still managed to get four rings and was a three time finals MVP, Andre Iguodala managed to propel the Warriors to the championship and also win finals MVP, and evidence in the Clippers and Rockets games this year show that this strategy is largely ineffective. Yet it continues, frustrating players and fans alike.

Basketball, like any sport, is a competition, a test of strength, skill and cooperation for the players. However at the highest level of competition, the main point of the NBA is for entertainment. It is a business designed to entertain the masses and make profit. While there must be free throw enthusiasts out there, the majority of fans, myself included, love basketball for its fast paced action. When the game is slowed to a halt by this strategy, everyone suffers. Fans are forced to watch it, players are forced to participate in it. The flow of the game is slowed and the resulting game is worse due to all the players being out of rythym, and the team initiating the strategy still loses in almost all cases. Watching the playoffs this year, I struggled against the urge to change the channel due to loss of interest in the lackluster gameplay. There is no way this can be good for the sport of basketball.

The opposing arguement often goes like this; He is a professional basketball player being paid millions to play a game for a living, the least he can do is work to improve his shooting. While free throws are meant to be relatively easy, plenty of players struggle with them. Attempting to collect yourself to shoot a free throw in front of thousands of people, making plenty of noise, and knowing that even more are watching and cheering for them to either make or miss, there is tons of pressure. As the game flows adreline helps to alleviate the pressure, but in the dead stop things get difficult. The arguement of them being professional athletes comes into play, but it just isn't that simple. Should they spend all their time practicing free throws to solve these problems? Most of the players with these issues are traditional style bigmen. Their role on the team is not to shoot jumpers. Their job is to guard the rim, grab rebounds, score the ball inside and out muscle other players. The finese game is not their forte, nor should it. If these players devote all their time to shooting free throws, that takes away the time for practicing the skills that are more important to their position. Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard would not be All NBA level players if they had to devote their time to shooting free throws rather then bulking up and overpowering others through sheer muscle and athleticism. If they were to devote themselves to improving their free throws, the quality of their natural strengths would decline. Players are best when they are playing to their strengths, not to their weaknesses.

Of course these players can not simply get a bi in shooting free throws. Free throws are a vital part of the game. These players should still be expected to shoot them when fouled while shooting, or fouled while fighting over rebounds. Many of these players who are terrible at free throws are known for being able to finish through contact, and if they make them can get and an one, an extra point for their team. There is still reason to improve free throw shooting in all players, but the reason should not be in order to invalidate this strategy. While free throws a vital part of the game, intentional fouling off the ball is not. Most fouls off the ball are incidental contacts. When players are fighting for position, boxing eachother out, trying to rebound, powering through picks or fighting over loose balls, contact and fouling is bound to happen. Randomly wrapping up players however does not happen naturally. Intentional fouling is so blatant that the refs should be able to identify it and call it as such without slowing down the flow of the game at all. Intentional fouling off of the ball does not offer anything to the sport of basketball, and should result in a technical foul.

Two years ago, the rules about delay of game was changed. Touching the ball after a made shot to give your team more time to set up on defense was determined to be unfair. It is still something that is bound to occur in the course of a game. In order to eliminate this strategy, a unique system was added to the rulebook. The first time this occurs in a game, the player is warned. If it happens again, a technical foul is called on the team and the other team is given a single free throw then possession resumes as normal. The same rule could be added for intentionally fouling off the ball. If the refs rule it as anything other then an intentional foul with no purpose towards the flow of the game, a warning will be issued. On subsequent incidents, a technical foul would be called and a single free throw will be given, then the team on offense would retain the ball. This rule change would eliminate the Hack-a-Shaq strategy from the NBA, while also not changing the way the game is played. The warning system would allow for a bit of leeway as to not add substantial risk to the team if contact occurs accidentally.

Players and coaches of course might still try to commit fouls on these bad free throw shooters disguised as non intentional fouls, but that is easy enough to remedy. It could easily be dealt with the same way that flopping is, with warnings and then fines to the player and/or team upon reviewing the play after the game. This will quickly put an end to foul play in this area.

I believe these changes could easily improve the flow and quality of the game for both the fanbase and the players, without sacrificing the quality or flow of the game. I could easily be wrong though, so I want to know what you think. Please vote and leave a comment. Thanks for reading


Philadelphia 76ers, Trade Joel Embiid for a point guard!

With the news of the setback to Joel Embiid's foot, get used to seeing that for at least another year. This setback seems to signify another year of tanking for the 76ers, but it doesn't have to. I believe the 76ers are ready to take the next step this year, and while they won't become contenders, they can be a competitive team and instill a winning drive in their players. Many, myself included, had expected Jahlil Okafor to suit up for the Lakers, and D'angello Russell in a 76ers uniform. This would have been resulted in a 76ers team with all the pieces it needs to move on. A lineup of a healthy D'Angello Russel, Nik Stauskus, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, with the a solid backup line of youngsters in Isaiah Canaan, Tony Wroten, Jerami Grant, Dario Saric and Jason Thompson. That lineup together seems like a bundle of young talent perfect to try to make the next move and grow together into the future. They even have around 10 more primed youngsters who could take any of the places. But with Russel going to LA, the sixers have Okafor and a clogged frontcourt. They also baffled my mind by wasting all their late first and second round picks this year exclusively on European bigmen, with the exception of JP Tokoto, further clogging their future frontcourt. They are also stuck without a quality PG for the future, which is arguably the most important position in the modern NBA

However with a few trades, Phili could be able to make this leap to a respectable team this year. Okafor is arguably a better player then D'Angello Russel or Joel Embiid, and can be one of their bigs for the future. His offensive abilities alongside Nerlen Noel's defensive talent would result in a feared one two punch for years to come. The place for Embiid on the Sixers is now gone. Many teams though in the league are still high on Embiid's massive potential as a young prospect, even given his established injury prone status. The sixers have enough depth at the bigs for the future, and there would be no point in keeping all three anyway, that trading Embiid for a quality young PG could allow them to make the next move now.

Embiid's value is a bit shaky with his injury, but there are plenty of ways the sixers could make a trade work. The Sixers want a point guard who is a three point shooter, as seen when they traded off reining rookie of the year MCW for another pick, which will by a high pick for them next year whether they tank or not, allowing them to patch up the biggest identified fault with the team after a year of legitimate play instead of tanking. 

Here are a few PGs that other teams may be willing to trade. None of these are fully established trade ideas, but rather just players who would fiJot for the 76ers. Embiid may be worth more or less then these players, nor may these teams need/want Embiid.

Brandon Knight- I was baffled that the bucks traded Brandon Knight, a young combo guard who nearly made the all star team and drove them back in contention, to recieve MCW. They thought MCW would be the better fit for their future, but Brandon Knight may have been the better fit for Phili's future. For the life of me I cannot figure out why they didnt do a 1 for 1 trade instead of the triangle trade to aquire the Lakers pick via Pheonix. Both players being young with already prooven success seem more valuable then any first round pick. However it is not too late for Phili to aquire Knight. They have enough cap space to absorb his contract, and his all around combo guard talent on the verge of all-stardom could be the catalyst for the future with Noel and Okafar.

Trey Burke-The Jazz have appeared to have identified Dante Exum as their future at the point, meaning the 76ers might be able to pry Burke from their hands. Burke was the second best rookie PG two years ago after MCW, and has a more viable perimeter game. He is a bit inconsitantant, but has a high chance of being a quality floor general for years to come

Jordan Clarkson-The combo guard shocked everyone when he was promoted to a starter then proceeded to contribute like a top 10 PG league wide for the end of the year. The sleep success was named to all rookie first team and was expected to be the PG for the lakers future by many, with Okafor as their center. However the lakers clearly value D'Angello Russel as Kobe's successor more. This puts Clarkson back on the bench where he was rather lackluster before his breakout. Though he will start plenty, whenever Kobe needs rest, he can't be happy about this. Given the right price, the lakers would part with him

D'Angello Russel-While the Lakers saw him as their future, they might still be swayed to part with him. Give them Embiid, who can learn from a two time all star center in Hibbert before taking the floor the next year, and perhaps their own pick back or rights to a few more youngsters and they might be willing to part with him. The scenario for the future as I already stated is gorgeous with him, just having swapped Embiid for Okafor. Clarkson could also keep peforming in LA.

Jerian Grant- While trading a piece like Embiid to a division rival is risky, the Knicks would have a dangerous frontcourt for the future with aging Carmelo, rookie phenom Kristaphs Porzingus and Embiid at the center. Jeriant Grant has tremendous upside with his size and athleticism at the point guard position. Also who doesn't love reuniting brothers on the same team.

Brandon Jennings- A bit older then the other guards on the list, he is already established as an effective NBA floor general. The Pistons seem to see their future in Reggie Jackson, given the recent huge contract. If Jennings is able to come back from his injury and recover the form he had in the 2014-15 season post Josh Smith, then he could be the perfect PG for the 76ers future, having learned how to preform along young talented bigs before his big injury derailed the pistons huge surge towards the playoffs.

Zach Lavine/Tyus Jones- Either one of the young PGs on the Timberwolves would be a good fit for the future with the sixers. Lavine is a more proven player and if he manages to improve his outside shooting, with his absurd athleticism he could become one of the most dangerous guards in the league. Tyus Jones meanwhile showed a drive to win alongside killer instinct in Duke's NCAA championship run last year. Reuniting him and Okafor would also be nice. Justice Winslow might manage to make his way over eventually too if the Heat manage to recruit a certain MVP winning SF they want for their future.

Shabazz Napier- Signing Goran Dragic to be the PG of the future, the heat no longer have the need for Napier, and would part for them in a beneficial deal in a heartbeat. He might not have the talent or ability now, but is a proven champion and could easily develop into a fantastic nba floor general.

Dennis Schroder-The young german PG seems to be developing incredibly fast and would be a great pick up for the sixers. Just make the move fast before the hawks decide to hand over the reigns from Teague to him, something they seemed close to in the playoffs last year with the ball in Schroder's hands at crucial moments. You might want him to take out that weird area in his hair though. I could never figure out if its just some sort of ugly dye or a natural birth mark.

Isaiah Thomas- The Celtics want Marcus Smart to be the PG of their future, and Avery Bradley the SG, leaving Thomas as a sixth man. While his height limits him defensively, Thomas is a proven offensive threat. His passing needs work though. He is also older and would be more of a temporary fix then a permanent solution.

Darren Collison- before his injury, he was having a breakout season in Sacramento, similar to Thomas the year before. However also similar to Thomas, the Kings want to move on from him after one year to Rajon Rondo. He is a bit older, but he has alot of his career still ahead of him and if he can regain the luster from early last year, he could be a top tier floor general for the future. The 76ers already stole alot from the Kings, and I dont doubt they could pick them clean again in another trade.

Not all the fits are perfect, but all of them would allow the Sixers to compete now, rather then be a painful laughingstock to the rest of the league and incredibly frustrating to their fanbase. The Celtics showed last year that you can rebuild and compete at the same time, and the sixers should make a trade to attempt to follow their example. While Embiid doesnt work on many of these teams these players come from, many teams would love to have him. Here are a bunch of teams that would love to have Embiid, making for three way trades.

Boston Celtics-the Celtics clearly want a big man for their future. There were reports of them pursuing Kevin love and Deandre Jordan, along with tons of draft day rumors of the celtics trying to trade for Okafor. One can reason they would love to have Embiid too.

Los Angeles Lakers-Roy hibbert may have an emergence for the future, but Embiid has a higher chance of being a great player for the future, a young lineup for the post Kobe Era

Cleveland Cavaliers- The Cav's views on Embiid are clearly known. They had planned to draft him first overall prior to his injury, and would not hesitate on a trade. Mathew Delladova could be pulled to the sixers in trade easily too, and he showed his potential with his emergence in the finals playing against the reigning MVP.

New Orleans Pelicans- The Pelicans have the best young pf/c in the league in Anthony Davis, but they want him to be a forward. This leaves the center open for Embiid. Recently signed Seth Curry might be a nice grab for the Sixers too, and his three point shooting would be a great fit with the sixers who need outside shooting alongside their young interior. Just don't expect him to follow in his brother's shoes.

Dallas Mavericks- The Mavericks thought Deandre jordan would be the center of their future, but we all saw what happened. They grabbed Zaza Pechulia to fill the gap in the meantime, but he is hardly the all star they want in the post Dirk Nowitski era. Mark Cuban is well known for making risky trades too, and Joel Embiid is the pure definition of that.

Portland Trailblazers-after loosing Lamarcus Aldridge, the Trailblazers are in rebuilding mode, and will need a full year before they can really start making their moves. Joel Embiid would be very valuable to them as their center for the future. Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee are both good, but are more natural at the four. There is an incredibly slim chance, but Portland might be willing to give up Damian Liliard if given almost of all of Phili's saved assets.

New York Knicks- As I said previously, if Porzingas and Embiid could develop alongside eachother, they could be the most dangerous front court in the nba alongside Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks want to instantly be a contender, but Robin Lopez won't give them that.