If you’re looking for someone to pull for in the 2021 NBA Draft, please stop at former NBA G League Ignite forward Isaiah Todd. His story is not one of redemption but it very well could be. Following a mother, Marlene Venable, who remarkably turned her life around, Todd has displayed a maturity well beyond his years.
Take this past season for instance, where despite starting just two games in the NBA’s G League (for the Ignite), he still managed to average over 12 points per game. The 6-foot-10-inch forward has a chance to develop into a legitimate contributor for the team and he will begin his journey this summer.
It would not have been a surprise to see Todd, who played with fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes on the Nightrydas Elite AAU squad back in 2019, also go in the first round of this year’s draft. He has an 8’11.5″ standing reach, runs the floor well and has potential as a long distance shooter. Despite just two starts for the NBA G League Ignite, he averaged over 12 points per game and shot an impressive 82.4% from the free throw line.
Like most in the NBA, every team dreams of having a dynamic duo like Pippen and Jordan, Shaq and Kobe, or James and Davis. After another disappointing season in 2019-20, the Washington Wizards decided to try and stir up a dynamic duo of their own with newly-traded Russell Westbrook and returning All-Star Bradley Beal.
Excited by the potential combination, in an interview Beal commented, “I definitely think he [Westbrook] will propel me to a new level that I haven’t tapped into yet. I’m definitely excited about it (Chase).” However, the experiment currently boiling in DC has so far shown early signs of failure. Currently sitting at 2-6, the Wizards win just once for every four contests. The team’s projected 18-54 record would be worse than their 25-47 mark from a season ago.
To make matters worse, the expected dynamic duo’s stands at just 1-5, as Westbrook did not contribute to the win against the Timberwolves; which leaves most spectators wondering if the All-Star combination is creating more damage than good. Last season, Westbrook finished with a career-high 47.2% field goal percentage , and this season his average has decreased to 39.5% (Russell Westbrook Stats). On the other hand, Beal shot 45.5% from the field in 2019-20, which has increased slightly to 47.9% this season, although it is an average he has held before (Bradley Beal Stats).
Beyond the numbers, what the statistics fail to present spectators with is the lack of time (a period of only nine days before preseason) that the All-Stars have had to click. While some might argue that Westbrook and Beal are not the type of guards who can share a court, when speaking about constructive criticism from Westbrook, Beal said, “I’m a constructive criticism guy. I can take it. I love when guys get on my head, tell me to play better, tell me to go. Light a fire, fuel up under me; I like that (Chase).”
For now, the lack of time might be enough to justify why the experiment has failed thus far. Just as it takes time to practice perfecting free throws and fadeaways, it takes time to practice gelling with a new team. Even though both players have talked about their powerful potential, everyone knows that actions speak louder than words, and the window of using time as an excuse is quickly running out. These two players must learn how to boost each others’ strengths and shield each others’ weaknesses or else the public will eventually have valid reasons to declare the experiment as unsuccessful.
And with Beal’s two-year max extension coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign, an unsuccessful partnership may provide an answer to the original question of Deal or No Beal.
EDITOR’s UPDATE: Following the team’s 128-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on January 11, 2021, the Wizards announced five positive COVID-19 tests and postponed the next four games.
Chase Hughes. “Beal Says Westbrook Will Take His Game up a Level.” RSN , 15 Dec. 2020, www.nbcsports.com/washington/wizards/bradley-beal-says-russell-westbrook-will-take-h is-game-level.
“Russell Westbrook Stats.” ESPN , ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3468/russell-westbrook.
The Wizards are locked into contracts with Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, both of whom fit the traditional mold of a big man and struggle to guard more athletic centers defensively. Gortat is excellent in the screen and roll game with Wall, but is 34 years old and has seen a steady decline in offensive production the last three years. Ian Mahinmi hasn’t fulfilled expectations after signing a five- year, $60 million guaranteed contract in 2014. Star point guard John Wall said he would like to see the front office target an athletic big in the offseason and DraftNasty concurs. Texas A&M’s Robert Williams (see below) could slide to the 15th pick. He has a 7-foot-6-inch wingspan and could provide excellent energy off the bench and play the five if the Wizards choose to go small and play Kelly Oubre at power forward. Williams, who is 20 years old, could be a long-term option alongside the Wizards young nucleus of Bradley Beal, John Wall, Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter.
Backup scoring guard
It’s been well-documented that Wall and Beal can shoulder the offensive load but Washington has cycled through backup guards since the two have been together. Tomas Santoransky looked capable filling in Wall’s absence last season and averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. However, Washington went out and signed Ty Lawson for the playoff stretch to add some scoring in the backcourt off the bench. He shot just 34-percent and averaged five points in 19 minutes per game. If an athletic big isn’t available at pick 15, look for the Wizards to target someone like Creighton’s Khryi Thomas, who scored efficiently (15 points per game on 53-percent shooting and 41-percent from three-point range) and can matchup with opposing guards defensively alongside Satoransky.
Cap space: +25 million, $124 million
Free agents: Ty Lawson
Face of the franchise
Miami lacks a draft pick and doesn’t have a lot of cap space to sign a superstar in a superstar-driven league. Miami has a plethora of key young role players and could package a future pick and some of their young assets to free up cap space in order to make a play for a star in the future. Long story short, the Heat are paying a lot of money for a team that can’t crack the top five in the Eastern Conference. This offseason should be relatively quiet for Miami compared to years past given the front office constraints. Look for the Heat to use this offseason to address financial problems. If the Heat are able to free up some money or trade into a draft pick, look for them to target a player who can create their own shot. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop could be a second round option that could develop into an NBA scorer. Bates-Diop is a mature bucket-getter, who would fit into Pat Riley’s mode of acquiring polished college prospects.
Cap space: + 5 million, 105 million
Free agents: Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbit
Face of the franchise
Aaron Gordon is up for free agency and even with him, Orlando lacks a face of the franchise. The Magic have never been a team to make splashes in free agency, so don’t expect them to sign a marquee player and enter the free agency sweepstakes. They are more likely to hope they hit on the sixth pick in the draft. With the teams ahead of them likely targeting big men, Orlando should be able to capitalize and grab a point guard.
D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack have both enjoyed success in the NBA, but both are also journeymen who can’t be counted on to log heavy minutes at point guard in a point guard-driven league. Orlando has a lot of money tied up in wing players and could re-sign Gordon to bolster the front court. Either way, they could stand to use an upgrade at point guard. Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton are the two best point guards in the draft and both will garner heavy attention.
If the Magic choose to grab a frontcourt player in the draft in the event that Gordon leaves, Jeremy Lin could be a target. Lin played with new head coach Steve Clifford during his time in Charlotte.
Cap space: -3.5 million, 95.5 million
Free agents: Aaron Afflalo, Mario Hezonia, Aaron Gordon, Marreese Speights
Atlanta is coming off of a season of paying dead cap money for players who no longer play with the team anymore or never played for them (i.e. Jamal Crawford). After agreeing to a buyout, Crawford never played for the Hawks in 2017. The team could still use some scoring punch from the shooting guard spot. The Hawks have the 19th and 30th picks in the draft. Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo had a big game in the National Championship and can play on-and-off the ball. After a positive NBA Combine performance, DiVincenzo should be available at pick 19 and would give the Hawks a quality scorer. The Hawks could then use their 30th pick to address a secondary need like a wing to go alongside Kent Bazemore.
Cap space: -1 million, 100.1 million
Free agents: Malcolm Delaney, Damion Lee
Backup point guard
The Hornets are good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cap space. Charlotte has at least two more years of Kemba Walker, but currently don’t have another true point guard on the roster. Look for the Hornets to use their limited resources to bring in a backup. There may not be a viable option when they pick 11th in the first round. They will likely look to take the best available player or trade out of the pick. If the Hornets do decide to stay put and draft a point guard, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous Alexander is an option. He is a 6-foot-6 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan. His skill-set could make him a valuable defender capable of spelling Walker at times in Year 1.
Cap space: -18 million, 117 million
Free agents: Michael Carter Williams, Treveon Graham, Julyan Stone
*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.
Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.
Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.
— Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.
The Washington Wizards certainly feel like they won the lottery. The Wizards only had a 10.3 percent chance of having their name drawn first, but that’s exactly what happened during the NBA’s Draft Lottery on May 18.
The team with the fifth worst record in the NBA will now have the right to choose first during the June 24 draft. The lottery win will likely be a huge boost to a team that was mired in controversy this past season. In January, Javaris Crittendon and Gilbert Arenas were suspended for bringing guns into the locker room, and long-time Wizards star Caron Butler was traded in February.
The Philadelphia 76ers, with the sixth worst record, moved into the second spot of the draft. And the New Jersey Nets with the league’s worst record dropped to the third spot, despite the organization’s 25 percent chance of nabbing the first pick.
The remaining order of the 2010 NBA Draft is outlined in the table below.
Utah (From New York via Phoenix)
Chicago (To Milwaukee)
Charlotte (To Minnesota via Denver)
Milwaukee (To Chicago)
Utah (To Minnesota via Philadelphia)
Denver (To Memphis)
Phoenix (To Oklahoma City)
Dallas (To New Jersey)
L.A. Lakers (To Memphis)
Cleveland (To Washington)
Minnesota (To Oklahoma City)
Philadelphia (To Milwaukee)
L.A. Clippers (To New York via Denver)
New Orleans (To Miami)
Toronto (To Miami)
Memphis (To L.A. Lakers)
Chicago (To Portland)
Houston (To Minnesota)
Charlotte (To Phoenix)
Oklahoma City (To Dallas)
Portland (To Oklahoma City via Dallas and Minnesota)