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Avery Bradley says Kyrie Irving is toughest to guard in NBA, not Stephen Curry, John Wall or Russell Westbrook

Avery Bradley says Kyrie Irving is toughest to guard in NBA, not Stephen Curry, John Wall or Russell Westbrook

In a golden age of scoring point guards in the NBA, few can attest to the difficulties of playing defense on the perimeter these days than Avery Bradley, who was recently traded from the Boston Celtics to the Detroit Pistons. Though technically a shooting guard, he was often tasked with checking the opposing team's point guard. He is a much better defensive player than his former backcourt partner Isaiah Thomas and therefore would be given the toughest assignment.

On any given night that could mean Stephen Curry, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul or James Harden. But if you ask Bradley, none of those guys top his list of the toughest players to guard. His choice, as he revelaed in a Twitter Q&A through the Pistons' official account, was "not even close."

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Irving, to be fair, should be close to the top of anyone's list. But is he really that much tougher to guard than Curry or Westbrook? As good as Irving is at ballhandling and shooting, isn't Curry even better at his own game? And for guys like Westbrook, Wall and Harden, the pure athleticism would seem to be extremely difficult to deal with. Westbrook, for instance, is bigger, stronger and faster than everyone who guards him and his energy is unmatched.

Irving, 25, has certainly emerged as one of the NBA's best scorers. He's lightning quick and can hit shots from the most absurd of angles. Also, he is on one of the best teams in basketball, a Cavs team that can trot out lineups entirely composed with three-point shooters. That means space for him to go to work and he is very good with space.

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John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

No player has defined the Washington Wizards organization since they rebranded 20 years ago quite like John Wall, a superstar point guard who has developed from a first overall pick into a perennial All-Star and pillar of playoff success. Wall has etched a unique legacy within the franchise's history in just seven NBA seasons. Now he has ensured them of at least six more.

It's the yearly terms that stand out most in Wall's new contract with the Wizards, a four-year extension worth $170 million. Four years does not sound long, but that will take Wall through at least the majority, if not all, of his prime. He will enter his Age 27 season this fall, but with two years left on his current deal Wall's new contract will keep him in Washington through 2023. He will be 32 by the time it expires.

If Wall complets those 13 seasons with the Wizards, barring a trade or something unforeseen, he will have played as long for one team as Wes Unseld (Bullets), Larry Bird (Celtics), Kevin McHale (Celtics), Magic Johnson (Lakers) and Isaiah Thomas (Pistons). Dwyane Wade spent 13 seasons with the Heat before leaving. Michael Jordan played 13 in Chicago. 

Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs, 19 years), Tony Parker (Spurs, 16), Manu Ginobli (Spurs, 15) and Udonis Haslem (Heat, 14) have been with one team longer than 13 years.

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Only Unseld has spent more than nine seasons with the Wizards/Bullets franchise. Wall is two years away from matching the six players tied for second with nine seasons including Phil Chenier, Gus Johnson and Elvin Hayes. Those guys were all Bullets. Wall is a Wizard through and through.

Evaluating this partnership from Wall's perspective is interesting. Naturally, the Wizards would be willing to retain him for the longhaul. He is one of the best players in the NBA and has the off-court comportment any team would covet as the face of their franchise. But for Wall to make this commitment is a rare display of loyalty in an age where NBA superstars jump teams like never before.

Loyalty may not be the perfect word, as ultimately Wall will make much more money in Washington than he could elsewhere. But his devotion to the city of Washington and finishing what he started with a franchise that has experienced many lean years for decades is nearly unparalleled in this day and age. 

Think about it. How many players in today's NBA more define the franchise they play for, not just in contemporary terms but in the team's history? Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, Paul George left Indiana, Gordon Hayward left Utah and Chris Paul left the Clippers, all within the last 13 months. Meanwhile, Wall has never wavered publicly about his commitment to the Wizards.

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Wall's firm allegiance to the Wizards has helped the team hold up a point majority owner Ted Leonsis made during Wednesday's press conference to announce Otto Porter's own max contract, that he prefers "no drama" in contract negotiations. He boasted how there was no drama in Wall's first max deal signed back in 2013, nor was there any with Bradley Beal last summer or Porter this year. Now, with Wall's second contract, the Wizards have been able to get these deals done without any sort of realistic doubt for fans about their favorite players leaving. That is no small feat.

That is of course in great contrast with many NBA superstars between Dwight Howard's days in Orlando, Paul's time in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony's tenure in both Denver and New York, LeBron James in both of his stints in Cleveland, etc. Some of those players left, some didn't. But all had drama that lasted for years and weighed heavily on everyone involved.

Wizards fans, on the other hand, had no serious fear of seeing Wall go. That is an unusual sense of security in most places but even more so in the city of Washington. Between Kirk Cousins and Bryce Harper, the thought of losing a franchise cornerstone is a very real thing for D.C. fans. Cousins and Harper have done nothing wrong and they shouldn't be faulted for playing their hand in what is ultimately a cutthroat business, but it's hard not to notice how Wall has gone out of his way to make D.C. his home, embracing the city in every sense.

Keeping great players and the longevity of stardom is something even more foreign to those who have rooted for the Bullets and Wizards over the last few decades. It's not that they haven't acquired superstars, they just haven't been able to keep them.

Chris Webber could end up in the Hall of Fame someday, but Washington traded him at the beginning of his prime. Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace all became stars after leaving D.C. and helped win a championship for the Detroit Pistons. Gilbert Arenas was a sensation, but his tenure was brief and ultimately catastrophic. 

Wall's career in Washington has already gone much differently than those. And because of his new contract, fans can dream about the future knowing he will be a part of it.

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John Wall agrees to four-year extension with Wizards

John Wall agrees to four-year extension with Wizards

The Washington Wizards' long-term future is now a lot clearer, as superstar point guard John Wall agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $170 million. David Aldridge first reported the news.

Wall, 26, re-ups with the Wizards through the 2022-23 season. By the time it expires he will be 32 years old, meaning the Wizards have locked him up for the majority if not all of his prime.

Wall was able to earn the dollar amount he did in part because of his selection to third team All-NBA for the 2016-17 season. Under the recently installed collective bargaining agreement, honors like All-NBA and Defensive Player of the Year allow players to earn more money on contract extensions.

The Wizards drafted Wall first overall in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky. In his seven NBA seasons since, Wall has blossomed into one of the NBA's best players with career averages of 18.8 points, 9.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He has been an All-Star in each of the past four seasons and is a one-time All-Defensive team selection.

[RELATED: John Wall to get huge honor from University of Kentucky]

By signing Wall to four more years, the Wizards have locked up their three core players, including Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, through the 2019-20 season. Like Beal and Wall, Porter is under contract through the following season, but he could choose to leave in free agency through a player option. Porter signed his new contract on July 13, a four-year max deal worth $106.5 million.

Wall had the best season of his career in 2016-17, averaging 23.1 poitns, 10.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He was a driving force behind the Wizards' best season as a franchise since the 1970s. Not since 1979 had they won 49 games, their division or reached the seventh game of the second round of the playoffs.

Now with Wall, Beal and Porter locked up for the foreseeable future, the Wizards can continue to build on an era that has already seen three appearances in the postseason's second round. It all began with Wall getting drafted in 2010 and now it is ensured he will get to finish what he and the Wizards have started.

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