Mired in mediocrity and capped out for the foreseeable future, the Washington Wizards have an interesting dilemma on their hands. They have started the season with one of the worst records in the league at 2-8, and have not looked like the playoff team they desire to be.
Without question, the talent is there. John Wall is a five-time all-star and was all-NBA third team just two seasons ago. Bradley Beal was an NBA all-star last season. Otto Porter Jr. is one of the best perimeter 3-and-D players in the NBA. Dwight Howard, while a shell of his former self, is still a walking double-double. They also have solid role players in Markieff Morris, Austin Rivers, and Tomas Satoranksy among others.
So what has gone wrong with the Wizards? Most people would point towards locker room issues. Last season, John Wall publicly criticized center Marcin Gortat on live TV. Even though Gortat was traded in the offseason, Wall’s ability to lead a franchise is still being questioned. This season, newly acquired guard Austin Rivers claimed the Wizards were “slept on,” which led head coach Scott Brooks to call on the team to “stop talking.”
Obviously, saying there are serious locker room issues with the Wizards is a reach for me, someone with no connections to the Wizards franchise at all. However, even if there aren’t locker room problems, there are serious problems within the organization. Last year they massively underperformed and snuck into the playoffs as the eight seed with a 43-39 record. This year as I already mentioned, the Wizards are 2-8 and looking worse and worse by the game.
So the simple question is: what should the Wizards do? The answer is far from simple.
Blow it up
The easy response for wondering what the Wizards should do is clamoring that they should blow the roster up. But that is very difficult for Washington to do.
Despite being a perennial all-star, John Wall won’t yield the return you might think. This is the last year that Wall is paid a reasonable amount of money before he starts his “supermax” contract. Moving the $169,344,000 that Wall is getting over four years makes things much harder. However, given what the Clippers got for Blake Griffin last year, the Wizards might have hope.
The Suns are a team with young assets and talent to toy with. They may be willing to make a move for Wall given their lack of any point guards on their roster, and many reporters have said that the Suns are interested in point guards. While a player like Terry Rozier is more likely (although I think he’s wildly overrated. Don’t @ me Celtics fans), and Kemba Walker would be cheaper, Wall is what the Suns need.
No big time free agents want to play in Phoenix. Having a star player with many years left on his contract is exactly what the Suns should target. Although Wall will be making a lot of money, Phoenix can afford to pay it.
Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix is winning this trade. But if Washington wants to blow it up, this is probably the best way. They get two good assets in youngster Josh Jackson and Phoenix’s draft pick they got from the Bucks in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. Ryan Anderson’s contract is ugly, but it’s the only way for them to get rid of Wall’s mega-deal. However, this trade would likely have to come in the offseason, as explained by Zach Lowe.
Bradley Beal will be a much easier player to move. His offense is something that every team in the NBA would want, he’s only 25 years old, and he’s getting paid about the amount he should be. Similar to Wall, Beal comes with a long-term contract. In this case, it makes Beal more valuable to the rest of the league. He has shown in his career that he can be a teams go-to scorer, as shown when Wall was hurt last year, as well as a number two option, a role he is familiar with.
Teams like the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers are likely interested in Beal. The Heat have shown interest in Jimmy Butler, and with them being capped out, a trade is likely the only way for them to add a star. The Lakers haven’t looked great to start the season, and Beal could be a perfect complement to LeBron. However, given the amount of money the Lakers have for next offseason, they should wait to try and sign a star first before defaulting to trading for one.
Given the Heat’s unwillingness to give up Josh Richardson to the Wolves for Jimmy Butler, I don’t think that deal is as likely to go through. This means the Lakers win out on these hypothetical sweepstakes. I know it says this trade fails, but after December 15 when KCP’s $12 million ($13.8 after his 15% trade kicker) contract gets added in this trade works and would be successful on the trade machine. The Lakers would hate to depart with Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, but locking down one of the perfect complements for the league’s best player would be very nice for them.
The last player of any value that the Wizards would move is Otto Porter Jr. Given Porter’s massive contract- 3 years $81 million remaining- there might not be much of a market for him. The only trade I could see happening for the Wizards is where they take on bad contracts, a pick, and a young prospect.
I could see a team like Portland making that move. They seem locked in on winning now and have some bad contracts. They need perimeter defense desperately, as well as a true third scoring option. Otto Porter is possibly the perfect third wheel to Dame and CJ.
In this deal, the Blazers get rid of two horrible contracts while receiving the perimeter defense they need. Anfernee Simons is a young prospect they probably don’t want to give up, but letting go of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard’s contracts while getting a player like Porter would be huge for them. They’d also have to depart with their first round pick this year, but it’s a move they have to make if they want to win.
There are other small moves that the Wizards could make with the expiring contracts they have. Contending teams likely wouldn’t mind giving up small assets for someone like Austin Rivers or Markieff Morris (unless there are documented locker room issues with these two which there very well might be). Given how small these deals would be, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to include them.
Contend for now
This one is going to be difficult for the Wizards to pull off. Their contract situation makes it hard for them to make moves, as does their lack of desirable assets.
One move that the Wizards could try and make is Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota and Washington could try a one year flyer on him. As far as what the deal for Butler would be, I’d think the Wolves would want a way to lock-down long-term security, three-point shooting, and a young asset. Plus with President of Basketball Operations and head coach Tom Thibodeaux’s hell-bent desire to win now, the Wizards have pieces that may work.
This trade would see the Wizards lose Otto Porter and a first rounder, but they get back one of the league’s elite players. They also gain Justin Patton, but seeing as Minnesota already declined his third-year option, I don’t think the Wolves care about losing out on him. Porter offers the long-term security the Wolves need, as similar to the Suns: no free agents want to play in Minnesota.
However, I don’t think that going all out and trading for Butler is the Wizards best choice. Although adding Butler would instantly make them one of the better teams in the East talent-wise, I’m not sure if it would help them perform. Butler is another player who is known for causing locker room drama (look at everything that’s happened in the past month or two), and having him play alongside everyone else on the Wizards isn’t the smartest.
Change up the roster a bit
I think this is the best course of action for the Wizards. The first thing they’d need to do is fire Scott Brooks. I’m not sure what better options are out there, but I am not a fan of Scott Brooks at all. If I was the Wizards, I’d go with an interim for the year and then try and get someone like Jerry Stackhouse after the season.
The next thing the Wizards would do is look for a Blake Griffin-esque trade for John Wall. A trade where instead of getting young pieces, they get win-now kind of players. The problem is I don’t know what teams would be willing to make that deal. The Suns are basically the only NBA team in search of a point guard, and it’s hard to find other teams who are in desperate need of a star. The Heat need that star, but they already have Dragic on their roster and their contract situation isn’t in good enough shape to take on a supermax deal.
The Wizards could break up the Beal/Wall duo by trading Beal. I’m in the Beal>Wall mindset so I wouldn’t do this, but Beal may land better trade returns. Again, I’m not sure of money trades the Wizards could try and do to “win-now.” The best trade I could think of is Beal to the 76ers for Wilson Chandler, Robert Covington, and a first. Even then, I don’t know how much this helps out the Wizards or the 76ers. The 76ers gain the best player in the deal, but they probably don’t want to lose RoCo. The Wizards probably wouldn’t be in any better shape to push for the playoffs either.
At this point, if I am Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld, I am pulling the trigger and blowing the team up. I know Wizards fans are probably sick of losing, as in their 21 seasons since moving to Washington they’ve only made the playoffs eight times, but revving up the tank might be their best choice. The Wizards are losing right now even with talent on their roster, so why not hit the reset button? All in all, I’m just happy that I’m not the one who has to make the decisions about the Wizards future.