Let's Fix the Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards are in free-fall at the moment. At the time of this writing, the club is an abysmal 2-8, and reeks of dysfunction and dissatisfaction.
As the incomparable Zach Lowe explained, the Wizards ineptitude is the result of a flurry of reasonable moves in the past few seasons that have simply fallen flat. Now, however, the team is locked into a roster that isn’t good enough. As Lowe pointed out, next season Washington will pay $92 million to John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. alone, a core that does not seem to have championship chops.
So let’s put on our General Manager caps. Let’s fix the Wizards. To the trade machine!
Option 1: John Wall to the Knicks
Five-time All-Star John Wall needs a new home. The 2010 first-overall pick has had a good run in Washington, but has failed to help his team get over the hump.
With his four-year super-max contract extension set to kick in next season, the Wizards would be wise to try and move on from Wall and free up some space on the books. His backcourt running mate Bradley Beal has proven the more reliable and promising star anyway.
The problem, however, is that NBA teams have gotten smarter in recent memory. Danny Ainge alone has crippled too many clubs, and many organizations are in the midst of promising rebuilds. Few teams out there are desperate for a player like Wall.
I recently polled the electorate to try and find a home for the Kentucky-product. One destination makes far too much sense.
The New York Knicks ought to trade for John Wall. Team owner James Dolan is just the sort of impulsive man to swing for a name-brand commodity like Wall. Kristaps Porzingis will eventually return from injury. Couldn’t he and Wall be the nucleus of a winning team?
Miami is in need of a star. They’re a candidate, too, although the Heat are usually measured and forward thinking. The Pelicans, meanwhile, need to give Anthony Davis every reason to believe in New Orleans.
At the end of the day, the Knicks stand alone as the neediest and the itchiest team in the Association. Outside of New York, I’m not sure who would take the bait on Wall. Here’s what I’m thinking.
The Knicks move on from Tim Hardaway Jr., and Washington gets a bit of salary relief (Wall is set to make $38 million next season, almost twice as much as Hardaway Jr.). The Wizards get a bit of breathing room and a fresh start, while James Dolan gets a shiny new All-Star to ruin.
Option 2: Free Bradley Beal
One massive hurdle to trading Wall this season is the 15 percent trade kicker he owns until his contract extension kicks in this summer. Lowe reported Wall will be difficult to move until then for that reason.
So what if Washington actually gets in the bed its made for itself, and prepares for a new era of John Wall basketball? What if they instead trade Bradley Beal, who is ostensibly their best player and best trade chip?
Unfortunately for the Wizards, moving Beal is probably their best move. We’ll talk about trading Otto Porter Jr. in a bit, but at the end of the day, one of these max-players has to go, and Beal will likely land the best haul.
There’s a number of teams that would be wise to take a long look at Beal. Clubs like the aforementioned Pelicans, the Trail Blazers, or the Lakers would look much, much more competitive in the West with Beal in the fold. Organizations like the Nets or the Clippers could use Beal as a way of fast-tracking their respective rebuilds.
Maybe we can get a little crazy, though. Because I think there’s a blockbuster deal out there that could really stir the NBA pot.
I think there would have to be some draft picks involved in this move, but boy oh boy would this be fun. The Sixers could finally make up for their sleepy 2018 off-season. The Timberwolves would benefit from a rather smooth divorce with Jimmy Butler. And the Wizards could land a few promising players or draft picks to pivot away from their current dead-end situation.
Option 3: Bite the bullet on Otto Porter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. has a messy, messy contract. His max-contract comes with a 15 percent trade kicker, and yet OPJ is averaging just 11 points per game this season. He’s giving the Wizards next to nothing in terms of value and production.
Washington owner Ted Leonsis has proven incredibly patient with both the Wiz and his Washington Capitals. Perhaps he’s happy to extend the Wall and Beal experience another few years. Such that he’s ready to sacrifice in order to move on from a past mistake.
Like we established before, there’s very few trigger-happy teams in the NBA right now. And very few teams are tanking out-right. Either way, the Wizards would have to cough up a few high-level draft picks to move on from Porter Jr.
Perhaps the Hawks would be willing to eat OPJ’s contract for future assets. Or maybe the Kings once they inevitably fall back to earth. The Knicks are a hypothetical option here as well. It would be costly, but moving on from Porter Jr could let the Wizards pivot before next season’s complete financial gridlock.
There is, however, one final play for Washington.
Option 4: Ride the wave
The 2019 draft is sizzling with generational talent. Could the Wizards be bad enough to have a shot at Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, or Cam Reddish?
In theory, this would be difficult. Washington is probably a bit too talented to earn a top-3 draft pick. Thus far, though, they’ve proven the scouts wrong.
Maybe the Wiz can stink for long enough to back their way into a top draft pick. There’s plenty of promising players just outside the Duke kids, too.
From there, the script is easy. Fire Scott Brooks and unabashedly blame Dwight Howard. These two have proven worthy scapegoats in the past. Next, sell incredibly low on OPJ or Wall. Clean up the books and make way for a new era in Washington.
Times are tough for the Wizards. At least they have that Game 6 win over Boston...