The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the Wizards. They've slid all the way down to fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff race and just got word earlier this week that Bradley Beal will miss some time after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right leg. But the good news is the trade deadline is right around the corner, which means we'll begin to see more and more players hit the market as they get bought-out or make their way to the states from China.
The Bullets Forever staff got together to discuss what to expect the rest of the season.
More on Beal's injury
More on Beal's injury
1. Bradley Beal just went down with his third stress injury in as many years. We don't know the severity of it, and it's unclear how much time he'll miss, but at this point, durability is a major concern. On a scale of 1-10, how confident would you be in handing him a max contract this offseason?
Akbar: 9. We already went through this debate with Wall. While Beal may not have shown the same promise, the concept of a "max deal" is often misconstrued by fans and journalists alike. The problem with the max deal is that it artificially caps the amount of money players can make, which ends up inflating the value of role players or second tier stars and deflating the value of superstars. In this CBA, Bradley Beal is exactly the kind of player that teams will throw max money at. You're just not going to find a way to replace another 21 year old SG shooting over 40 percent from three, and the upside is too much to pass.
Albert: I'll give Beal an 8/10 on how confident I am that he can handle a max deal. On the one hand, Beal has shown that he can be a major piece for the Wizards, where he has quickly developed into the Wizards' second best offensive option overall with his ability to stretch the floor. However, the issues are a concern, and the Wizards probably need to find out what the underlying cause of them are. Is there something Beal's doing that is making him prone to them?
All that said, Beal is definitely getting a max extension after this season is over. There aren't many other young shooting guards who are shooting above 40 percent from three, and are still contributing to the passing game as effectively as he is.
The Wizards don't have much of a choice here unless they would be willing to let Beal walk, which would be disastrous given how much they've invested in developing him. If they don't want to give him the max, someone else will. The only reason I don't have this as a 10 is precisely because of those injuries, and it might make a max contract more of a risk than it would be for others, and maybe in that case his price might be deflated in the same way Steph Curry's was. Still, it's unlikely and it should be a no-brainer to give Beal the max, whether it's an early extension or if they wait for RFA.
BNIE: I believe the chances of Bradley Beal getting a max extension from the Wizards approach zero. The Wiz waited on John Wall and Bradley Beal hasn't shown nearly enough for them to offer an early max.
On a scale of 1-10, I personally would have a confidence level of 2 or 3 handing him a max contract right now. He's constantly stepping into long two pointers, hitting the deck hard without drawing fouls, and is amassing a scary injury report. I don't see any reason to hand him a big deal when the team is under no obligation to do so. Wait a year.
Jake: Right now I'm a 7. In terms of pure franchise value he's a 10 to me. 21 year olds that can shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc don't come around often. Still, you can't ignore that he's had similar issues with his right leg three seasons in a row, not to mention other knick-knack injuries here and there. It's worrisome handing max money to someone who seems destined to miss at least 15 games per year. In a perfect world, the Wizards would be able to negotiate him down the same way the Warriors did with Stephen Curry. But as it is, I don't think the Wizards have the leverage to get him to take less money. They need him a lot more than he needs them.
Jon: I'm a big NFL fan, so I'm drawing an analogy here. The reason why quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Alex Smith get sizable deals in football, is because quarterback is such a thin position. If Dalton or Smith walk, then who do you get? Shooting guard is in a similar position in the NBA. I'm all-in (10/10) that the Wizards should give Beal a max contract, and I'm about 8/10 on the confidence scale. Durability is definitely an issue, but the guy is only 21, he's only going to improve. And if not Beal, who else? I certainly don't feel comfortable rolling with Otto Porter Jr. as our eventual starting shooting guard. Right now, there are only nine shooting guards in the league who are shooting 40 percent or better from three, and Beal is one of them. There's only two shooting guards who shoot that well from beyond the arc this season, and average 15 or more points per game. Beal is one of them, and Klay Thompson is the other. Unless acquiring Klay Thompson somehow becomes a possibility, you have to give Beal what he wants and keep him around.
Michael: I would give it a 5 at this point. I can't say his injury history does not concern me, but he is one of the most talented shooting guards in the league and he has not actualized his full potential just yet. However, I still feel like he can be a star in this league and turn the Wizards into a legitimate contender. The biggest concern I have for Beal is the coaching he has received thus far and how it has affected his shot selection and the rest of this game. He's developed the skill of handling the ball, but his decision making has been subpar and I'm more concerned with that than any injury he's had.
Should the Wizards go after Afflalo?
The Wizards have depth issues at the wing positions, and Bradley Beal's right leg stress injuries give more cause to pause. Who are some wing players that the Wizards should look into acquiring at the trade deadline?
2. Would you be willing to part with this year's first round pick at the trade deadline in light of Beal's latest injury?
Akbar: I'm generally against trading picks unless your team has a chance at a title, which the Wizards don't. The team is more or less capped out and is laden with veteran talent. Given that Beal's extension is looming, and that they're gonna have to replenish the core around Wall and Beal, they have to start valuing cost-controlled talent with upside. I already wrote on how their recent unwillingness to value their 2nd round picks might hurt them long term, and this is no different when talking about first rounders. However, if they were to give up a first for someone like Arron Afflalo or Wilson Chandler; middle aged (in NBA terms) players that help fill a need in the short-term and perhaps even long-term, then I wouldn't be angry given that the pick will probably end up in the 20's. Still, the worst thing good (not great) teams can do is overestimate themselves and make short-sighted trades before they need to.
Albert: The Wizards have a good chance of winning 50 or more games for the first time since 1978-79. That means that they will likely have a draft pick at around the 20th to 25th spots depending on how many wins they actually get. I'm willing to part ways with that pick, even if Beal wasn't injured because Washington still needs a younger option in the backcourt.
BNIE: Provisionally. It's all about the right player and there aren't many I'd be willing to consider for a high value asset like a first round pick, Beal's injury notwithstanding. I wouldn't mind Arron Afflalo, if the Wizards could be certain he'd either opt-in next season or sign long term. Afflalo is the type of player that could lift some of the load off Andre Miller's aging knees while stepping in for Bradley Beal. He isn't the prototypical microwave sixth man, but if Bradley Beal's stress injury past indicates a stress injury future, the Wizards need more than a microwave backing him up.
The (really) unorthodox choice I could be convinced of, would be talking to the Suns about Goran Dragic. Again, it's provisional upon re-signing him once the season is out, but a primary backcourt rotation of Wall, Beal, and Dragic is tantalizing.
Jake: No. This isn't a title or bust year. The Wizards don't need to burn up a useful asset just to keep up appearances with the rest of the East's elite.
Jon: Given this organization's history of grooming draft picks, I would be fine with parting ways with our first-rounder, as long as the Wiz get a player in return that they'll have multiple years of control over. As we've seen so far with the 2014 draft class, no matter how good a class is supposed to be heading in, it can turn into a crapshoot real quick, real fast. We don't need to bring in another Otto Porter this offseason.
While fans might be wanting to think long-term, there's a real chance that the Wizards can make a push for the finals in the next two or three years. It would be nice to be competitive in 2018, but winning the East is a real possibility this year, and even in 2016, depending upon what happens this offseason with other teams. This is the same organization that drafted JaVale McGee, Jan Vesely, and Chris Singleton. As much as it stinks, mid-to-late first-round picks for the Wizards have never turned into anything. I'd have no problem trading that pick for someone that the Wizards could definitely re-sign in the offseason or someone that has multiple years left on his deal. We're not quite at the rental player stage of Washington's development.
Michael: Let me say this: There are 1,000 things I would rather do than answer this question. It is extremely difficult and has to be considered with the various pieces of context that go along with it. It depends on what player we're talking about, especially at the wing position. I would be slightly willing to do this for Arron Afflalo, but that is treading dangerous waters because he may be a half-year rental with a player option for next season.
He'd be a solid player to fill in for Beal, would help solve the wing rotation and shooting issues the team has and could even be productive in three guard lineups. But the danger of him walking in free agency makes me hesitant to pull off such a desperate move. Wilson Chandler, another Nugget, would probably be an easier player to give up a first round pick for with a team option in 2016. But he has not been as productive as you'd like to see and there are some concerns that he could be a flop.
So, with all that being said, my answer is maybe.
3. The Wizards are 4-6 in their last ten games, what is their biggest position of need right now?
Akbar: The Wizards don't really have a "position of need". They just need depth, especially on the perimeter. When you're at the point of the season where Garrett Temple is playing crunch time minutes, there is clearly a hole there that needs to be filled. Many have suggested a combo guard, but I'm less interested in position, more so than getting an extra body that can both shoot the ball, and handle it well enough to keep the offense moving. The team is devoid of shooters, which has been a huge problem in terms of providing spacing for Wall, and it would be nice to have someone who can come off the bench and knock down some shots, whether they are a point guard, or even a stretch 4.
Albert: The Wizards' biggest need is to find another guard who can make plays as a passer and scorer off the bench.
BNIE: Offensive assistant coach? Biggest need is shot creation in the second unit. Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing more of that in the first unit. John Wall is the only player on the Wizards who is capable of tilting the floor on offense and the second unit desperately needs a player who can earn their spot-up shooters open looks. This team shoots threes well, but can't play to that strength when every ball handler not named John Wall is incapable of breaking down the defense off the dribble.
Jake: I agree with John Wall that the Wizards really just need someone who can come off the bench and make some things happen. The bench right now relies far too much on taking advantage of the other team falling asleep on coverage and praying Rasaul Butler can hit a couple threes to open up room for Kevin Seraphin down low.
Jon: The Wizards don't necessarily need a specific position, but I'll just go ahead and say guard, but it could really be any perimeter player. There are times this season when Washington really misses Trevor Ariza. While Bradley Beal may be an amazing three-point shooter, and John Wall has certainly improved his jumper over the year, they don't have a knock-down shooter off the bench, especially with Martell Webster declining. As of Feb. 9, the Wizards were third in the league in three-point shooting percentage, but were 26th in threes made per game (6.1). Last year, they averaged 7.9 per game. It'd be nice to get a guy who could defend a little but be a threat from beyond the arc and hit catch-and-shoots off of Wall dimes.
Michael: There are so many, but I have to say it is creation off of the bench. The Wizards need another guy who can create baskets for them and can shoot the basketball. Andre Miller worked magic early on in the season, but his old legs are starting to catch up with him and teams are defending him much better now that Rasual Butler's shooting has cooled off a bit.
The Wizards need a guard like Gary Neal who can create his own shot off of the dribble and shoot the three ball. Neal has not been good at all this season and there is a chance it could remain that way should he play for this team, but a player in that mold would be a pretty good find for the team.
More on Wizards pursuing Ray Allen
More on Wizards pursuing Ray Allen
4. Is the front office making the right decision in putting all their eggs in the Ray Allen basket?
Akbar: While I do think Ray Allen fits the criteria of players the Wizards might need and would be a useful addition to the team, the fact that they aren't moving with their 15th roster spot unless he makes his decision is beyond silly. While it seems clear they've looked at other options, it's ridiculous that they are so infatuated with Ray Allen that they are literally letting him hold their roster spot hostage. Hopefully Allen makes his decision within the next 10 days (which I'm less confident in than Kingdom Hearts 3 or Final Fantasy 13 coming out in 2015) so there isn't much opportunity cost, but the guy is not good enough at this point to literally beg him to join your team.
Albert: No, and I don't think they should get him. It's not a bad thing to see the Wizards as a veteran-laden team given that they have legitimate aspirations of winning the Eastern Conference this season. But once you take into account that they have 38 year old Andre Miller, 37 year old Paul Pierce, 35 year old Rasual Butler, and a 32-year old Nene who is probably declining faster than average, I don't see the point of adding a 39-year old Ray Allen who will be no more than a one-year rental.
BNIE: Putting all your eggs in one basket is a terrible idea, as the New York Knicks discovered during the Summer of LeBron. Ernie is known for coming out of nowhere, so while the Wizards have been unusually (though not surprisingly) transparent in their pursuit of Ray Allen, I don't think that's the only wheel turning in the front-office.
Jake: At the start of the season, I would have said absolutely, but Rasual Butler has made Ray Allen more of a luxury than a necessity at this point. Butler is shooting better from beyond the arc this season than Ray Allen did in each of his last two seasons in Miami.
While there are some other areas in the game where Allen projects to be an upgrade over Rasual Butler, he doesn't offer a lot to the Wizards that they don't already have. Besides, there's really not a point in adding another shooter if the Wizards still aren't going to structure their offense to create more three-point opportunities.
Jon: Although I just complained how the Wizards could use another knock-down shooter off the bench, I don't necessarily think Ray Allen is the answer here. The man hasn't played basketball in about seven months, and last season was the worst of his career. Allen is obviously a Hall of Famer, but he averaged his lowest number of threes per game since the 1998-99 season and his worst shooting percentage since the 2006-07 campaign.
Michael: No. Absolutely not. Allen is one of the best three-point shooters of all time and had a solid season from beyond the arc last year with Miami, but it's been eight months since Allen has been seen on an NBA floor, he was already a liability defensively for the Heat and would be targeted regularly if he played heavy minutes and he has way too many other suitors for this team to be concerned with going all-in on him. Allen could be a very good addition for a low cost, but this team needs to explore their other options.
5. Of all the players on, or expected to be on the buy-out market, who makes the most sense?
Akbar: Gary Neal is probably my favorite option here. While he's only shooting 29 percent from 3 this season, I would bet that he regresses to the mean and gets closer to his career averages. While he has some flaws, he's a guy that can handle the ball and create his own shot, two abilities that the Wizards clearly lack from their second unit. He can also occasionally play with Wall off the ball, and serves as another perimeter threat that teams have to account for, giving the Wizards offense some more breathing room. I like Will Bynum as well, though his lack of shooting ability is a bit concerning.
Albert: The Wizards apparently aren't that interested in him as of last January, but Nate Robinson could be a good fit as a backup point guard and a scorer for the second unit which Washington lacks. I don't know how much Robinson fits in with an evenly-distributed team scoring-wise like the Wizards, but he should bring more energy to the second unit with a change of scenery from a lottery-bound Nuggets team earlier this season.
BNIE: Personally, I'm on the Will Bynum train. But that's too easy, soooo...Jordan Crawford? So many reasons that would be a bad idea, but if the Wizards can't get sufficient value for their first rounder and don't make a move until the season in China wraps up? More players than Will Bynum will be available. I can't say I'd be happy about that reacquisition and while Crawford doesn't make the most sense long-term. SHORT-term? He'd be auditioning for an NBA contract next season and theoretically on his best behavior on the court and off. Second unit needs buckets, son. Am I simply playing devil's advocate? Are you ready for a second helping of Steeze? Let the floodgates open.
Jake: Will Bynum still makes a lot of sense to me if he's available. He seems to fit the profile the Wizards would be looking for from a late season acquisition. Plus, signing him would ensure he doesn't burn the Wizards in a Cavaliers' jersey later this season, which would be comforting because YOU KNOW that would happen.
If Bynum is off the table, I could live with Bobby Brown or Toure' Murray, who J.Michael reported the Wizards might be interested in, but I'd really like to see the Wizards also give some consideration to a D-Leaguer like Seth Curry or Bryce Cotton.
Jon: Again, it seems weird to say this after I just wrote about needing a perimeter guy, but I think Nate Robinson would be interesting. There's a lot of talk of him going to the Clippers to be back with Doc, but with Blake Griffin out with the staph infection in his elbow, they may look at upgrading the frontcourt instead. Robinson would bring intensity off the bench that Andre Miller just doesn't have anymore.
I'm also going to backpack off of Jake and say that Seth Curry in the D-League would be a nice option. He's knocking down 48.4 percent of his threes this season for the Erie BayHawks. I mean, it's the D-League, but he and Rasual Butler on the second unit would be quite the shooting tandem.
Michael: Gary Neal would be a good option here if he is bought out by Minnesota. He was not having a good season in Charlotte before the trade, but there's no telling how much things could improve for him with a creator like John Wall playing with him. Another name I'd look out for is Amare Stoudemire. He has not been healthy in years, is a minus defender and has been flat out inconsistent for the Knicks in his tenure there.
But Stoudemire is still a pick and roll machine when he's right and the Wizards need a solid diving big man outside of Marcin Gortat to help space the floor for them. A diving big can make all of the difference in freeing shooters up on the perimeter when teams are playing pick and rolls aggressively, which they consistently do against the Wizards.