The Washington Wizards haven't done much to endear themselves to Kevin Durant this season. The team has dropped off, John Wall didn't take a leap forward this season, and Bradley Beal hasn't been able to put together a stable enough stretch of games to show people he deserves to be a max player yet. And let's not forget Kevin Durant doesn't appear to be a big fan of some fans in the Washington area.
Some teams would cut their losses and pursued other options at times like this, but not the Wizards, according to Jorge Castillo:
But the Wizards don't foresee pivoting away from their strategy, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Even if they plunge further out of playoff contention before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, they don't plan on trading any of their core pieces or acquiring any players who would impede them from having enough room to sign a player to a max contract.
"Ernie Grunfeld's been around a long time," NBA TV analyst and former Grizzlies general manager Stu Jackson said. "He's not going to do anything frivolous or stupid. If he thinks he has a shot, he's going to hang in there because there aren't just very many players of this guy's caliber that comes along. He's going to go down as one of the top players ever. Those guys just don't come along very often. Is it worth it? Yeah."
Does that reek of desperation? A little, but hey, these are desperate times. Even if the odds are incredibly slim, here is why the Wizards shouldn't give up on the Kevin Durant chase.
1. No one on the trade market is worth giving up a shot at Kevin Durant
Let's all say it together: DeMarcus Cousins is not available. The Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006. Do you think they're going to hit the reset button on their rebuild now that they finally have a shot to make the playoffs again?
Other than that, what player could the Wizards acquire in a trade that would make you feel comfortable with giving up a shot at Durant? I can assure you any player you have on that list in not attainable, and even if they were, the assets you would have to give up to get them would make it a much less interesting proposition than only needing cap space to sign Durant.
2. Almost everyone in free agency will still be available after Kevin Durant makes his decision
As we've seen in past seasons with Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and LaMarcus Aldridge, the star players dictate when free agency really begins. Teams don't want to commit cap space to second-tier players until they know all the first-tier players are gone. The only players who get gobbled up before the big players decide are the ones taking advantage of the extra money they can get by staying with their current team.
Even if the Wizards swing and miss on Durant, all the other players who the Wizards could pursue -- here's Tom Ziller's rankings of the top 100 this summer -- will still be there unless they decide they want to stay where they are, in which case they weren't attainable anyway.
Keep in mind, all this logic applies to Bradley Beal as well so there's no need to worry about someone trying to put the Wizards in a tight spot like the Mavericks did when they signed Chandler Parsons to an offer sheet in 2014 while the Rockets were trying to snag Chris Bosh and Parsons. Other teams aren't going to give him the money he's looking for until they know they don't have a shot at KD.
3. They have nothing left to lose
If there was a time to cut bait and go a different direction, it was last summer when the Wizards missed out on chances to sign players to cheap, long-term deals to bring in expendable players on short deals.
Giving up now would be like deciding not to ask someone to prom after you put down a non-refundable deposit on your limo. Yeah, you'll probably go out there and make a fool of yourself. You'll wonder why you ever thought you had a shot at them saying yes. You may even be confronted with the harsh reality that you're a loser that no one wants to spend time with. BUT AT LEAST YOU WENT OUT THERE AND TRIED. The only thing worse than being a loser because you failed is being a loser because you never found out if you had a chance to succeed.