This should be viewed in the eyes of a results-oriented GM without loyalties to any of the players. This scenario also assumes that Kevin Durant re-signs with the Thunder or chooses another team not named the Wizards upon entering free agency.
As you all know, the Wizards are coming off back-to-back winning seasons where they managed to reach the second round of the playoffs and appeared to have a "legitimate" chance to contend in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This season, however, has seen a multitude of injuries and changes in coaching philosophy which have found the Wizards on the edge of the playoff race in the NBA twilight zone. The twilight zone describes a team that does not have the talent to seriously contend in the NBA Playoffs but is too good to find themselves with a significant chance to win the lottery. There are two main ways to get out of the twilight zone:
1) Sign a high profile free-agent
- 1996 Los Angeles Lakers - Shaquille O'Neal
- 2010 Miami Heat - LeBron James and Chris Bosh
- 2011 Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul
2) Win the lottery (with less than a 10 percent chance)
- 2008 Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose
- 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving
- 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins (LeBronis not in Cleveland if they don't win these two lotteries)
A third possibility is to strike gold in the middle of the draft (2010 Spurs - Trade for Kawhi Leonard, 2009 Warriors - Steph Curry). However, in my opinion, this is a much riskier strategy and the Wizards management has not shown the ability to find value in the top of the draft, much less the middle of the draft, unless it's a can't-miss prospect like John Wall or Bradley Beal
The only other option for a team without many trade assets is to either wait for the good players on the team to degrade or proactively dismantle the team to improve your chance at a good lottery selection (a.k.a tanking).
Which brings us to the question of how can the Wizards escape the NBA twilight zone and avoid an eternity of watching Wall and Beal drag the Wizards through a grueling NBA season just for an early playoff exit?
I want everyone to take a deep breath and remember this is merely a thought exercise. It's just something to think about on your walk/drive/bus to work.
Now that you're calm............
TRADE JOHN WALL!
For those of you still with me after that bombshell, I will now try to explain why and give a possible trade scenario.
Winning a championship in the NBA usually requires at least three All-Star players (2010-2014 Miami Heat teams, 2008 Boston Celtics) or an incredibly strong supporting cast which still has about two All-Star players (2014-15 Golden State Warriors, 2000-2014 San Antonio Spurs).
The Wizards arguably have John Wall (star player) and Bradley Beal (star player potential). Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. are nice but for now, we will assume neither of them will have a Jimmy Butler-esque growth and remain as quality supporting cast members.
Wall is 25 years old and is close to entering his prime. Beal is 22 years old and still has yet to reach his very high potential. The problem is that the Wizards have not provided Wall with an appropriate supporting cast to contend for a championship in his prime, but are too good of a team to acquire that supporting cast through methods other than free agency, which might be harder than many of us originally thought (KD...cough..cough).
So if we forget about how good John Wall is as a person and how much he has done for the Washington Wizards and the city of Washington D.C., and we focus on what needs to be done to improve the quality of the roster, we arrive at the conclusion that John Wall just might be dispensable........for the right price.
In my opinion, the Wizards should consider trading Wall for a Top-7 lottery pick which would be added to the Wizards current pick (which is slotted for the lottery and would be higher if they traded John mid-season as the team would perform worse).
This would give the Wizards two potential stars to go along with Bradley Beal, as opposed to just Wall and Beal carrying the team forever. Essentially, you're trading the confirmed talent that is John Wall for the unconfirmed talent of two players from this year's draft.
Here is a possible trade scenario that could work for the Washington Wizards and another team, the Minnesota Timberwolves:
The Wizards would get:
- 2016 Timberwolves 1st Round Pick (Currently projected for 5th Overall)
- Zach LaVine (13th pick of 2014 draft, 20 yr old point guard with promising potential)
The Wizards could possibly get a 2017 1st Round or 2nd Round Pick if we're being greedy.
The Timberwolves would get:
- John Wall (3x All-Star, 2015 NBA-All Defense Second Team)
You would have to throw in some role players around on each team to balance the salaries, but this is the essence of the trade. The Wizards get a chance to draft two players with star potential in the upcoming 2016 draft, which has considerable talent in the first 10 picks as well as a prospect in the form of Zach LaVine who has the potential to develop into a reliable starter, maybe fringe All-Star.
Here's why the trade benefits both teams.
The Timberwolves get a 3x All-Star point guard to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns, which forms a monster trio of No. 1 draft picks. Pairing an improved pass-first point guard like Wall with the scoring abilities of Wiggins and Towns would definitely give the Timberwolves a better feeling about parting with their draft picks and LaVine. The defensive potential of those three together along would be enough to contend in the Western Conference.
The Wizards would most likely end up with two lottery picks in the 4-10 region, which will be out of range for top prospects like Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, but would still yield young players with All-Star potential such as Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Jakob Poeltl, and Kris Dunn.
Imagine a Wizards roster that could have Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Otto Porter, AND Kelly Oubre. That's a lot of young talent that could grow together into something special provided the right coaching staff (sorry Randy) and veteran presence.
Anyways, I hope you guys found this thought exercise as interesting as I did. I am a huge Wall fan and I hope he never leaves. But it makes you wonder, would you be willing to part with him to extend the Wizards' window of opportunity to be a long-term Eastern Conference contender?