Zach Lowe of ESPN made a very interesting prediction that relates to Washington as part of his annual piece about predictions for the upcoming season. In it, he discusses DeAndre Jordan, who has a player option this summer and might want to leave Los Angeles (for real this time!) if the Clippers struggle as they start a new era without Chris Paul.
As he explains, there aren’t a lot of teams out there who would be willing to gamble on Jordan in a potential contract year, but Washington might fit the billing:
Finding a match is brutal; expiring contracts like Jordan's have more value now that cap room is scarce, but the old template of flipping expirings for good players on longer deals might be harder to follow over the next couple of seasons.
The most tantalizing candidate: the Wizards. Let's build Lob City, East! Washington could offer Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith, and at least one unprotected first-round pick. Want to simplify? Just send Otto Porter for Jordan (and one teensy salary) once Porter becomes trade eligible in January.
One monkey wrench: The salaries going back and forth have to match almost exactly; the Wizards are over the tax line, and the Clippers are crouched just beneath it. A huge contract for Jordan would be untenable atop Washington's other giant salaries. It's still workable, especially if a third team helps.
Ever since Kevin Durant and Al Horford rejected the Wizards’ overtures in 2016, DeMarcus Cousins has become the top target in a lot of people’s minds as the best, somewhat realistic player the team can acquire to add star power. But with all the uncertainty surrounding the Clippers this season, Jordan, not Cousins, should be at the top of everyone’s wish list.
Think about it like this: When it comes to adding a new player halfway through the season, the sooner they can integrate, the better. Jordan wouldn’t disrupt Washington’s offensive flow at all - he’s a great screen-setter, doesn’t need plays run for him, and gives the team a vertical dimension they’ve lacked since JaVale McGee was traded in 2012.
With Cousins, the team would have to go through a much longer adjustment period as he, Wall and Beal try to find the right balance with shot distribution. Plus, Wall and Beal would have to adjust to coming off screens from Cousins, who has never distinguished himself as a great screen-setter. Last season, he only averaged 1.9 screen assists per game, over three less per game than Jordan and four less per game than Marcin Gortat.
Jordan also provides a big upgrade on defense, where Washington has to get better to get to the next level. He has proven himself to be a significantly better defensive player than Cousins, particularly with his rebounding and shotblocking abilities.
His reliability is also a big benefit. If Washington is going to give up a big package to bring in a star and be even more top-heavy than they are now, they need that player to stay healthy. Jordan has only missed six games over the last six seasons. Cousins has missed 70 over that same span.
Of course, Jordan has his own flaws. Teams will certainly foul him a lot, which not only limits his impact on the game, but it also disrupts the tempo of the game, which inhibits Wall’s ability to wreak havoc in transition.
Beyond that, there’s still another debate to be had about what deal would make sense for Washington. The Gortat/Oubre/Smith/Unprotected first deal Lowe suggests sounds reasonable, but it makes the team almost entirely reliant on their starters to be productive. Jordan for Porter and flotsam could work if Oubre takes a huge step forward, but it would also require another move because there aren’t enough minutes to go around for Jordan, Gortat, and Mahinmi, and the depth on the wings would be seriously compromised. Depending on how things shake out in New Orleans, a trade for Cousins could wind up being much more cost-effective.
We won’t know until February who is truly on the trade market and whether or not the Wizards will have enough assets to get a deal done. Still, once you get past the fun storyline of reuniting Kentucky teammates and examine how both centers can help address the Wizards’ current issues, it should be quite clear Jordan is the better choice if Washington gets the chance to pick between the two.