It’s no secret DeAndre Jordan is on the market, and it’s no secret that the Wizards would be one of the teams most interested in acquiring him. Yet, the interesting is no one can seem to agree on how to put the trade together.
It’s almost like trying to construct a sandwich: The bread you choose affects what kind of meat you put inside it, which in turn affects what kind of toppings you choose. So with that in mind, let’s look at the options.
The Bread: Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi
No one buys a sandwich for the bread, but without it, you’re just left with a disorganized salad. The bread makes the sandwich work.
When it comes to the trade, Gortat or Mahinmi are the bread. They have to be involved so the Wizards can match Jordan’s $22.6 million salary, and realistically, there’s no way to keep three centers on a roster who are all making eight-digit salaries. The Clippers have to go with one of them to make a deal work.
Even though Gortat’s production is down a bit, and Ian Mahinmi has looked better as of late, Marcin makes far more sense on the Clippers. He’s cheaper, and his deal comes off the books a year sooner than Mahinmi’s. If you really want Mahinmi to be the bread, you’re going to have to load on the meats to make up for the lackluster bread.
The Meat: Kelly Oubre and/or future picks
Some of you might recoil at the idea of including Oubre in a deal at this point. He’s been part of the Wizards’ best lineup this season with Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat, which has a +22.5 net rating this season. You’d have to imagine that net rating would only go up with Jordan in Gortat’s spot. A Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Jordan lineup would still be good, but it may not reach those levels of effectiveness.
However, if you value unloading Mahinmi’s salary over putting together the single most effective lineup possible, Oubre has to be in there to offset Mahinmi’s huge salary. But even with him in the deal, you’d probably have to add something else to make the deal more palatable for Los Angeles. So you’re probably looking at giving Oubre, and yet another first round pick. That’s a steep price to pay for someone who turns 30 in July and will likely be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If you make that kind of deal to get Jordan and unload Mahinmi, you have to be absolutely positive he’s staying in Washington.
If you go with Gortat instead, you can probably get away with not throwing in Oubre, but the Wizards will still have to include at least one first round pick to get the Clippers on the phone. From there, it just depends on how much the rest of teams interested in Jordan are willing to offer. While Jordan may be on an expiring deal, he’s still a talented player and having his Bird Rights (which allow a team to go over the cap to retain a player) are a valuable advantage going into this summer when not many teams have cap space. Washington won’t be in a position to make lowball offers.
No matter how you structure the bread and meat of this sandwich, you’ll still need to add another $5-10 million in salary to make a deal work.
Unfortunately, the Wizards don’t have much to offer in terms of expiring deals. Guys like Tim Frazier, Mike Scott, Chris McCullough, and Sheldon Mac all come off the books after this season, but they all make $2 million or less, so that won’t do much for the Clippers’ salary issues.
Jason Smith’s $5.2 million salary would fit nicely here, but he doesn’t make much sense on a rebuilding team, especially considering he’ll likely opt-in and pocket the $5.4 million he’s due next season. You almost need a mini-asset to offset Smith’s salary, like Tomas Satoransky. He’s played very well in recent weeks, would help the Clippers in a position of need, and he could learn a thing or two playing with Milos Teodosic.
The other option would be to skip all of that and just throw Markieff Morris in the deal. As Zach Lowe noted on ESPN, he hasn’t quite been himself this season:
I'll give Morris an injury mulligan -- he scored well against in a revenge game against Phoenix Thursday night -- but he has never been good enough to play below peak intensity.
Morris' rebounding has been worrisome. He's grabbing boards at career-low levels on both ends, and the Wizards allow too many offensive rebounds when he's on the floor. He sometimes floats around the arc, doing nothing, when a shot goes up.
Washington would be selling low on a player they burned a lottery pick for just two years ago, but if you think the Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter, Jordan lineup can sustain itself, it’s worth the risk for a player who would likely be minimized anyway.
However, trading Morris makes things more challenging for Washington in late-game situations. He’d be the natural fill-in at center if teams went to a Hack-A-Jordan strategy to get him off the floor late in games, but if Morris is gone, you’d either have to go with Mahinmi/Gortat, or Smith in that role. You also run the risk of upsetting John Wall with that move, since he has a tight bond with Morris.
Trading for DeAndre Jordan, like most of Washington’s moves in recent years, would be a win-now move at the cost of future team-building. But unlike past years, this trade has the potential to vault them into a serious contender in a way that previous deals haven’t.
Unless DeMarcus Cousins becomes available (which seems more and more unlikely by the day as the Pelicans continue to play well), Jordan is the Wizards’ best chance at making a major roster upgrade. We’ll see if Washington can find the right balance between optimizing Washington’s core now and still preserving some flexibility to develop talent down the road.