Now that Ian Mahinmi is finally healthy and starting to get back into a rhythm, the Wizards’ biggest bench issue is Andrew Nicholson. He’s the team’s sixth-highest paid player and he’s only played 25 minutes since the start of 2017. Worse yet, he still has two more guaranteed years on his deal, plus a player option for the 2019-20 season. Assuming he picks up that option, he will still be owed $19.9 million over the next 3 seasons.
No one is going to jump up to make a deal for Nicholson unless they get something else very nice back in return. Thankfully for the Wizards, there is some recent precedent for using a late first round pick to clear a hefty chunk of future salary.
Back in 2015, the Nuggets gave the 76ers a first round pick in return for absorbing JaVale McGee’s onerous contract. Philadelphia was able to acquire him without sending anything of value back because they were well under the salary cap and they waived him shortly after. The 76ers essentially bought a late first round pick because they were willing to pay over $15 million to take on McGee’s deadweight deal.
There are currently several teams under the salary cap or otherwise positioned to make a similar deal and send back someone who could help the Wizards with their playoff run. With that in mind, here are a few ways the Wizards could explore packing Nicholson and their first round pick to fix their bench.
Trade idea #1: Wizards receive Will Barton, Nuggets receive Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton, and a first round pick
Barton would fill the Wizards’ need for a scoring sixth man. He’s averaging 13.9 points per game while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from deep.
He’s played well for Denver, but the Nuggets have younger options that also play his position and need playing time to develop. This trade would give those players time to grow, give them an asset for the future, and Nicholson’s salary would help Denver reach the salary floor.
Trade idea #2: Washington receives Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn for Nicholson, Thornton, and a first round pick.
The Nets don’t have control of their own pick until 2019, so they’ll at least listen to any deal that helps them net a first round pick for the future. They’re also well under the salary floor, so taking on Nicholson’s contract wouldn’t be an issue for them. In fact, the Wizards could even add Trey Burke’s expiring deal to this package if Brooklyn was so inclined to help them get closer to the salary floor.
In return, the Wizards would get a chance to bolster their bench with Bogdanovic’s sharp shooting. This season, he’s shooting 44.0 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from deep, even though he isn’t getting much support from the rest of the roster. With Washington, he’d get a chance to show how he can contribute to a winning team before he hits restricted free agency this summer. At that point, the Wizards could either use his Bird Rights to match any offer he gets, or just let him walk and reap the benefits of the salary he helped clear.
Trade idea #3: Washington acquires Brandon Knight from Phoenix for Nicholson, Trey Burke, and a first round pick
Washington has a history of trading first round picks to Phoenix for useful players, and this could be the latest example.
When you think of Brandon Knight, the first things that probably come to mind are the time Kyrie Irving crossed him up in the Rising Stars Challenge and when DeAndre Jordan obliterated him on a dunk a few years back. Yikes. Still, Knight has always been a solid point guard. Right now, he’s just in a sticky situation in Phoenix, due to the emergence of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker.
Knight would get a chance at a fresh start in Washington as the team’s unquestioned sixth man. A change of scenery and a chance to contribute to a winning team could be the jolt he needs to get back to the form we saw in previous years.
Trade idea #4: Washington acquires Tyreke Evans from New Orleans for Nicholson, Thornton, and a first round pick
Evans is averaging 9.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game this season. He's an established playmaker who could run the second unit. Washington isn’t going to get the guy who won Rookie of the Year, but he could be a useful addition down the stretch.
That said, there are a number of risks. First and foremost, he isn’t shooting the ball well. He’s only shooting 40.1 percent from the field for the season and has been very up and down. Secondly, his injury history isn’t great. He missed most of last year with a knee injury and wasn’t healthy at the start of this season. Plus, he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. So you run the risk that he gets injured shortly after he arrives in D.C. and then walks this summer for nothing.