It’s February, which means the NBA trade deadline is right around the corner. Historically, most moves happen close to the trade deadline. Teams want to know what they have and evaluate how strong their assets are for as long as possible before making a deal. It’s no secret how it all works, the contenders try to make trades that give their team a better chance at the title, and everyone else makes trades to try to get future assets, draft picks, or cut some salary.
Every team has a number of options on the table. As Stan Van Gundy once said, “Everyone in the league is available for the right price!” With that in mind, let’s look at what the Wizards’ reserves could fetch in a trade and whether or not it would make sense to make a move.
Mahinmi signed a big contract with the Wizards last summer, and it took until February to play in his second game. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to acquire him when he has proven so little in Washington.
If there was a team that would be willing to take a chance on him, it would be the Celtics who have a clear need for more interior defense. Danny Ainge has been very keen on keeping salary cap flexibility during the Celtics’ rebuild, but if Boston could get another asset out of the trade, maybe they could be persuaded into making a move. An example could be:
Celtics receive: Ian Mahinmi, Washington’s 2017 2nd round draft pick
Wizards receive: Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey, and James Young
In this scenario, the Wizards would have to make another trade or waive two players as they’d be over the roster limit. Mickey and Young have only played in about one-fourth of the Celtics games this season and Zeller is the 4th big in the rotation. The Celtics would get the rim protector they need while the Wizards would get bench depth and two or three expiring contracts, depending on what they decide to do with Tyler Zeller.
Nicholson has probably become the hardest player to trade on the Wizards. He rarely gets on the court for Washington and unfortunately, the Wizards will have to pay him for three more seasons after this one. As Fim Oshin wrote last week, moving him will be hard – the Wizards will probably have to trade him to a team that needs to add salary to get to the salary floor – and even if they do that, they would have to throw in additional compensation to make it worthwhile for the other team. One idea could be something like:
Nets receive: Andrew Nicholson, Washington’s 2017 2nd round pick
Wizards receive: Brooklyn’s 2021 second round draft pick
The Wizards would dump Nicholson’s contract for practically nothing. They would do this to get his contract off of the books and create a roster spot for depth. The Nets would receive a semi-young guy that they can take a flyer on and a second round pick they desperately need.
Smith is interesting as a trade candidate for the Wizards. Many viewed him as the Wizards’ worst signing of the summer earlier in the season, but he has actually played decently over the past few months in Mahinmi’s absence. If Ian remains injury prone, it would be smart for the Wizards to hang on to Smith. His contract is relatively small in the big scheme of things, so it seems likely the Wizards hang on to Smith.
There is already an abundance of big men around the league, so there isn’t really a team that would want Smith anyway. His value, like many other Wizards, would be to match salary. It’s hard to see Smith being traded and I don’t know what exactly is equal value for him so let’s just move on.
Side note: Smith for Lou Williams straight up is a legal trade, just saying.
Our first player with a trade restriction! Trey Burke cannot be traded to the Jazz until July, after he hits free agency. That is his only restriction.
Burke has been pretty inconsistent for the Wizards this season. Thankfully, his value is a little higher than it should be due to his expiring contract and low cap hold. Ernie Grunfeld had to be happy about trading essentially a 15-year-old (in the form of a 2021 second rounder) for Burke last summer, but what could the Wizards get for him now?
Probably not much. The Wizards can only take back $5.2 million in salary in a Burke trade unless more players are involved. That limits them to players on rookie deals and players making less than mid-level money. There aren’t many players who would help the Wizards now that would fall in that range teams are looking to give up.
Burke’s best chance to be traded likely comes in a deal with multiple players. His expiring contract could be used to make up salary difference in multi-player trades.
Sato hasn’t played well enough for any other teams to have much interest in acquiring him at this point. He still has two years left on his deal after this one but his salary is pretty low. Sending him out alone would only allow the Wizards to receive $4.4 million back from the other team, which is a very limiting amount.
Does he have any trade value? Probably not. Similar to Burke, Sato likely only has value in part of a trade involving bigger players. His lack of value makes it’s hard (and frankly not that fun) to think of trade scenarios for him. Let’s look at someone more fun…
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Oubre has been the best player for the Wizards off the bench this season. He offers length on the wing that Porter and Beal can’t. He’s young and has two years left on his current rookie deal after this one, meaning he offers cheap labor to whatever team he is on. He easily has the most value of any bench player.
The Wizards could be looking ahead when considering Oubre’s contract. If he makes the improvement they hope he will, the Wizards will have two starting caliber wings in Otto and Oubre, and if they pay both of those guys (mind you, this is the distant future) they will likely be a tax team. If they want to avoid this tax situation, it might serve them well to be proactive.
So what is his value? Like Sato and Burke, he doesn’t make enough to trade on his own so it’s hard to judge his individual value. It would probably take a pretty solid first round draft pick to steal Oubre away from the Wizards. He could be a valuable piece for a rebuilding team but a rebuilding team probably doesn’t want to trade their first round pick anytime soon.
Oubre’s most likely value would be if the Wizards wanted to trade for someone like Paul Millsap. Zach Lowe of ESPN stated in a recent podcast (albeit when Millsap was more available) that this trade might be enough to make a deal:
Wizards receive: Paul Millsap
Hawks receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson, Washington’s 2017 first round pick
This starts the Hawks’ rebuild and nets the Wizards a star. The cost of Oubre and the first rounder is huge, and Millsap could leave after this season, so this trade seems unlikely. But if the Wizards think that they could contend for the title with this trade, they have to think about doing it.
Oubre is an interesting player in terms of trade value. It will be interesting to see if the Wizards explore moving Oubre at any time over the life of his deal.
Another trade restriction! Thornton, due to his upcoming Early-Bird free agency, has to approve any trade he is involved in. This would matter if he was good but Thornton has fallen out of the rotation in Washington. He has been pretty useless to the Wizards and he would be pretty useless to pretty much any team at this point. Washington would only be able to take back a very small amount of salary in a deal and Thornton would still need an incentive to approve being included in such a trade.
There aren’t many (any) fun trades involving Thornton, so let’s just finish up our last batch of players.
Daniel Ochefu, Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan
The three undrafted rookies. They have combined to play in 27 of the Wizards’ 55 games. They all have non-guaranteed contracts for next season. They are essentially fliers for the Wizards and frankly, none of them have proven enough in the league to make them desirable