Trade talk is heating up all around the league as we approach the final week before the NBA Trade Deadline, but if you’re expecting a big move in Washington, it looks like you’ll have to wait until this summer at the earliest.
“In pro sports, every job is at risk every year. You really do use an offseason to take stock of what you do. But you do that by talking to the players, by talking to the agents, by talking to people within the organization, people at the league office. It’s not something that you make light of,” said Leonsis.
Leonsis also ruled out dealing any of the team’s highly-paid stars before this year’s NBA Trade Deadline, specifically calling out John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter by name.
“We’re not trading any of those players,” he said.
A few things to unpack here:
- Some people have said this could just be posturing to see if anyone tries to make a better offer. I doubt it. It would be one thing if this was a “sources close to the situation” story. This is the team owner going on a local radio show. It’s much, much harder to go back on something like that, especially less than a week after saying it.
- If you wanted to be charitable, you could say Leonsis coming out and declaring the Wizards won’t break up the core makes it easier to focus on basketball the rest of the season, which could be helpful for the team psyche down the final stretch. If you wanted to be less charitable, you could argue Wall and Porter are negative trade assets on their current deals, and trading Beal would set the team back in the short-term, so Leonsis isn’t saying anything that the trade market hasn’t already dictated.
- Another way to look at Leonsis’ stance is that he’s handcuffing the front office to the success of Wall, Beal, and Porter. He also said during the interview he’d have to “look at the entire organization” if the Wizards don’t make the playoffs. So perhaps this is also his way of ensuring that if he makes management changes that the next regime would have control over what the next big step is for the franchise. Then again, he also quickly readjusted the team’s goals from being a 50-win team this season to just being a playoff team, so there’s still plenty of time to readjust those goal posts again.
Although the Wizards’ core players are off the board, Washington could still look to make moves between now and the NBA Trade Deadline on February 7. They have several players on expiring deals — including Trevor Ariza, Markieff Morris, Sam Dekker, Jeff Green — who they could move to acquire players with cost certainty beyond this season. They could also look to move Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard to clear salaries that could help them keep Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant this summer.
In the meantime, the Wizards are running out of time to get back in the playoff picture. As of this writing, they are in 10th place in the East standings, 2.5 games behind the eighth-place Charlotte Hornets. FiveThirtyEight gives Washington a 53 percent chance of making the playoffs, ESPN’s BPI gives them a 34 percent chance, and Basketball-Reference gives them just a 25 percent chance.