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Top Stories of the Week: John Wall’s Achilles injury kickstarts a new era for the Wizards

The Wizards begin setting the stage for their next rebuild.

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards
Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are now playing for other teams after a hectic NBA Trade Deadline period
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In the NBA, the word rebuild has a negative connotation with it. But sometimes, rebuilds are necessary. And if they are done right, they can be good. The Wizards took steps in that direction last week.

Au revoir, Otto Porter

On Wednesday, the Wizards traded Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. Both Portis and Parker were highly touted prospects when they were drafted. But neither has emerged to be a star player. Regardless, we’ll miss Porter because he was the glue player this team needed over the past several years.

Au revoir, Markieff Morris

Otto Porter wasn’t the only Wizards player to move on. Markieff Morris was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for Wesley Johnson and a 2023 second round pick. Morris already was sidelined from a neck injury from last month so it wasn’t like they were losing much production in the near term. But he was Washington’s starting power forward for nearly three years and we miss him!

John Wall and Ian Mahinmi’s contracts are a big reason why this happened

The decision to move two of the Wizards’ starters is due in part to the fact that they couldn’t move two of their biggest contracts: John Wall and Ian Mahinmi.

Let’s start with Mahinmi first. He has been healthy this season, but his ineffective play and fouling rate made him unplayable. Without Thomas Bryant, this team would likely look much worse.

For those of you who are ESPN trade enthusiasts, yes, Mahinmi COULD be traded. And maybe Mahinmi COULD have his deal on the stretch provision. But the latter isn’t going to give the Wizards much cap relief over the longer term. So for that reason, I think he has to stay a Wizard until the 2019-20 season.

Now, let’s get to John Wall. Wow, this man has gone through a lot in the past year. He is secure for life with his Superman contract that starts next season. But falling down in the bathroom and rupturing his left Achilles’ tendon in the process is just awful. He won’t be back for at least one calendar year. And when he does return, Wall will probably be a shell of what he once was barring some major changes in his game. If all that weren’t enough, his mother has breast cancer.

It’s gotta be hard to be John right now, even if his salary is increasing by a good margin very soon.

In any case, Wall and Mahinmi are practically unmovable. Mahinmi’s contract expires after the 2019-20 season and Wall’s will expire after the 2022-23 season. Until then, it’s hard to see the Wizards competing for that much — though I’ll say that it’s possible that the Wizards may not be terrible like the Philadelphia 76ers once were.

Don’t blame Wall or Mahinmi though. Blame Ernie Grunfeld.

For most of his career, Wall has been a uniter among Wizards fans. His play on the court over the past eight seasons speaks for itself. In the last couple years however, his status and previous reluctance to adjust his game has become a divider. Meanwhile, Mahinmi has generally been considered a punching bag by most fans in regard to his contract.

Regardless of their situations, the man behind their signings and making the Wizards’ situation as bad as it is remains, presumably with endless job security.

Ernie Grunfeld certainly deserves credit for making the Wizards more relevant as an NBA team over his 16 year reign overseeing basketball operations. But at some point, it’s time to move on. The University of Tennessee will always love him for being a dynamic scorer in his college days. USA Basketball owes him gratitude for playing on the 1976 Olympic team. And the Washington Mystics should give Grunfeld a special plaque on the wall for helping set up Mike Thibault with the then-struggling franchise.

But as great as these things are in and of themselves, Grunfeld’s job is to oversee the Wizards’ basketball operations. He’s made some great moves, especially early in his tenure. But things are looking stale at best. Please, let’s get some fresh eyes in that spot....

Enjoy the rest of your weekends everyone.