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Roundtable: How should the Wizards approach the trade deadline?

We got together and chatted about what the Wizards should do over the next few weeks as the trade deadline comes.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Washington Wizards
Davis Bertans remains a popular trade target as the Washington Wizards head toward the trade deadline.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We recent chatted about the Wizards and how they should approach the NBA trade deadline. Here’s how our roundtable went.

Albert Lee: With the NBA trade deadline less than one month away, do you anticipate the Wizards making much movement? I think Jordan McRae could get interest, but beyond him, it will be difficult to get anyone else ... besides ...

Yanir A. Rubinstein: Bertans, of course! Of course Tommy Sheppard said he won’t move him, but it would be hard to say no to first and second round draft pick from teams like the Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers or Orlando Magic. That is presumably Tommy’s asking price for the Latvian Laser.

L.W.: Yep, agreed. And I think whether or not they trade Bertans tells us a lot about what Tommy is thinking with respect to rebuilding.

Specifically: You keep Bertans (and re-sign him for a lot of money) if you think the team more or less as is can be competitive in the next couple years. If you think the horizon is longer than that, you trade him.

Akbar Naqvi: Unless a Bertans trade blows the Wizards away, I do not expect much to happen in the trade deadline. I could see a creative salary dump type trade or something to help Tommy steal another 2nd rounder.

Additionally, I feel like right now is the prime opportunity for a Jordan McRae trade given that he is shooting way above his career averages and his microwave scoring seems more valuable for a contending type team, but I doubt Sheppard is going to trade someone like him given how little money he makes. If the Wizards get anything more than a sandwich and a bag of chips for Isaiah Thomas, they’d likely do it.

Alan Jenkins: It’s possible that teams inquire about Jordan McRae but I think the front office feels that he could be a legitimate piece for the team going forward and don’t think they’ll randomly flip him to the first team that offers a second rounder.

Just to echo what everyone is saying, this trade deadline is all about Davis Bertans. Tommy has said he won’t him move but we’ll see if he sticks true to his plan if someone offers him a deal too good to turn down.

Osman Baig: I agree with Akbar, unless they get an offer they can’t refuse they will do whatever they can to retain Bertans. There are a lot of great shooters in the league but given his height, the high release on his shot, and his absurd range – Bertans is shooting 41 percent from 25-34 feet per – he’s unique and changes how they are defended.

Why not bring him back if he’s showing strong interest in a return? Their goal is a quick rebuild. We can agree or disagree all day but given their goal, retaining him makes sense minus an offer they can’t refuse.

They are also likely to operate as an above the cap team, have cost control at the center position, and have rookie deals that are or will run alongside the Wall supermax so there shouldn’t be much financial concern. If the luxury tax projections remain, they should have the room to pay Bertans, pay their lottery pick, have the midlevel exception, and have space left over.

What constitutes an offer Washington can’t refuse? I’d say a mid-first round pick that will definitely convey this year and a young player of interest on a rookie deal. I’m not suggesting Milwaukee would do this at all, but if they were to offer say Donte DiVincenzo and the Pacers’ first round pick, Sheppard should jump.

I could see the Wizards trying to make a fringe move otherwise. The difficulty is weighing the value of the return. The Wizards will have Chicago and Memphis’ second round pick next year and can always buy another selection.

In the case of McRae, is his value as a microwave scorer off the bench and popular teammate who likely won’t require a sizeble contract to stay greater than a late second round pick? In the case of Ian or IT, if you get anything that isn’t financially restricting in the future, take it! Also if a team is looking to dump a younger player on a rookie deal into one of our exceptions, go for it.

Yanir: In my humble opinion, the situation is comparable to Bojan Bogdanovic. Washington dealt the 22nd pick to get him (& dumped a bad contract) in 2017.

If the Wizards can get a non-lottery 1st rounder for Bertans then it makes a lot of sense to trade Bertans. There is noway in the world the Wiz are contending for a championship while Wall is on supermax, so the logical move would be trade Bertans for a first rounder in exchange for a bad contract.

Anything additional (future pick swaps or a second rounder) would be icing. But the truth needs to be said. The trade really should be executed if the goal is a championship and not just selling tickets for a first or second round playoff series.

As for McRae - I would actually say keep him and re-sign him. Brad needs to have a good backup to give him rest especially given how little rest he is getting and how bad the club has been in having a legit backup for him (think Meeks). So I’d say if the Wiz really want to show Brad they care about his health they keep McRae.

Mahinmi has no trade value even if he plays very well. No team can afford 16M on their sheets. However, Mahinmi might be game for a buyout which would save the team a couple bucks.

Osman: Hasn’t Bertans played well enough, that if they did choose to trade him, they shouldn’t have to take on a bad deal to get a first (i.e. the Bojan trade)?

I completely agree with your take on Mahinmi, Yanir. Even if he plays well, matching salaries will be difficult in all likelihood but I’d imagine there’s a playoff team somewhere out there who might be interested in him in the buyout market. If the Wizards can get a little break on the buyout and use that roster spot to convert Matthews’ contract or take a flier on another young player, they should do it.

Akbar: I don’t think a non-lottery pick really adds to a team’s championship odds more than Bertans. It’s a cheaper player that is almost certainly going to provide less value.

Yanir: The salaries still need to match somehow. That’s why I said perhaps perhaps Tommy can squeeze a pick swap or a second rounder. But why would any team give more for 3-4 months of Davis?

First, if you want to re-sign Davis then a few things need to happen:

  1. He decides he wants to stay in D.C.
  2. You are willing to pay him about 15-20M/year on a multiyear deal
  3. No other team is willing to pay more

Moving on from that, even if all of these things happen and you do keep Bertans, you have no chance of winning a championship until June 2023.

Now if you draft a first rounder you are potentially drafting a player that will stay with the team for 8 years (4 years + 4 years as RFA), and such a player has a small but more than no chance of being a piece for a championship team later this decade.

Plus think of this: you save about 15M under the cap for the next few years which allows you to bring other young players that could develop into legit pieces and possibly be resigned as RFA for the post-Wall era.

And the icing: by trading and then not re-signing Bertans you increase the value of your own draft picks already in 2020 and then also in 2021-2023 (the years he won’t be on the team).

Osman: If the Wizards were ever going to get more, I think this would be the year given how open the race for a title is. There are probably more teams than in any recent year that legitimately think they can make a run. Bertans, with the gravity he brings to the floor (and bird rights), is a valuable player.

Given he reportedly has interest in staying, if teams aren’t willing to offer more, I go back to keeping him given they will be operating as an above the cap team. I understand the angst over contending with Wall’s supermax, but their plan seems to be to quickly be back in the playoffs and Davis certainly helps in that regard.

Their long-term plan is debatable, but that’s for another roundtable!

Yanir: The trade deadline and the long-term plan are one and the same! You can’t discuss the trade deadline without discussing the long-term plan.

So the options are:

  1. Be at best a reasonably good playoff team until 2023 but with no serious planning ahead, or
  2. Pile up assets until 2023 so that you are very good to contending playoff team in 2024-28.

If you want to do option 1 you keep Bertans. If you want to go with option 2, you trade Bertans for a first rounder and simultaneously increase the value of your own picks which is worth a lot.

Marcus Atkinson: If you asked me this question at the beginning of the season, I would say Ian Mahinmi would have been my top choice just because of his expiring contract. I thought a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the perfect trade partner because I assumed they would be terrible and since they have a bloated team salary, they would be desperate to cut salary.

Well, it turns out thatI was wrong because OKC looks like a playoff team and they may look to add on. With that said, I can’t think of anyone else that really would be that desperate to cut salary so the Wizards may actually end up in a situation of having his salary expiring in the wrong year to find a good partner that would return some assets.

As for Bertans, I agree with the general sentiment here, you look for the best deal you can, but the intention is to keep him. Personally I think just about everybody on the team should be made available if the right deal is offered.

I cringe at the idea of paying Bertans $15 million - $20 million a year but is this team really going to add anyone else that’s going to take this team over the top? The focus should continue to be to get young talent, but when you have a player like Bertans that can be a key contributor, you can’t afford to just get rid of him.

If nothing else, this team should keep as many assets as possible because either you will build a better team or you will at least put yourself at the table in the future to acquire that star player that could take this team over the top.