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Deal of the Day: Pick Swap with New Orleans Brings Hart to the Wizards

NBA: Washington Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you weren’t feeling Love for the weekend’s post then I doubt you’ll show any Hart today. {Editor’s note: It’s against Bullets Forever policy to edit dad puns.}

Deal of the Day is an exercise in NBA deal making and a sanity check for yours truly as I wait for the NBA Draft. Each day I’ll post a trade idea I think helps the Wizards. No trade is too small or too big, but I only have so many four-plus team trades in me, I swear.

Move up in the draft? Yessir. Move back? For sure. All trades are run through the simulator. Salary cap rules may be bent but hopefully not broken.

Today’s Deal : A pick swap with the New Orleans Pelicans brings Josh Hart home to DC.

The Wizards trade the 9th overall pick, guard Ish Smith, forward Admiral Schofield and cash to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 13th pick, wing Josh Hart (94 PPA), center Nicolo Melli (61 PPA) and New Orlean’s own second round pick, 42nd overall.

Why the Pelicans do the deal?

They want to add shooting and play-making around Zion Williamson and JJ Redick can’t play forever. They thought they had a reserve sniper locked down after re-signing Darius Miller last summer. Then he ruptured his Achilles tendon in August of 2019.

Miller* hadn’t returned to three-on-three or five-on-five workouts prior to the Pelicans arriving in the bubble. Hart hasn’t been consistent from deep. In this trade, they move up to nine for similar reasons to other teams. They don’t want to wait for the wing that falls.

David Griffin and Trajan Langdon want their guy and need to make a move to get him. I could see them targeting Aaron Nesmith or Devin Vassell, or perhaps Killian Hayes if he falls.

This scenario assumes that Lonzo Ball will not be a Pelican on opening night next season. I think I’m reading those trade winds correctly. In Smith they get a productive veteran presence at PG to keep their offense humming in any number of combinations. New Orleans will also have to decide on whether to extend a qualifying offer to PG Frank Jackson.

Hart is a solid player but the problem is timing. He’s extension eligible at a time when the Pelicans don’t want to lock up future salary in role players unless they’re a specialist. Hart doesn’t qualify.

Melli, 29, was an absolute lights out distance shooter in Europe who failed to shoot league average from three in his first NBA season. This trade clears out his $4 million salary by shipping him to Washington.

*Rough time for 30 year old former Kentucky Wildcats. Miller was a teammate of John Wall at UK.

Why the Wizards do the deal?

If they hope to do more than squeak into the playoffs, they need more than a couple of draft picks and the MLE. This deal provides a rotation wing, a late lottery pick (and a trade for the 42nd pick for a second year in a row.)

With Troy Brown Jr. expected to handle the ball more they can trade Smith and find a lower cost option to split time with Brown. They shift that money to the wing by acquiring Hart, a young veteran who’s a Maryland native and Sidwell Friends alum. He often defended wings and small forwards despite giving up some size in match ups along the way. He provides lineup versatility able to play off John Wall, Bradley Beal, Brown or any two of them.

Melli couldn’t find the range from deep in first year. Otherwise his shooting was pretty darn good, 47% from 16+ and 48% between 10-16 feet. The Wizards take him back even when the trade works without him to secure a better second round pick. And they hope he can get his shot to start falling from the NBA line. He falls into the ‘Pay him more than you’d like but if he works out it’s not too much’ category of The Official Ernie Grunfeld Taxonomy of Trades®. This assumes one of Wagner or Bryant won’t be back. Can’t have all three playing C.

Fine Print: Including Schofield balances salaries.

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