Over the last few seasons, the Wizards have typically been active at the trade deadline. Whether it was trading for Bojan Bogdanovic in 2017 to provide a scoring punch off the bench or abruptly shipping Otto Porter to Chicago to save some cash - Washington has been wheeling and dealing the past few years at the deadline.
However, things are different now in Washington. Ernie Grunfeld is no longer calling the shots, John Wall, once the franchise’s centerpiece hasn’t played a basketball game in over a year, and hopes and dreams of deep playoff runs are a distant memory. The beginning of the 2019-2020 season signified a new chapter in D.C. and it’s important that management keeps that mindset and the long-term plan in mind as the trade deadline approaches.
For the first time since 2013, playoff basketball is an afterthought. Yes, the Wizards are just 4.5 games out of the 8th seed for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and were playing .500 basketball over the previous 14 games. But nothing like a home loss against the NBA’s-worst Golden State Warriors to recalibrate even the most optimistic Wizards’ fans.
With the playoffs out of reach, it’s not a matter if the Wizards should be buyers at the deadline (they won’t be) - but should they be sellers or stay put with their current roster?
Washington is currently carrying four centers on their roster so it makes sense to ship one of those guys off, right? Not so fast. Yes, Thomas Bryant has struggled defensively this year but is still showing that he’s one of the best finishers in the league around the rim.
Moritz Wagner had an excellent start to the year but his surprise season came to a screeching halt in December as he’s missed nearly two full months of play - all but diminishing his trade value. Anzejs Pasecniks was a nice surprise in filling in while Bryant and Wagner were injured but he doesn’t have any trade value.
Lastly, they’ve hung on to Ian Mahinmi and his $64 million dollar deal for this long so they may as well bite the bullet and keep him on the roster for the next few months (or negotiate a buyout) as his deal comes off the books after this season.
When Tommy Sheppard took over, one of the first things he said was that developing young talent is now a priority in D.C. - trading Rui Hachimura would go against everything he’s previously said.
Just like Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. and Isaac Bonga likely aren’t going anywhere.
Over the summer, the Wizards acquired Davis Bertans for the rights to Aaron White (remember him?) Little did they know that come February, he’d be the guy that countless teams would be inquiring about.
Bertans has turned in by far his best year as a pro as he’s putting up career-highs across the board. He’s currently on the payroll for $7M dollars this year and some folks around the league think that he’ll be able to double his salary this summer.
The Latvian Laser is a low maintenance player that seamlessly fits into any offense and can catch fire at any moment. Not too long ago, Tommy Sheppard said that the Wizards ‘have every intention of retaining Davis Bertans’, but at what cost? Washington has hung up the phone on everyone who’s called so far but if someone were to offer, say an unprotected first round pick projected to fall in the lottery, it would be awfully hard to turn that down.
Not to mention, Bertans’ name has been thrown around in hypothetical trades including guys Myles Turner. If the front office is sold on Bryant and Wagner as their centers, they turn that down every time. But, if they’re looking to retool their defense with a rim protector like Turner, Bertans will have to be on his way out to make that happen.
Let’s not forget the hype and excitement of Bertans playing alongside John Wall next year. Many fans (front office included) have been salivating at the mouth thinking about a transition offense with John Wall running the fast break and Bertans running to the three-point line. But, the Wizards finally found their elusive ‘stretch four’ in the prime of his career after searching for one for so many years. Are they willing to give him up after just 2⁄3 of a season? But then again, everyone has a price.
Like Bertans, Jordan McRae is turning in the best season of his career. He’s putting up a career-best 12.8 points but has been bit by the injury bug a couple of times this season.
The best thing working for McRae is that he has ‘get out of my way I’m going to get a bucket’ confidence and doesn’t need a play called for him to score a basket. There might be a playoff team out there who could use his skill sets but there’s also likely teams out there who view him as a ‘good stats bad team’ guy.
Garrison Matthews has been a great story so far this year but like some of the other guys, doesn’t have much trade value as he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
Last but not least, ever since Bradley Beal signed his extension this offseason, he can’t be traded until the summer. So no need to hypothesize there.
Gary Payton II is an outstanding story this year but his minutes are slowly starting to dwindle away. If he’s slowly falling out of the rotation on a future lottery team, it’s unlikely teams will be calling about him.
Isaiah Thomas’ one year ‘prove it’ deal isn’t going according to plan for the veteran. He’s scoring 12.2 points per night and is knocking down 41 percent of this three-point attempts. But his defense is such a liability that no playoff team would likely come knocking about his services.
Unlike Thomas, Ish Smith is having a pleasant surprise of a season. Yes, he’s in the midst of a bit of a cold streak but the most impressive thing about Smith’s game is that he’s able pick up the pace of the play and the ball never stops moving. I’m not saying that Smith is untouchable, however, he seems like the ideal backup point guard for John Wall next year.
Instagram workouts and all, still, no one wants John Wall’s contract.
It’s important not to get caught up in the day-to-day and remember the long-term plans. The rebuild was never about this year, it was all about being competitive in the 2020-2021 season. Tommy Sheppard has been very vocal about his plans for this team and has pushed nearly all the right buttons so far.
With that said, I see Sheppard and the front office sticking to the long-term script and just don’t see the Wizards making any major moves at the trade deadline.