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April Mailbag Answers part 2: Wizards’ free agent targets and keeping players in shape during a coronavirus pandemic

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This is the second part of our April 2020 mailbag.

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Troy Brown Jr. and Moritz Wagner are players who may or may not have much of a future with the Wizards in the next year or so.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you once again for submitting your questions for the April 2020 mailbag! The second part of our mailbag is below. If you missed the first part, click here.

We will have another mailbag coming up in May, hopefully when we have more certainty about the future of the 2019-20 NBA season and more.


Could the Wizards do a sign and trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for Tristan Thompson? (CheetoBingo)

John Morrow: Technically, the Wizards could do this for Thompson. However I don’t think it will happen. The most plausible route is for Washington to sign Thompson with the midlevel exception, which is likely between $9 million and $9.75 million per year, at least before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thompson may indeed exceed that number with his next contract, but if that’s the case, I don’t think the Wizards should go over the MLE to get him. But again, If Washington can sign him with that exception, the main question would be how many years should they offer. A two or three year deal would be an ideal length from the Wizards’ standpoint.

Who do you think the Wizards will trade, Troy Brown or Moritz Wagner? General Manager Tommy Sheppard’s recent comments about needing a rim protector and obtaining one thru draft or free agency would seem to leave one of these guys off the team. Which would you trade based entirely on ability rather than salary? (DCrez)

Matt: Short term, neither are going anywhere, unless it’s a part of a much larger deal. They’re too constrained financially to add a big-time center in free agency and they won’t rely on a rookie to come in and play a big role right away next season.

Long term though, I think Wagner would be more likely to go. They already have Thomas Bryant, a floor-spacer who can open driving lanes for John Wall when he returns. Bryant also shoots a greater percentage around the rim and can knock threes down in games.

How do the players stay in shape during this long hiatus and do they maintain their diets? (Larry Schwartz, email)

Albert: This is an excellent question. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post wrote an article on Mar. 31 that the team is regularly holding video conferences on Zoom. This isn’t just limited to daily check-ins. They’re holding individual workouts on video. Younger players are likely getting more check-ins because the professional mindset hasn’t sunk in yet.

In regard to nutrition, players can order prepared meals daily and go to the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights to pick it up. They are also getting cooking lessons with Stephen Korda, Monumental Basketball’s chef, if they aren’t the best cooks out there.

The toughest part about staying in shape isn’t the physical part. It’s the basketball part. Most players won’t have access to an indoor hoop. Only Bradley Beal and John Wall do at their homes, according to Buckner.

Daniel Medina, Monumental Basketball’s Chief of Athlete Care and Performance also said similar things in a team podcast about the challenges of keeping the Wizards engaged during a quarantine or government mandated stay-at-home period.

I assume that similar procedures are being done with the Mystics’ players, since they are going through the same thing.

With so many teams looking to keep cap space open for 2021 or in the Luxury Tax, I feel like the Wizards’ midlevel exception could get them talent. What position should they focus on? Realistic options? (dcSportzWiz, Twitter)

Albert: John Morrow detailed the figures of the MLE already. Given that the Wizards are probably not making the postseason this season and we don’t know how good Wall will be when he returns from his Achilles injury, I’m not sure if they can get Tristan Thompson, who’s just 29 years old. The kind of player who’s likely getting the MLE is either an older veteran looking for one last payday or maybe a reserve in his prime looking to get one bigger-than-expected payday.

The center position is thin since Ian Mahinmi is probably not coming back, Thomas Bryant hasn’t played at his 2018-19 level and it’s a bit early to say how good Moritz Wagner is. It will be tough to pry away someone like Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol from the Toronto Raptors, but it would be huge if Washington can sell the idea of a contending team over the next two seasons.

There’s a player on the Wizards right now who could (and should) get a bigger salary toward the MLE level in Shabazz Napier. He’s never earned more than $2.3 million in any NBA season and could be kept on another year to shore up the point guard position in case Wall has a setback. Earning a salary toward the MLE level could convince him to stay, which is something Sheppard wants to do.