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February mailbag answers Part 1 of 3: Trade packages for Beal, Westbrook and international players

Here are our answers to all of your email questions in this mailbag.

Washington Wizards v Miami Heat
The Washington Wizards have the most non-American players in the NBA. But it isn’t why they are one of the worst teams in the league.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Thank you so much for your questions. We received a large number of questions for both the Wizards and Mystics, so I will put them in separate posts. This post will be on the Wizards questions that we received via email. I’ll have another post for our Wizards questions in the comments and after, another post on the Mystics’ questions. I apologize if we can’t get to all these questions today.

Thank you!


Email questions

Scott Brooks will likely be fired after this year. Who do you see as a potential candidate? (Nathan Snell)

Marcus Atkinson: I really love Kenny Atkinson with this team. He was known for several things that I think fits this team: playing uptempo, playing hard on both ends and developing young talent.

Some other candidates that should be considered would be Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, Wes Unseld Jr. or Becky Hammon. Those are some candidates that have gotten some consideration over some of the most recent positions.

Mark Jackson is a name a lot of people in the fanbase mentions but given his unceremonious exit out of Golden State, I just don’t see him getting such a position anytime soon.

John Heiser: He won’t be fired. It will be a truly Leonsisian transition where the head coach’s contract just... expires. Everyone says their platitudes about the last five years and it’s done.

The Wizards have to decide who they want to be before picking their next head coach. Are they a talented group that just needs the right system changes? If so then bring in coaches who have experience from other top teams like Ime Udoka (Spurs system) or Juwan Howard (Heat system and a former Wizards player) and is the head coach at Michigan.

Are they on the verge of a reboot? Then pick the best coach for the next generation of this team. If the GM making the hire is (still) Sheppard then we can expect FC Barcelona head coach (and Maryland alum) Sarunas Jasikevicius to be on the shortlist.

There’s been a series of coaching hires from the “assistant with G League experience” pool. If the Wizards go that route the first name that comes to mind is Vanderbilt HC Jerry Stackhouse, who also once played in Washington.

Bradley Beal is a great talent, and I get why the front office wants to keep him. Realistically, though, isn’t trading him far and away the best option to add talent? What do they think they can do to build around him, given their situation (Bruce Gagnon)

Matt Modderno: I think they think this is all COVID’s fault and with time to gel next year, another high pick, more maturation, a few more free agents, and a healthy Thomas Bryant, Washington looks competitive again. All of those things are probably at least partly true but you still have a ceiling on what this group can accomplish.

They just need to decide what they want. If they want a team where if everything goes right could maybe get to like a 6 or 7 seed, great, they probably have a realistic path to get there. If they want to even get to an Eastern Conference Finals, this isn’t the core to do it, I don’t think.

Ted Leonsis has always shown me that he cares more about the Capitals than the Wizards and Mystics. My question is what is going to take for him to realize that he needs to make the organizations better? (Nathan Snell)

Albert Lee: I think we need to understand that winning teams are not the same thing as the fact that an owner cares. The Capitals are in a Big Four league and have been a perennial Stanley Cup Contender for a decade. Ted certainly has a winning NHL team over the years (even though I think they should have won more than one title), but fans have been frustrated with constant ticket price increases among other things.

Call me a “sucker” if you want, but I honestly believe that Ted cares about the Wizards and Mystics as much as he does for the Capitals.

His staff’s actions haven’t worked for the Wizards specifically. However. I think he should be a bit more quick to fire front office staff and coaches for the Wizards, and he should be a little bit more active (but not Dan Snyder-like) when attracting free agents. But otherwise, I don’t think Ted has done a bad job with the Wizards, record aside. He hasn’t been excellent with team record, but the NBA views him as a team owner whom people want to work for, not the opposite.

For the Mystics, Ted and Lincoln Holdings/Monumental Sports were not active enough with them during the early part of his ownership of the team (2005-12). But since Mike Thibault was hired as their General Manager and Head coach for the 2013 season on, and since he has been quite active with them over the years (even before Elena Delle Donne arrived), Ted is now anecdotally regarded as one of the best team owners in the WNBA. I wouldn’t have said that in 2012, but I can say that now.

And for anyone who thinks Ted should sell the Wizards, I just find it would be for the wrong reasons in my opinion.

It appears to me that as I watch Wizards games they are pretty much always the team with the slowest and least athletic players. Is this the reason for their bad season?

Has Tommy Sheppard put together a team full of international players as a way to say to the world that ‘Washington is the most international NBA team’ but by doing so gave up team skill and athleticism for identity politics? (Bruce Gagnon)

Matt Modderno: Sheppard talked a lot about getting more athletic in the offseason and then didn’t really go that route. In my opinion, based on the rules and styles of play now, athleticism (quick first step, etc) is less important offensively than ever before. But defensively it’s so hard to guard people for those exact same reasons.

So if you can find better run-jump athletes who are also disciplined and smart about angles and positioning, great. Also, international doesn’t equal “unathletic”. Some of the most athletic players in the league aren’t Americans.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the two-time reigning MVP. TomasSatoransky had the highest vertical on the Wizards while he was here. The team should get the best players with the most potential they can find regardless of where they’re from.

John Heiser: Agree with Matt here that International does not equate to less athletic. Raul Neto has been one of the Wizards best perimeter defenders, not that we’re setting the bar high here but let’s not sugar coat it either.

Meanwhile if we we’re grading out most-to-least in terms of athleticism, rookie guard Cassius Winston would be near the bottom. Have we gone far enough down this path to point out that the premise doesn’t hold water and reads more like someone trying to twist ‘identity politics’ into being a boogie man?

Washington’s problem is on what to do with drafted talent once those players are on the roster. Washington keeps drafting well rounded, high IQ players, but then fail to play them to their strengths. Troy Brown Jr is still trying to find his way. Deni Avdija was drafted based on ball skills but doesn’t get play calls that require them. While he’s not a bouncy player his side to side athleticism on defense has been a big plus.

Yanir Rubinstein: Nikola Jokic isn’t American and is “not athletic.” Yet, he is an MVP candidate. To get to the Wizards’ roster specifically, is Moritz Wagner considered “athletic” or international? Not sure about either (he played in college in the US, right?).

It makes less sense to talk about international players as “not athletic” nowadays.

Bradley Beal is off the trade market but do you see him being traded anyway? (Nathan Snell)

John Heiser: Brad is not going to be traded the way John was, with anonymous reports of trade demands, denials, etc. After this season, everyone involved will have their say, starting with Brad. He’s gone much farther than just saying he likes it here. He’s spoken about his desire to be D.C.’s Dirk. One team for his whole career that includes a title. The team has gone farther than say they want him. They firmly believe they can sign him after he opts out.

Even there we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We can’t say for certain who the GM will be! Ted and Zach Leonsis have to make that decision first. Then that GM (or Tommy) needs to hire a coach. Which is all to say I’m sticking to my original timeline. Check back after we know the lottery order for the 2021 NBA Draft.

Do you think it’s a good idea to trade Westbrook? I do. If we did what is reasonable compensation? (Bruce Gagnon)

John Heiser: Trading Westbrook this offseason could bring back... something. It’s not much different than trading John in that its possible but we likely won’t LOVE whats coming back in the deal due to the salary involved. Would the Oklahoma City Thunder possibly bite on bringing Russ home, plus a second rounder, in exchange for Al Horford?

Yanir Rubinstein: Sure, it’s a good idea if you can get anything in return. At this point, however, Washington can’t.

Marcus Atkinson: No. The John Wall situation brought light to a problem, which is trying to trade these huge contracts while the value of the player is low. The Wizards will be better off waiting another year or so to explore any opportunity to trade Westbrook.

The Wizards need to find a way to get Tacko Fall from the Celtics and Bol Bol from the Nuggets. They can fix their defensive problems. Whoever is evaluating future draft talent is incompetent. Your thoughts? (Andre Turner)

Matt Modderno: This isn’t 1964 anymore, being really tall doesn’t equal really good. There’s a reason both of those guys barely play for their current teams. If they could sit and hang back in a zone all day and no one would try to put them on an island away from the basket, maybe they would be impactful. But that’s never going to fly in the NBA.

Bol has more of a chance than Fall does simply because he has better lateral quickness. If you want to fix the defense, stockpile a bunch of 3-and-D wings like most of the good defensive teams in the league do.

Who could be a potential draft prospect for the Wizards? (Nathan Snell)

John Heiser: Count me as a believer that now is the time to get a new lead guard. Whether that’s Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs is up to your imagination. Either one would make me so very happy. After those two, Jonathan Kuminga and Evan Mobley stand out. Jalen Green rounds out my top 5, which is where I expect the Wizards to be picking. It’s not that Green won’t go higher. I expect him to steadily improve his standing as the G League “season” progresses.