Earlier this week, the NBA news focused on what Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal would do. Would he request a trade? After all, the team was in salary cap purgatory for at least another couple years. And David Aldridge of The Athletic believed that he and the Wizards should part ways.
But Thursday, if anything, indicates that the Wizards are sticking with Beal.
They drafted Corey Kispert No. 15 overall. But they also traded Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 first-round pick. Isaiah Jackson, the No. 22 pick was then traded to the Wizards. But the Wizards traded Jackson to the Indiana Pacers for Aaron Holiday and the No. 31 pick, who was Isaiah Todd.
Ultimately, the moves give the Wizards a lot more cap flexibility, short and long term. In the short term, which I’ll define as one year, it’s possible, if not probable that the Wizards may trade some combination of Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope and/or Harrell for players at a different position when free agency begins next week. Right now, point guard is the glaring weakness since Holiday has only been a reserve for his career, while Raul Neto and Ish Smith are not starting-caliber point guards for the longer term.
In the longer term, the Wizards will still have more cap space, especially in the 2022-23 NBA season. If Westbrook remained, he would have likely exercised his player option of $47 million. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t. But because he is now traded, and because Harrell and Caldwell-Pope’s contracts expire after next season, the Wizards ultimately have about $25 million in extra cap space according to Bobby Marks of ESPN.
This proposed trade would open up north of $25M in room for Washington in 2022/23.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 29, 2021
The goal would for the Washington front office is to sell Beal on the future. https://t.co/J4srzsh4Nn
As Wizards fans, we are taught to be skeptics because of past poor performances. After all, Westbrook was traded from the Houston Rockets to Washington in exchange for John Wall, which caused controversy among some fans. And to be clear, that trade was a “clean up” of Washington’s prior decision to sign Wall to a supermax contract in 2016.
But sometimes, trades aren’t just about making one move. It’s also about making the move after it. Westbrook had an excellent season with Washington and it helped increase his trade value to the right partner. The Lakers were willing to take a risk by acquiring his contract. So ... why not?
General Manager Tommy Sheppard has put the Wizards in a better position to compete in the longer term with the Westbrook trade, even though it still hurts to lose him.
And though NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes didn’t go quite this far, I will. Sheppard deserves praise for the moves he made last night. That’s because most of us couldn’t have seen the Wizards in their current position where they have more cap space sooner than they would have if they decided not to bring Westbrook onboard last season.