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January 2022 mailbag, Part 1: Who could help make the Wizards a playoff team and what’s a good nickname for Bradley Beal?

Here is the first part of our mailbag.

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards - Play-In Tournament
Would you like to see Domantas Sabonis on the Wizards?
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Thank you for your questions in January’s mailbag. Our first part is below!

I haven’t heard much about who we’re (Wizards) interested in or who’s on the block. My question is what switch would you make to transform the new look Wiz into a guaranteed playoff lineup? (Anthony Reid)

Renzo Salao: I’d definitely go hard for Domantas Sabonis. The exact price for him isn’t confirmed just yet, but I’d imagine a good starting point would be the classic offer of a young player on rookie contract (Rui, Deni), a veteran to make salaries work (Trez, Bryant, Bertans) and a first-round pick. If we have to overpay, so be it.

John Heiser: The names most linked to the Wizards include the Detroit Pistons forward (and Washington legacy) Jerami Grant, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, and to a lesser degree Kings forward Harrison Barnes. We also know Tommy has kicked the tires on Dallas F/C Kristaps Porzingis and Pacers center, Myles Turner. There is also a belief amongst NBA media that Pascal Siakam could be available.

I really like Jerami Grant as a two-way player. Not everyone agrees with me. In the two seasons prior to being “the man” in Detroit, he shot 39% from 3pt range on over 500 attempts. His percentage has slumped as his attempts have become tougher as the primary scorer in the Motor City. Still, he’s a scoring threat inside and out and can be the primary big-wing defender on a playoff team as we saw in Denver. The concern is that he is extension eligible next year and could seek 28M per season from his new team. The Nuggets replaced him with Aaron Gordon at the cost of Gary Harris (rotation guard), RJ Hampton (recent first-round pick) and a lightly protected first-round pick. Gordon signed for 4 years/86 million, with incentives it could be 92 million. The Wizards can match that kind of package but the price may be steeper as the 2022 free agent class is considered weak.

Sabonis is our best shot at recreating Unselds’ Nuggets east of the Rockies. He’s an All Star and triple-double threat as a gifted passer. He’s another Gonzaga guy so he’d feel right at home on this roster, although we’d likely have to send Indy some of our Gonzaga guys in return. Sabonis’ low relative salary over the next two seasons make him that more valuable and expensive to acquire. The Bulls trade for Magic center Sasha Vucevic is a guide for what it might take to acquire the son of Arvydas.

The Bulls sent former lottery pick and soon-to-be extension eligible Wendell Carter Jr, former Wizards Otto Porter (for salary purposes) and TWO first-round draft picks to Orlando for “Vuc” and veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu. The Wizards would have to include at last one future first, which gets complicated due to the conditions they put on the pick traded to Houston in the John Wall-Russell Westbrook deal. Oklahoma City now owns that pick. Beyond that, Tommy and company would have to include a recent lottery pick (Hachimura or Avdija) and another player with plus value (Kispert or Isaiah Todd).

Would you trade a FRP, Thomas Bryant, Deni Avdija, *and* either Kispert or Isaiah Todd for 2 years of peak Sabonis? Even then the salary doesn’t quite match so more players would need to be included. The Pacers have helpful vets on expiring contracts such as Jeremy Lamb or manageable numbers such as Justin Holiday and Torrey Craig should the Wizards push for Davis Bertans to be included. The Pacers owner doesn’t want a full tear down and they’re struggling shooting so maybe Bertans has value that way.

John Morrow: As for who is on the block, I think we should assume that Beal is not being moved at this deadline. Gafford is not eligible to be traded at this deadline due to his extension. I would group the rest as such:

  • Available: Harrell, Holiday, Neto, Bertans
  • Likely to be included in negotiations for a greater player: Bryant, Hachimura, Avdija,
  • Unlikely to be included, but it’s possible: Kuzma, Dinwiddie, KCP, Kispert

To transform the Wiz into a guaranteed playoff lineup, I think that Sheppard and the brain trust will choose one of Hachimura or Avdija to stay in DC and then combine the other in a trade with Bryant or Harrell and another asset. The initial thought is that the asset would be a first-round pick, but then another move would be needed with OKC to alter the protections on the pick that went out in the Wall trade, which seriously complicates matters. The obvious target would be a wing to pair with the backcourt. Jerami Grant has been widely reported, I would expect the Wizards are involved in discussions for Harrison Barnes, Norman Powell and Eric Gordon too. Each would be a good fit but the question is how much these players raise the overall ceiling for what they will cost in young players and assets.

If it were me, I would be trying to include players from the “unlikely to be included, but it’s possible” section that I outlined above. I like Kuzma & KCP as players and they are the type that is needed for a playoff team but both are expiring contracts next season. Kuzma’s play will convince him to opt out of his player option and he will be expensive for a team that will already have Beal presumably on a supermax contract. I would be trying to go for Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown and would include these players who don’t appear to be expendable right now, but who hold higher value across the league. This would be the way to become a playoff team and not just a play-in type.

I know most NBA players nicknames come by accident but, Bradley Beal has been in the league for some time and has never really been associated with one. Even with his 3-point shooting ability.

I have a suggestion… “Red Ryder!” (from the movie A Christmas Carol! Get it?!) Hear me out.

His initials are BB. Can’t use “BB Gun” because of the unfortunate association with gun violence in D.C., the Washington Bullets being changed to Wizards for said reasons etc etc. But The Red Ryder would be a cool nickname for him for his shooting and accuracy alone! (Kenneth Barnes)

Matt Modderno: According to Basketball-Reference, his nicknames are: Real Deal, Big Panda, Blue Magic, Brad, Dr. Dre. I legitimately have never heard anyone call him most of those but I still got a good chuckle from reading them. I would prefer to be able to refer to him as “franchise player who plays like it more often.”

Renzo: I feel like what’s worked against Brad in the nickname department is how catchy his name already is. Bradley Beal just rolls off the tongue, no? Add the alliteration and it feels like a name that doesn’t want a true nickname.

Albert Lee: He has been known as “Panda” early in his career, but I concur with Renzo that just being Brad is good enough.