Ever since John Wall underwent heel surgery then subsequently tore his Achilles in February 2019, the Washington Wizards have been stuck in a state of transition. The 2018-2019 Wizards were a talented group that didn’t end up working. Injuries were the primary contributing factor but one could argue that there were too many rotation-level players and not enough consistent roles available for said personnel. Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. were in contract years and trying to prove themselves, Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris were incumbent starters that weren’t meeting expectations, and the vibes were off from the start.
After the disappointing beginning, the team correctly moved off of Porter, Rivers, Morris and Oubre Jr. with Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky following them out in the ensuing offseason. The trade returns from those assets can be scrutinized (and should be) but it’s clear that the team transitioned then to a mini-rebuild.
The John Wall for Russell Westbrook trade following the 2019-2020 season resulted in a detour from the lowered expectations. In the campaign to follow and then also for last season, the Wizards made a more aggressive effort to win; even more so after the fortunate return from the trade of Westbrook to Los Angeles. Last season resulted in numerous ups and downs, but it’s undeniable that the overall talent level improved. Projecting forward for this year, the collection is better compared to the 2019 and 2020 teams, and comparable to the 2016-2018 Wizards. Many, myself included, think this should have been more of an organic process to improve with a true rebuild instead of a half measure but the team has now committed the super max contract to Bradley Beal and the path has been chosen. They want to win, and now.
After experiencing the 2018-2019 season and then this past one, it has become clear to me as a fan that the Wizards should not count on “strength in numbers” and “quantity over quality” when it comes to team building. If they do, they are ignoring their own history. A team that has ten or eleven rotation players often doesn’t meet its potential. It seemed apparent last year with the glut of combo forwards and centers and it remains the case this year. Egos get in the way and it is human nature for players to think of their futures beyond the current season. If they aren’t receiving playing time or the best opportunities during their court time, the shift to thinking about their own priorities over the team likely happens.
The Wizards employ Kyle Kuzma in a very likely contract year, and Kristaps Porzingis plausibly will be playing in one too if he has a decently healthy and productive season. Add Rui Hachimura and Will Barton to the list of pending free agents, and it should lead to questions about the roster construction. As it stands, Barton’s past history with Wes Unseld Jr. should lead us to believe that he will start at small forward but regardless of who starts games, either Barton or one of the previous four first round picks will receive inconsistent or limited playing time. Between the contractual statuses and overabundance of rotation-level players, a recurring plea from Wizards fans is for leadership to consolidate and go “all-in” for a clear upgrade or star-level player to compete in a more serious way than the currently unfavorable odds to make the play-in round, much less the top six of the conference.
Considering this idea has been brought up ad nauseam since last offseason following the Westbrook transaction, I would offer that these types of trades are not as easy to find as we think. Open roster spots are valuable, and oftentimes teams are not in a position to take back three or even four players in return for one. Additionally, this class of player (stars) is usually not available unless there has been a compelling event between them and their current organization.
Despite this, and fully realizing that the likelihood of this type of transaction is significantly lower following the flurry of activity in the first two weeks of July, I have identified twelve players that the Wizards should be targeting for their big swing.
We’ll consider the feasibility for the Wizards to generate a trade package that is acceptable to the opposing team. Also, we’ll think about what the other teams’ rosters look like and their respective goals moving forward. Plus, the trade partner’s theoretical willingness to trade said player and lastly, recent media rumors regarding that players’ potential availability.
In most cases, I’ll assume that Porzingis will remain on the team as he is not a desirable trade asset at the moment, but represents potential for the Wizards as a 3rd option if a star is acquired to pair with he and Beal.
- Will Barton & Monte Morris can’t be traded until September 6th, just before the start of training camp. Barton very well could be a trade chip, Morris less so. But this timing would be difficult.
- Delon Wright can’t be traded until December 15th.
- Rui Hachimura is extension eligible, likely decreasing his trade value.
- Same with Kyle Kuzma & Kristaps Porzingis.
- Daniel Gafford counts only $1.8M this year before an increase to $12.4M in 2023, potentially impacting his trade value.
- A crucial component for many of these proposals will be altering the draft capital owed to the Knicks (by way of Houston from the Westbrook trade). As of now, the Wizards are unable to trade a first round pick until 2028. I will assume that this can be accomplished and the Wizards will have access to ample future draft assets to use as part of an exchange.
Cost of Return: Very High
Fit with Beal & Porzingis: Good
Contract: 4 years, $197.66M
Nets Want: Either a great return to compete now or many unprotected picks & swaps
Durant needs no introduction. We all know that he is a first class Hall of Famer. He turns 34 next season, but is under contract for four years. He’s battled injuries over the last three years but has retained first team All-NBA ability. He’d require the home run swing of them all as a return, but the Wizards would be foolish not to try.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN outlined the biggest star trades of the last two decades which provides us with an idea of what it will cost the Wizards to acquire him. My guess is that it will require three unprotected first round picks and two or three pick swaps, on top of enough positive value in matching salary.
Potential Cost: Kuzma, Barton, Davis, Kispert, Avdija, Gafford, unprotected firsts in 2025 & 2027, top 5 protected in 2029 and unprotected swap rights in 2026 and 2028.
Or, Porzingis, Avdija, Davis, Kispert and the same package of picks.
Acquirability: Very Likely
Cost of Return: Medium
Fit with Beal & Porzingis: Good
Contract: 3 years, $75.4M. Then a player option in year 4.
Hawks Want: A better fit next to Clint Capela & Onyeka Okongwu
Collins has been much discussed as a player potentially on the trade block. He experienced nice success in his age 21 and 22 seasons with a 2019-2020 season culminating in a 21.6ppg and 10.1 rebound campaign. Over the past two years as the Hawks accumulated more talent around him, his boxscore numbers have dropped and there have been rumors of friction with Trae Young who plays a ball dominant style. Collins also likely is best splitting time between the power forward and center spots, and in the last two years he’s almost exclusively played next to Clint Capela or Onyeka Okongwu which has limited his best trait as a rim runner in the pick and roll.
Collins seemed content to take a step back in production throughout the teams’ 2021 playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals to help overall team success. He has seemingly shown some defensive improvement to adapt to team needs.
For Washington, the main question is, how much better is he than Kyle Kuzma? Averaging over $25M in annual salary, the gap between the two for this season is $12M. That number likely shrinks on Kuzma’s next contract but will still likely be $4M - $8M more per year. Collins offensive profile is superior in efficiency both from 3-point range and inside the arc. Defensively, they’re similar but Kuzma is more versatile while Collins blocks twice as many shots. Kuzma, while inferior on offense, is easy to fit around. Collins is seen by most as a better, and younger, player but how much is that worth to Washington?
His fit next to Porzingis is of interest. I’m of the opinion that his rim running would fit well next to him but would that relegate one of them to spotting up more than they should? Neither are great passers (one advantage that Kuzma has over Collins) meaning that they will require good passing and the Wizards do not have much of this at the guard spots.
Lastly, the trade package back to Atlanta is a tough one to build. The Hawks have three young forwards, AJ Griffin, De’Andre Hunter and Jalen Johnson. Bogdan Bogdanovic profiles as a superior bench guard to Will Barton. They have two quality centers. The Hawks seem to have a full rotation of players with one or two spare. If we assume Kuzma is in the deal, the Hawks likely decide between Johnny Davis or Deni Avdija as the additional player. Is that an appropriate cost from the Wizards? Both teams are right around the luxury tax line and matching salaries will be difficult unless both Davis and Avdija are included. I think that makes a trade less likely, but it requires a long look by the Wizards.
Potential Cost: Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, Vernon Carey Jr. and two second round picks
Cost of Return: High
Fit with Beal & Porzingis: Good
Contract: 4 years, $138.99M
Thunder Want: Maximum return of assets or young players
Gilgeous-Alexander would be a really nice fit next to Bradley Beal. His name has been brought up by media members on a few occasions as a player to watch on the trade market, but my guess is that he is really unlikely to be moved. From the Thunder’s end, they already have premium young talent at all positions. Gilgeous-Alexander fits their timeline and they don’t need more young, unproven players as they already have arguably too many.
I don’t see a possible trade without a third team involved and this requires a bit too many mental gymnastics to include it here. But he’s an obvious guy to try to trade for.
We’ll have two more pieces of content soon with additional names for the Wizards to consider targeting.