The future is coming for the Washington Wizards. Bilal Coulibaly (19 years old), Jordan Poole (24) and Deni Avdija (22) headline an exciting rebuild following nearly a decade of playoff underperformance. The Wizards should now be firmly in asset-collecting mode, shipping out veterans for draft picks while allowing the youngsters to play their hearts out in a low-stakes environment.
So, which teams are most in need of the Wizards veterans’ services?
The Bucks need to act fast. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been in the media recently discussing his less-than-certain future in Milwaukee, and the Bucks cannot afford to lose one of the two best players in franchise history and one of the 25-ish greatest ever.
Kyle Kuzma and Tyus Jones should both be near the top of Milwaukee’s big board of trade targets. The addition of Kuzma would slide Khris Middleton to shooting guard and relegate Grayson Allen to the bench, instantly making the Bucks one of the tallest teams in the NBA. Though a starting lineup with four players six-foot-seven or taller would cause some matchup problems against smaller and quicker teams, Kuzma’s role as “Middleton insurance” would offset the potential size disadvantage. Middleton has been injury prone since the Bucks’ 2021 title run, and he missed most of the playoffs in 2022 when Milwaukee fell in seven games to the Boston Celtics.
Tyus Jones would slide in perfectly as the Bucks’ backup point guard. ESPN currently lists AJ Green as Milwaukee’s second-string point guard. Jrue Holiday, the starter, is 33 years old and prone to injuries, so the Bucks need a seasoned backup like Jones if they want to make a serious run at another title.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are reportedly expected to meet with Taoyuan Leopards center (and future hall-of-famer) Dwight Howard this week to address their lack of frontcourt size. Howard, now 37 and over a year removed from his last NBA action, has been bouncing around the league for a decade and is certainly not the answer for a Warriors team looking to once again spit in the face of Father Time.
The Warriors have multiple options on the Wizards roster should they be on the market for a backup center (they really should). Mike Muscala, the sweet-shooting big the Wizards acquired via the Kristaps Porzingis trade, would be a cheap, low-usage option for Golden State to add a bit of size off the bench.
Alternatively, the Warriors should look at acquiring Daniel Gafford. Perhaps Gafford is more valuable to the Wizards than he would be to anyone else (did you know he’s only 24?), but he is a strong 6-10 rebounder and shot blocker with a little bit of defensive versatility to boot.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have one remaining season with LeBron James under age 40. They have to capitalize.
Jaxson Hayes is currently listed as the Lakers’ backup center, but his lack of both shooting and defense makes him a suboptimal fit for a LeBron and Anthony Davis-led team trying to contend. Muscala’s above-average shooting would allow coach Darvin Ham to stagger LeBron and AD’s minutes a little bit more and let AD play power forward for a few more minutes per game.
Alternatively, the Lakers could pursue the hot hands of Landry Shamet. Shamet arrived in D.C. via the Chris Paul trade (that’s what I’ll call it for now), and he would be valuable as a cheap, low-risk shooter for a Lakers team that needs floor spacers.
Shamet is good to drain about two three-pointers on five attempts per game in a spark plug role off the bench. Though he may not see the floor much in the playoffs, Shamet would be an excellent pickup to help the Lakers navigate the 82-game regular season with a 39-year-old LeBron and an infamously injury plagued Davis.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, like the Lakers, are in danger of aging out of contention. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the two franchise cornerstones, are approaching their mid-30s, and they’re both oft-injured. Key role players like Nic Batum, Mason Plumlee and Russell Westbrook are on their last legs as plus NBA players, while Marcus Morris and Robert Covington are already past that point.
Pull a Wizards vet’s name out of a hat, and there is a place for them on the Clippers. Delon Wright jumps out, as his suffocating perimeter defense would allow Leonard and George to take some possessions easier on defense (some would argue Leonard already does this).
Wright would be a great fit in LA, but the Clippers really should drop everything right now and pursue Tyus Jones. Westbrook is the current starting point guard, but his two year, $8 million contract means the Clippers should feel no obligation to keep him in that spot if the 34-year-old plays poorly. Jones is an incredible backup and serviceable starter that would allow Leonard and George to feast while providing floor spacing.
On Instragram, NBA in Depth sagely analyzed one of the Clippers’ key problems: “[U]nless they’re a top shooter in the world (ie: Steph [Curry], [Damian] Lillard), it’s suboptimal for your stars to be your best shooters on the floor at all times, particularly with someone like Kawhi, who isn’t super gung-ho from three in the first place. Key pieces like Westbrook, Mann, Martin, and multiple non-shooting bigs put a ton of strain on Powell, Batum, Covington and Morris to be knockdown shooters.”
Jones would ease the shooting burden of Leonard and George as a starter while allowing Westbrook to thrive as a spark plug off the bench. Alternatively, he would captain the bench unit while relieving some of Terance Mann’s playmaking duties.