The Washington Wizards, broadly speaking, have three possible paths before Thursday's NBA trade deadline: Make a move, stand pat, punt away the season. It's time to examine each option.
The two teams sandwiching the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings made a headline worthy deal Tuesday. Forget waiting for the deadline or staying with the cards in hand, Orlando and Detroit shuffled the deck.
That doesn't mean Washington should.
The franchise's decision makers put together a roster last offseason they felt could compete with the best of the best in the East. Through 51 games, those pieces haven't been together. Even if with put aside swingman Alan Anderson's season-long absence following ankle surgery, coach Randy Wittman has been dealing with a short stack of options more often than essentially every coach in the league.
With a little luck, that might change immediately.
Washington often played with 8-10 players in December and January. Wittman had 13 available in the final game before the All-Star break as Gary Neal (knee) joined Anderson in street clothes. Neal's injury seemed like a day-to-day scenario. When we last checked on Anderson, the veteran was progressing to the point he could be available before the month ends if not over the next week. The Wizards (23-28) return from the All-Star break with three games in three days starting with the Utah Jazz Thursday at Verizon Center.
Simply having all the pieces in place for the remaining games might be the missing piece for a playoff push. The Wizards are 10th in the East, three games behind the Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot.
If Bradley Beal plays the final 31 games, that's one more than he's played to date. Since returning from his latest leg stress injury on Jan. 13, he's played in 13 of 15 games with an evolving minutes limit. His stats in that stretch: 25.7 minutes, 17.2 points, 50.9 field goal percentage, 41.0 percent clip from 3.
If Beal keeps up the pace and plays around 36 minutes per game going forward -- he was on the court for 37 in Washington's previous game at Milwaukee-- his scoring jumps to 24.1 with 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Those are some useful numbers.
Other than a brief reunion with Nene and Marcin Gortat in the starting lineup, the Wizards are committed to small ball, to pace and space. Even though the overall personnel don't quite fit this plan, particularly at power forward, this still works seeing as it maximizes All-Star John Wall's talent. The primary issue with that approach to date, defense. Washington ranks 26th in points allowed (105.4). The primary culprit, 3-point defense. Opponents shoot a league-best 38.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Wizards.
This brings us back to Anderson and brings up the question, why did the Wizards sign the 6-foot-6 wing? For his two-way perimeter game. Perhaps his presence changes the defensive flow while still giving Wall a viable 3-point shooter.
Now, don't confuse the return of Anderson, 33, as a splashy game-changer. Even if available, it could take a minute for the elimination of rust. That's why we're keeping the entire roster angle front of mind.
Ideally the Wizards would have a third go-to talent capable of scoring or creating for others when Wall and Beal rest. Perhaps simply having enough bodies so the likes of Wall, Beal, Jared Dudley, Gortat, Nene and Garrett Temple are not tasked with heavy minutes helps all become more effective when on the court. Trade deadline deals the previous two seasons fixed clear roster gaps. This group is two-deep everywhere when healthy.
* The Wizards have lost more games due to injury -- approximately 221 -- than any team in the league.
* Going forward, they have the second easiest schedule.
* It's not like the teams in the 4-8 playoff spots are running away from the Wizards. Washington is four games back in the loss column of Atlanta, the fourth seed. Rumors have the Hawks possibly breaking up their core. Who knows what happens with Miami, the fifth seed, if Chris Bosh's medical scare sidelines the big man. Charlotte reportedly lost forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Lastly, let's talk cost and reality. Grabbing a stretch-four like New Orleans' Ryan Anderson would help, but the Pelicans might want a first round pick or rookie Kelly Oubre. That move could put Washington into the playoffs while hurting its future for a player on an expiring contract.
Perhaps the Wizards take on a multi-year contract like Detroit; Harris is in year one of a four-year, $64 million deal. If Kevin Durant dreams remain, adding payroll is tricky business.
Add it all up and staying pat has benefits, especially for those who believe the roster Washington put together last summer can contend when healthy. We might finally get the chance to see that scenario play out.