At this point I've looked at two angles, both of which are about the Wizards thinking playoffs with varying degrees of aggression. This post will go the other way. With the composition of the roster, with a reality check on the season and with the goal of an NBA title in mind, one can make the case that Washington's best bet isn't chasing the 2016 leaders, but jump-starting the future.
After 51 games, many of which included epic defensive lapses or schizophrenic performances, nobody outside of the organization can feel extremely confident that this team turns things around. We can keep pointing out that Washington, 23-28 entering Thursday's game against Utah, is only three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, as former Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells famously said, you are what your record says you are.
The Wizards lead the NBA in games missed due to injury. Unless all were dipped in the river Styx during the All-Star break, who's to say more aches and pains won't crop up over the final two months.
Even with the roster possibly at full strength in the coming days for the first time all season, issues remain. The crafty Jared Dudley is the only legit stretch-4 option on the roster and he gives up size and rebounding to nearly every opponent. John Wall is the essentially the only player consistently capable of creating offense for himself and others. Washington ranks last in 3-point shooting defense.
All that said, if they were already one of the top eight seeds, making a bold trade would have merit. Get the fourth seed and with it, homecourt advantage in the first round. Washington reached the conference semifinals the last two years without it. The thing is, mortgaging a portion of their future for help won't ensure they snag one of those coveted eight slots. Just finishing eighth likely means the daunting task of facing LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round.
However, dealing away assets now could put the Wizards in the rare position of playing ahead going into the offseason. You know those teams that own a draft with a bevy of picks? Washington could be one of those teams.
As my colleague J. Michael wrote this morning, the Wizards have numerous players that might be attractive to playoff teams. However, he came at the list from the perspective that Washington won't give in. That's not the exercise here.
Washington can play out the string and, whether they make the playoffs or not, lose these assets for nothing next off-season.
The Wizards could also seek trade partners. If they put up a "for sale" sign quickly, they might be at the front of the line in what looks likes a sellers market based on the number of teams still vying for the playoffs. Dudley's 3-point shooting percentage ranks third in the NBA. Nene's power and passing can carry a team at times. As a package or with other pieces, it conceivable some hopeful contender would pony up a first round pick or young player.
Here's the added bonus with the punt option. More losses means more lottery balls. Whether the 2016 draft class overall wows the talent evaluators or not, there will be gems for a GM to unearth.
Here's what next year's team could look like:
Frontcourt: Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre
Backcourt: John Wall, Bradley Beal (restricted free agent)
* Based on conversations before this season tipped and with the third guard role wide open, it's expected that 2012 second round pick Tomas Satoransky brings his athletic and instinctive game across the pond.
* Power forward Aaron White, Washington's second round pick last year, is impressing overseas.
* 2016 first round pick (no second rounder; traded in deal for Oubre)
* Assets (1st round pick?) acquired in any hypothetical trades before Thursday's deadline.
For starters, nobody would call the Wizards old any more. At 26, Wall would be the second oldest behind Gortat. The roster needs more bigs, but cap space isn't an issue, KD2DC talk aside. The pieces in place are for space and pace offense with Wall directing traffic. With trades before this deadline, the Wizards could have enough assets for an interesting deal next summer. It just depends if they want to chase the leaders now or jump-start the future.
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