Through an hour-long saga on Friday night, a would-be trade that didn't happen and produced an epic live story arc on Twitter, the Wizards' immediate plans were essentially leaked for everyone to see. The trade may have fallen through, but the Wizards' cards have been shown.
Based on the reported structure of this deal, and their targeting of Trevor Ariza, it's clear the Wizards would like to add a wing defender, so badly they are willing to part with two key members of their rotation. That, and they want to save some money.
To bring in Ariza, the Wizards were about to jettison both Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, guys with solidified roles on the team.
Oubre was a first-round pick in 2015. He is putting up career-best numbers and is fifth on the team in minutes. He is a restricted free agent this summer and could, in theory, present a cheaper long-term option at small forward than Otto Porter Jr.
But the Wizards were about to give him up, along with another valuable piece, for a 33-year-old Ariza who is shooting just 37.9 percent this season. Oubre, it appears, is not a part of the Wizards' future.
Though it was unlikely Rivers would stay beyond this season, he logs a lot of minutes for them as a backup guard. Rivers is their primary backup shooting guard and swings over to point guard in a pinch, like when John Wall is injured.
That the Wizards were willing to give up both players for one guy, and one on an expiring deal worth $15 million, shows they see both Oubre and Rivers as expendable.
There is also an indication here of just how desperate the Wizards are to address their shortcomings. Ariza would have helped in three important areas that have put the Wizards in a bind this season. He would give them a boost on defense, in rebounding and as a locker room leader.
Though Ariza isn't the 27-year-old bulldog the Wizards had when he played in Washington five years ago, he would have stepped right in as arguably their best defensive player. As recently as last season, Ariza was a difference maker as a perimeter pest for the Rockets.
Rebounding continues to be a major problem for the Wizards and Ariza, though not a big man roaming the paint, can pull in five or six boards a game. He would also give them a tone-setting, tough veteran with a blue-collar approach on the defensive end.
There were also some important financial implications of this deal. The Wizards obviously are trying to shed some salary, as they showed with the Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith deals earlier this season. They are in the luxury tax and, though this deal wouldn't have made a major impact, it would have helped.
Ariza's $15 million deal would be about $860,000 cheaper than Rivers and Oubre combined. Add in the luxury tax penalty and they would save about $2.1 million in total. They would still be about $5.4 million over the luxury tax threshold with plenty of work to do to get under.
The Wizards have carried one of the highest payrolls in the league this season. Currently, they rank sixth among NBA teams with $130 million committed. It's much harder to justify paying that much money when the team is underachieving.
The Wizards have some specific goals and now they have been made public. Surely, they will still aim to address them. They will just have to do so in a different way.
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