Quick Links

Dissecting Serge Ibaka's trade to Raptors, what it means for Wizards

Dissecting Serge Ibaka's trade to Raptors, what it means for Wizards

Now that Serge Ibaka is with the Toronto Raptors, who have slipped significantly in the East since losing 11 of their last 15 games, how does that change what the Wizards might do going into the Feb. 23 trade deadline?

Not a whole lot. The Raptors have the 'stretch' power forward that they've needed for two seasons after using Luis Scola one year ago and going between rookie Pascal Siakam (a rookie), Patrick Patterson (a backup) and Jared Sullinger (a backup) as the starter. 

Ibaka is shooting a career-high 39% from three-point range and is a more atheltic option. He's also has been a starter since 2011-12 with the Oklahoma City Thunder (under current Wizards coach Scott Brooks) and for his 56 games with the Orlando Magic before he was shipped out during his first season there. 

Ibaka averages 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, but his presence did little to boost the Magic who are 21-36 for the second-worst record in the East entering Wednesday's games.

Although it was widely reported that the Wizards had "interest" in Ibaka, those reports weren't accurate, as CSNmidatlantic.com reported at the time. There was no real interest:

What's wrong with Ibaka?

Nothing. But Markieff Morris is the starter at his spot. Pre-Morris, Ibaka would've been of signficiant interest but the Wizards now have an elite starting five. Fixing something that's not broken with the kind of roll they're on would be a terrible idea. Ibaka primarily is a face-up player. He doesn't post up much or play comfortably with his back to the basket. Morris can do both. Hide a small on Morris, he'll exploit him in the post. Put a traditional big on him, he'll break him down off the bounce 20 feet from the rim and get the shot he wants almost every time. This is about what's right with Morris, who has had seven double-doubles since Jan. 8. 

[RELATED: Pistons willing to trade All-Star Andre Drummond]

Financially, would it have made any sense for Washington?

Not in the slightest. First, you'd be ignoring the greater need to create a logjam at a position where you have no need. The bigger need is for a scoring guard behind Bradley Beal with Marcus Thornton out of the rotation and rookie Sheldon McClellan not ready. If Ibaka were to be relegated to the bench behind Morris, there's a good chance you'd have no chance of retaining him in free agency. That makes no sense given the Wizards would've had to relinquish more than Morris in such a deal to make it work via salary matching. If Morris goes to the bench, it's a bit disrespectful for a player who has done more than enough to earn his spot. Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent after this season. He's likely to get a significant bump from $12.5 million he's making on that expiring deal. In the open market, he could fetch $20 million-plus. Morris, who averages 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 36% three-point shooting, is under contract through 2019 at an average of $8 million. Give up a first-round pick as Toronto did to acquire Ibaka, no matter how well or badly he plays, means you're committed to retaining him. The Wizards already have a big ticket item coming up this summer in Otto Porter who is restricted. For a team that's over the salary cap but under the luxury tax, such a move creates more problems than it solves.

Does this make Toronto better? 

Who knows. A lot of deals look great on paper. You can't force chemistry. The Raptors will have it or they won't, but they had to do something as they slide down the standings after finishing as the second-best team in the East last season by advancing to the conference finals. They're still the underdog in a matchup with the champion Cleveland Cavaliers and this doesn't even assure them of being better than the Boston Celtics and Wizards though in theory it should make them more competitive. Ibaka's presence didn't change the Magic a whole lot.

Did Toronto give up too much?

What they sacrificed is about right for a player such as Ibaka, but he's unrestricted, He can leave and join any team he wants to this summer. If the pairing of the two doesn't work, yes, the Raptors will have given up too much. They didn't just send a first-round pick but Terrence Ross who is a solid bench player/borderline starter. Ross, a good athlete who flourishes in the open court, averages 10.4 points and shoots 38% from three. At 6-7, he played shooting guard and small forward.  If Ibaka leaves, the Raptors will have given up that pick and Ross for a rental that lasted fewer than 30 games.  The reward can be high but the risk could be higher. Last season at this time, the Wizards had talks about acquiring Ryan Anderson from the New Orleans Pelicans. They wouldn't make the deal, however, because the Pelicans wanted a first-round pick for a player who was on an expiring deal. That means the $20 million that Anderson fetched in the open market last summer as an unrestricted free agent would've cost more to keep him. Give up a first-round pick, there has to be assurances that player doesn't leave. With Morris under contract multiyears it made him the far more attractive option.

[RELATED: Bradley Beal's All-Star hopes still alive]

Quick Links

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!