The mounting losses and the hapless nature of those defeats has the 5-11 Washington Wizards entering new territory, a place the franchise has not been in years. The team's steadfast plan of building around John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. may be nearing its end.
The time has come to at least consider something drastic.
That means, at least according to ESPN, essentially everyone on the Wizards’ roster is available in trades. That includes both Wall and Beal, two All-Stars who are just 28 and 25, respectively.
This would be a departure from their recent stance of withholding Beal, in particular, in talks for available stars like Jimmy Butler. But sensing the current roster may have run its course, the Wizards are exploring their options.
There is added urgency in the money they have committed. The Wizards have the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA and are due to pay about $12.4 million in luxury tax, according to Spotrac.com.
The Wizards’ thoughts of trading either Wall or Beal are very preliminary, according to a person familiar with the situation. This being out there simply lets other teams know they will listen.
Despite the whirlwind of reports, any major deal would likely take a long time to orchestrate. The Wizards would likely take months to lay the groundwork, even if matters get worse on the court.
When you have two players as good as Wall or Beal, a good return needs to be guaranteed in a trade. Plus, both players have demonstrated over the years they can put on a good face through times of turmoil.
It’s also worth pointing out that this does not mean a rebuild is imminent. They aren’t close to being there yet.
With two All-Stars in their 20s, the Wizards would first try to retool around them. And if they do trade one, that doesn’t mean they are also trading the other. Reactionary moves are not in the Wizards' nature.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes, the Wizards would prefer to first trade others on the roster, but so far have not received enticing offers for Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris and the like. The ideal option would be to trade one of them and give the new-look roster time to adjust before next steps are taken. They have forward depth and could replace any of those three in the short-term.
Porter, though, has a sizable contract. He’s owed about $81 million over the next three seasons. Though he’s only 25 and one of the game’s best three-point shooters, that is a lot of money to take on for a player who has yet to make an All-Star team.
Morris, meanwhile, is struggling this season. Oubre is having a solid year, but is due to hit free agency after this season and won’t be cheap to re-sign.
Beal is by far the Wizards’ most attractive trade asset, given he’s a young All-Star and due $81 million the next three seasons, a relatively modest price given his ability and today’s market.
Wall, on the other hand, has a supermax extension worth $169 million that doesn’t kick in until next year. He is set to become one of the highest-paid players in the NBA and will be owed $40 million-plus per season into his 30s.
That doesn’t mean Wall couldn’t be traded, if the Wizards choose that route. Several teams in particular stand out as logical fits. There are the Lakers, who will need to give LeBron James some better teammates at some point to compete for his fourth championship ring.
Wall has the same agent as James and would add a second All-Star to the Lakers’ rebuild. If they pulled in a third star, like Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis, they would be in business.
Two other teams that make sense, if the Wizards decide to trade Wall, would be the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic. Both have stacked top draft picks in recent years, but are in desperate need of a point guard.
Beal could conceivably field offers from half the league. An All-Star at his age and at his price is something most teams could use. He has zero character concerns and his game is compatible with anyone. He hits threes, is effective off-the-ball and plays defense.
The biggest question through all of this is how the Wizards’ front office would factor in. If they want to make wholesale changes, owner Ted Leonsis has to first determine who will be making those decisions. If shuffling the front office is at all an option he’s considering, that has to be weighed in the timing of any major moves.
The Wizards are a ways away from pulling the trigger on a major trade, but the seeds are being planted in case their situation gets even worse.
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