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Wizards deadline strategy: Thinking of future is forward thinking


Wizards deadline strategy: Thinking of future is forward thinking

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. 

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.

RELATED: Hawks more or less likely to deal with Splitter done?

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.

MORE WIZARDS: If Wizards traded, who'd have most value?

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

A sluggish start and a handful of woefully inefficient defensive efforts had the Wizards looking for answers early into the 2018-19 NBA season.

But making a major trade was not something the Washington front office was willing to do. As the Jimmy Butler saga reached its climax in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves reportedly attempted to strike of a conversation with the Wizards regarding Bradley Beal.

The details, reported by Marc Stein in his latest New York Times newsletter (via ProBasketballTalk), are minimal, but it sounds like the Wizards quickly brushed the discussion aside as Beal has remained off-limits in their eyes.

Word is the Wolves did try to engage Washington — another team falling well short of expectations — in trade talks for the sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal. But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start. They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts. 

Otto Porter, like many of his teammates, started the season in the wrong direction. But trading Porter is a tricky situation, one the Wizards organization probably doesn't want to pursue given the contract he was signed to just over a year ago. Trying to trade John Wall would be even more difficult.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves dealt Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards rattled off weekend wins over ht eHeat and Magic, and while not equal to making a blockbuster trade, it does show that the Wizards can make an internal fix to what ails them. 



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Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Through his first two seasons in Washington, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was not known to make significant adjustments to his lineup. In his first season coaching the Wizards, 2016-17, he didn't really need to. They had the best season for the franchise, 49-33, since the 1970s.

Last year, the tweaks he made were largely by necessity. John Wall missed 41 games and he had to adjust.

What Brooks has been doing in recent games with his Wizards' rotation are something we haven't really seen before. First, he benched Ian Mahinmi for three games. Then, he sat Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr. in the fourth quarter. 

Morris returned to play fourth quarter minutes on Monday in their win against the Magic, but Porter remained on the bench, sitting in the last seat on the end with a towel over his head, rising periodically to clap and cheer on his teammates.

Such is life for the Wizards right now. They are off to a 4-9 start, well below their standards, and Brooks is doing whatever he can to right the ship. So far, those decisions have paid off, as they have won two straight games for the first time this season.

"We weren't winning, so I had to make some changes," Brooks said.

Brooks, it appears, has reached a new point in his tenure with the Wizards. He is willing to sit key players in his rotation, and ones that happen to make a good deal of money. Porter is the highest-paid player on the team, carrying a salary of $26 million and Mahinmi is not far behind at $15.9 million.

As Brooks insists, it isn't quite as simple as him deciding to bench a player. It has much to do with the flow of the game and how he simply has more options at his disposal this year.

Instead of Morris and Porter, he has rolled with Austin Rivers and Jeff Green in the fourth quarter. Both Rivers and Green weren't on the team last season.

Rivers gives them more speed in a three-guard lineup and plays physical defense on the perimeter. Green has been shooting lights-out and is one of their most versatile players on both ends of the floor.

The added depth on the Wizards' roster has set in a new reality for Brooks. The players are beginning to understand that.

"We do have depth. That's the thing," Porter said. "We have so many good players that are interchangeable. We're just finding ways to win."

"It is definitely evolving into something different that I haven't seen before," Mahinmi said. "I remember a few years back, it was a defined first unit and second unit. If the second unit was going, he would let them run and let it ride. With this roster, we have even more flexibility than last year."

Porter played just 22 minutes against the Magic. He has been held to under 24 minutes in three straight games. The lack of playing time has crushed his numbers. He has just 21 total points in those three outings.

Mahinmi is averaging only 14.1 minutes per game this season, his fewest since 2010-11. And that number is skewed by the fact he started six games to begin the year with Dwight Howard nursing an injury.

The evolving rotation has required an adjustment for the players. Though it doesn't change how they prepare for games, they now understand that surprises can happen.

"He's made a whole lot of change from a game-to-game basis. I'm with [everyone else]. I'm seeing it has it goes," Mahinmi said. "[It's like] 'I guess I'm not playing tonight.' Just stay ready. That's part of being a professional."

Mahinmi says he and other players aren't owed an explanation from Brooks when he makes those changes. And he is quick to say it doesn't bother him.

"As long as we win, I'm happy," he said.