Hughes: Beal's injury led to major Wizards' deadline shakeup


WASHINGTON -- The priorities changed swiftly for the Washington Wizards in recent weeks, as they plummeted in the standings and along the way lost star guard Bradley Beal to a season-ending left wrist injury. How they felt about their roster and its short-term future was signaled loud and clear by how they operated before Thursday's trade deadline, which amounted to a firesale of veteran players with the big picture in mind.

Gone are Montrezl Harrell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans and Aaron Holiday. In are Kristaps Porzingis, Ish Smith and Vernon Carey. What the additions mean will depend on several things, so let's begin with the departures.

Dinwiddie and Bertans rid the organization of two contracts that had become blemishes on the salary cap. Dinwiddie was signed just this past summer, while Bertans wasn't even through the second season of the five-year deal he signed in 2020. The Wizards cut their losses with those two, but fairly impressively, got something valuable in return.

Getting out of Dinwiddie's deal as quickly as the Wizards did amounts to a very sudden change of course. They acquired him in August, yet soon after his first season in D.C. began it became obvious he was a poor fit alongside Beal. Washington also took a risk in signing him after he recovered from ACL surgery and that gamble did not pay off.

Porzingis isn't a perfect player, but he's fairly decent and only 26. Washington was also able to get a second-round pick from Dallas in the deal.


Harrell was the most productive player they parted with and his exit ends a memorable run where he became a quick fan favorite and was arguably their most consistent player this season. But his expiring deal made him expendable, so now he's gone.

Letting those three players go may also have an effect on the team's chemistry. It's worth noting Harrell had a halftime altercation with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope earlier this season, Bertans had publicly acknowledged arguments with Deni Avdija and Dinwiddie had complained aloud about his role on the court and as a leader in the locker room.

When it comes to what the Wizards got back, Porzingis is certainly the headliner. He is a former All-Star, four years removed, but just last year had his most efficient season. He gives the Wizards another player to build around alongside Kyle Kuzma and Beal, if he returns. 

Exactly how this affects that part of the equation, Beal's contract future, is hard to tell. The Wizards now have more long-term cap flexibility, but they didn't acquire any major assets. As far as their pitch to Beal this summer, it may be a lateral move.

When it comes to their salary cap, not much has changed in the short term. They did, however, slash payroll for the 2023-24 season which would have been the third year of Dinwiddie's deal and the fourth of five for Bertans.

Long-term, what stands out right away is the Wizards' need at point guard. They thought they filled that hole last offseason with Dinwiddie, but now he's gone, bringing them back to square one, right where they were when they dealt Russell Westbrook to the Lakers. In fact, they have the exact point guard rotation they had last season, minus Westbrook.

For the meantime, they will roll with Raul Neto and Smith, who was re-acquired on Thursday. Cassius Winston, their 2020 second-round pick, will surely get a look, while Avdija and others could spend more time on the ball as primary play-makers.

The Wizards may be set up to improve their draft position, especially depending on the availability of Porzingis. He has missed the last five games with a bone bruise in his right knee. If he is out for an extended period, it will affect the Wizards' ability to compete. That said, they have the second-easiest remaining schedule based on win percentage, so tanking would not be easy even if they wanted to go that route.

The Wizards currently hold the 11th-best odds in the lottery, offering only a 9.4% chance at selecting in the top-4. They are 6 1/2 games up on the Pacers, who hold the fifth-best lottery odds. With only 29 games remaining, it may be unrealistic for a complete freefall towards the bottom.

Regardless, Thursday's trades set the Wizards up to give their young players a lot more minutes. Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant should see plenty of time on the floor. The more they develop, the better the Wizards' outlook will be.


We don't know how the Wizards would have operated on Thursday had Beal remained healthy, even with their trajectory in the standings. But with those two elements combined, the result was wholesale changes that indicate the front office had seen more than enough of the group they had. Just seven months after they overhauled their roster in the summer, they felt the need to do so once again.