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Five things to know about the Wizards -- and the NBA -- ahead of Thursday's trade deadline

Five things to know about the Wizards -- and the NBA -- ahead of Thursday's trade deadline

Update: The Wizards made some waves on Wednesday, trading Otto Porter to Chicago for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. Read more about that here.

Anyone tracking the rumors and realities understands the entire NBA landscape could shift dramatically over the next 24 hours.

Just don’t anticipate any tremors created by the Washington Wizards.

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The focus remains on qualifying for the upcoming postseason, according to league sources and numerous reports from around the league. That means holding on to their current pieces, or at least the main core of Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the unrestricted free agent trio of Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Markieff Morris.

Even the idea of making a move around the edges offers challenges. With no second-round picks through 2022, Washington could not easily offer a sweetener either to add help or shed salary. There are ways to reduce, if not eliminate, the luxury tax expenditure of approximately $5.7 million. They involve trading away rotation pieces, which flies in the face of a playoff push stance.

It’s conceivable the organization makes moves toward the future knowing their 2019-20 roster will not include John Wall for most, if not all, of the season.

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Last month, I wrote about the concept of landing a first-round pick for Trevor Ariza if Washington was willing to take on another team’s unwanted contract. This notion only works if:

  • The Wizards decide the first is worth using a chunk of their available salary cap space (even if that means possibly losing Tomas Satoransky or Thomas Bryant in free agency)
  • Trade partners exist

Since Washington maintains a playoff-focused mentality, it’s unclear if it would consider such a deal. Perhaps it should. Draft picks offer hope, and that’s something a team could sell a fan base.

Even if the Wizards go that way following news of Wall’s updated timeline, such trade partners may no longer exist.

In the article, I cited the Pelicans, Lakers, 76ers, Rockets and Blazers as logical fits. Since then:

  • New Orleans turned into sellers
  • Los Angeles shifted all focus toward trading for Anthony Davis
  • Philadelphia dealt two first-round picks and more to the Clippers for Tobias Harris
  • Portland traded two second-round selections to Cleveland for Rodney Hood

While a reunion with Houston remains possible, remember that Ariza bolted from the Rockets this summer. Dealing him to the Lakers in a salary swap for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would reduce the tax bill by around $3 million and possibly add a second-round selection. That’s not nothing. It’s just not a first.

One final note on Ariza. Because Washington was over the salary cap at the time it acquired Ariza this season – within two months of the trade deadline – he cannot be part of a new trade with other teammates.

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The immediate answer for many following Wall’s surgery update revolves around the must-do idea of Washington re-signing Tomas Satoransky. No doubt the 6-foot-7 point guard helped save the Wizards over each of the last two seasons with Wall out injured. The urgency with which the re-sign calls are coming seems a bit reactionary.

Satoransky’s skills and improvements are evident. His pass-first approach epitomizes Washington’s ball-movement offense without Wall. He is one of the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio and knocks down three-pointers. Most notably, Satoransky plays with more confidence as evidenced by a recent stretch of emphatic dunks.

That does not mean he must remain.

Washington’s search for a backup point guard extends over many years. The fan base lives with the scars from Eric Maynor, Tim Frazier, A.J. Price and others.

They began getting over their wounds with Satoransky, the team’s 2012 second-round selection who arrived stateside in 2016. That he wasn’t those other failed experiments accounts for some of the joy. There’s a subtle difference between keeping a key cog and feeling compelled to hold a player because he’s a familiar and fun piece.

There is also usage. Though Satoransky, 27, replaced Wall in the starting lineup, head coach Scott Brooks took some time before warming up to the Czech import. Game to game, it’s not always clear the temperature. Brooks used 10 different players in the fourth quarter of the last two games. None of them were named Tomas Satoransky.

Though eligible to sign a four-year extension right now, there is no rush from Satoransky’s perspective. Even though the Wizards could match any offer sheet he signs in free agency, other teams have interest. His projected salary range falls somewhere between $6.5 to perhaps $10 million per season, based on conversations with league sources. That’s plenty more than his $3.1 million salary.

Washington is ready to pay more. Ideally, the number falls on the lower end of that salary range. It might not. At that point, the Wizards must decide if Satoransky is a must-keep player.

***

Those only focused on NBA draft lottery odds won’t be happy if the Wizards pass on selling off parts before Thursday. They become irate if the front office sends draft picks for hopes of an eighth seed.

Should the Wizards hold the line, it’s hard seeing them drop significantly in the overall NBA standings based on their own situation, barring injury. Washington, 22-31 overall, is .500 since Wall’s last game on Dec. 26.

Other teams, however, could change the odds.

The Wizards currently own the eighth best odds (6.0 percent) of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

New Orleans, tied with Washington in the loss column, seems set on not playing Anthony Davis should he remain with the team past Thursday. The Pelicans are 2-5 over their last seven games without Davis, who is available to return this week from a thumb injury. Trade Davis to the Lakers, and those kids from Los Angeles join the roster immediately. Whether Lonzo Ball and friends become All-Stars or not, they offer help today.

Memphis, one game back of Washington in the NBA standings, likely plummets assuming it trades Marc Gasol and Mike Conley by Thursday.

***

All the Anthony Davis trade focuses on LeBron James and the Lakers. For now, New Orleans appears underwhelmed by a trade package of young players like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, picks and salary cap relief. Whether this is hardball negotiating or genuine apathy, we’ll see. Meanwhile, consider the following:

  • The other Los Angeles team put itself in position to make a legitimate push for Davis after the Clippers acquired two coveted first-round picks and rookie Landry Shamet from Philadelphia overnight. Those assets, combined with impressive rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and other current assets, might tempt the Pelicans, who could simultaneously stick it to the Lakers for any possible tampering by putting Davis in the Staples Center with the other resident. Put Davis and 2019 free agent Kawhi Leonard on the same team, and we have a new title contender.
  • That the Celtics cannot make the Pelicans an offer for Davis with Kyrie Irving on the roster because of a CBA quirk is perhaps the primary consideration with waiting. Expectations have Boston offering a package headlined by Jayson Tatum and perhaps four 2019 first-round selections. Problem: Those four picks might not be there. One from the Clippers is lottery-protected, and the deal with the 76ers decreases the likelihood of LA making the playoffs. Memphis keeps its pick if top-8. The Grizzlies currently have the league’s sixth worst record. Boston likely receives Sacramento’s top-1 protected pick, but rather than a sexy asset, it likely falls in the 10-15 range.

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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