The Wizards did not make a deal on the day of the 2023 trade deadline, Feb. 9, largely because they did not want to part with draft picks or take on future salary, given the dynamics of their salary cap. But although it was a quiet day in terms of transactions, the Wizards' front office spent months planning for different scenarios.
That's not to say the work went to waste, as the data they collected on other players and the landscape of the league will come in handy in the offseason. Sometimes exact trades discussed at the trade deadline come to fruition in the summer.
But it is to say quite a bit of work went into making sure the Wizards were ready for the deadline. Wizards president Tommy Sheppard explained the extent to which his staff considers possible trades.
"We rehearse for every contingency with every team and every trade possibility. So, when something comes up you’re not considering it for the first time," he said.
Sheppard said the Wizards chart out the framework for potential deals to reference leading up to the trade deadline. It helps in the hours before the 3 p.m. cutoff, as snap decisions are made and final details are hammered out over the phone between Sheppard and other general managers around the NBA.
"You don’t want to be surprised by something at the last second. You already want to have considered it," Sheppard said.
"We pretty much, out of 450 players in the NBA here’s the guys we would trade for and what we would trade for them. Here’s the value we have of everyone’s picks and what we would ask for."
Sheppard described trade deadline day as "very calm" due to that preparation. They have already considered most trade ideas well ahead of time.
Some trades have landed the Wizards players they had their eye on for years. Though he wasn't acquired at the trade deadline, Kyle Kuzma was a player the Wizards had long coveted. They got him in a trade with the Lakers in the summer of 2021. Since, he has blossomed, now enjoying a career year at 27 years old.
Kristaps Porzingis, on the other hand, was a trade deadline acquisition and his deal went down differently. The Wizards were calling the Mavericks about a different player, but changed course when they realized Porzingis was readily available and that they had the contracts to match his salary.
Like the Kuzma trade, the Porzingis deal has also worked out well for the Wizards. Both players are averaging career-highs in scoring this season.
Porzingis was a matter of opportunity for the Wizards, which helps explain why they acquired him at a point in time in which their place in the standings suggested they would be sellers. This year, they took a decidedly different approach.
"We try to be aggressive with anything we do, but you have to have the discipline to say ‘hey, this might not be the right time to do something aggressive’ vs. the value of what’s the outcome of it," Sheppard said.
How the Wizards develop all of their trade scenarios is a process that includes quite a few people. Their analytics research team led by Katherine Evans provides data on players around the league. They have a team of pro personnel scouts assigned to different regions around the country. As is common around the NBA, their G-League GM, Amber Nichols, will also pitch in with scouting detours on Go-Go road trips.
All of that is essential for player evaluation and determining who the Wizards may want. Which players are actually available and which Wizards players other teams like is up to Sheppard to figure out.
Sheppard says he talks to opposing GMs every day. Those conversations shape the landscape of the league and the value of every player.
"We have very concise trade scenarios with every single team," he said. "Some you don’t even bother doing because either we would never do it or they would never do it. But guess what, even with those ones, I still call them and say ‘would you do this?’"
Sheppard estimates that 99 percent of trade discussions never get leaked to the media. That may help explain why the ones that do get out are usually far along in the process of being agreed upon.
In the Wizards' case, there weren't many rumors leading up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline and, ultimately, no trades were executed on the final day. But it's very possible the groundwork for a trade this summer has already been laid.