It has been two years and a month since the Wizards traded John Wall to the Houston Rockets and they should feel good about how that deal has worked out since. They got Russell Westbrook, who broke Oscar Robertson's triple-doubles record, then traded him to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, who has enjoyed a borderline All-Star season in 2022-23. They have also added salary cap flexibility without Wall's supermax contract on the books.
That deal, however, is not yet completed as this is the first year the first-round pick the Wizards attached to Wall can convey. The pick is top-14 protected, which means if they miss the playoffs they keep it and if they make the playoffs they lose it. The pick is currently owned by the New York Knicks as a result of subsequent trades.
How that should factor into the Wizards' thinking is not exactly obvious given the full picture of the pick's protections. Let's review them for those who need a refresher:
2023 - top-14 protected
2024 - top-12 protected
2025 - top-10 protected
2026 - top-8 protected, if in top-8 then Wizards trade 2026 and 2027 second-round picks
All of those particulars make for a complicated scenario when it comes to what the Wizards and their fans should root for. Either way, at least one draft pick and possibly two are heading out the door at some point, it's a matter of when and how valuable those picks will be.
If the Wizards make the playoffs this season, for instance, they would lose their 2023 first-round pick. That, however, could be seen as a positive scenario given the protections relax over the next several years. Losing the 15th pick would be better than the 13th pick, the 11th pick or the ninth pick, as will be possible in 2026.
It would also ship the pick out, culminating the trade and removing the restrictions they have in future drafts. That would in turn give them more flexibility for trades because they would have more future picks freed up to deal.
Based solely on the draft capital itself, the best-case scenario would be the two second-round picks going elsewhere in 2026. That said, it would require them to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2025-26 and it would also hamper their ability to make trades using future first-round picks because they would continue to be subject to protections until 2026 arrives.
There is also some additional nuance to all of this and that is which drafts would you prefer to have picks in. This year's draft, for example, is widely seen as a good one. It's not just Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson at the top, there are plenty of intriguing prospects behind them.
On a related note, it is possible one of these future drafts will include high school prospects. For years the NBA has looked at ending the one-and-done rule and, if that happens, it could create what is essentially a double draft, combining the best prospects of two classes into one. If say that happens in 2026 and the Wizards lost the ninth overall pick, that would especially hurt because it would arguably be equivalent to losing a much higher selection.
What the Wizards should hope for in this scenario is probably a good subject for debate. There is no crystal clear answer. Because of that, it's hard to tell whether it will or should factor into their thinking as they sit on the cusp of the playoff picture, especially right now ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline.
But at some point, it will become a factor and it's something to keep in mind as we get closer to that occasion.