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Sixers' trade for Jimmy Butler will only make things harder for Wizards, rest of Eastern Conference

Sixers' trade for Jimmy Butler will only make things harder for Wizards, rest of Eastern Conference

With one tweet by Shams Charania, the hole the 2-9 Washington Wizards have dug themselves in the Eastern Conference standings all of a sudden feels a little deeper.

The Philadelphia 76ers pulled off a stunning trade on Saturday to reel in four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, and in doing so, added a third blue chip player to go with their already impressive core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If it wasn't clear already, the Sixers are serious contenders to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

The deal was surprising and will reverberate throughout the conference. There are other teams like the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and maybe the Milwaukee Bucks who have a chance to reign supreme in the East, but the Sixers now have arguably the best three-player combination at the top of their roster.

To compete for NBA titles, it generally requires at least three All-NBA caliber players. The Sixers now have them. Regardless of whether they lost some depth in parting with Robert Covington and Dario Saric, they have a core capable of beating Boston and Toronto in a playoff series.

Any time a deal like this goes down, it's natural in these parts to wonder if the Wizards could have made a competitive offer. On the face of it, probably not, as long as they were operating with the goal of keeping All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Parting with Wall or Beal would be short-sighted, as trading one of them for Butler would arguably be a lateral move and Butler can opt out of his contract after this season. If you were going to rent him, you would need to do so with a real chance of winning this year.

In Covington and Saric, the Sixers gave the Wolves two solid players on team-friendly contracts. Covington, an All-Defensive forward, is only making an average of $11.7 million per year through 2021-22. Saric, a solid scorer and rebounder, is due around $6 million total for this season and the next. They are two legitimate starters who are making a combined $13 million this season. 

The Wizards' next-best player beyond Wall and Beal is Otto Porter Jr. Though he's about as good as Covington, he's making $16 million more this season and is due over $81 million through 2020-21. After that, they do not have a player as good as Saric on as cap-friendly a deal.

So, the answer is probably no, the Wizards could not compete with that offer. Philadelphia had the assets and struck a deal that could work out well for both sides.

Now, Philly does now have long-term questions with Butler's contract uncertainty. Like the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard, they are gambling that he will stay. And if he does, their roster could get very expensive in the near future.

But given the potential their team now has, Butler seems well worth the risk. They acquired an All-NBA talent and didn't have to part with one of their top players.

The Wizards, meanwhile, can only watch through their early-season malaise as the teams at the top of the conference get stronger. Philly just made a game-changing move to solidify themselves as contenders. The Raptors did the same over the summer by bringing in Leonard. 

The Celtics will likely be better this season than they were last year if they stay healthy. The Bucks, now with Mike Budenholzer in charge, are making a leap.

The Wizards may someday have to do something aggressive themselves if they want to compete with those teams. 


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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves


Wizards owner Ted Leonsis talks Dwyane Wade, still undecided on offseason moves

WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis had a front row seat to two converging storylines.

The Wizards owner was among throngs inside Capital One Arena appreciating Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade’s final game in Washington.

Leonsis also recognized the likely last gasp for his team’s playoff hopes came up short.

“They’ll make the playoffs. It doesn’t look like we’ll make the playoffs now,” Leonsis said to NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ loss Saturday night.

 “Hope [Dwyane] plays well,” Leonsis continued. “We’ll have to figure out what to do in the off-season.”

The loss dropped the Wizards (30-44) 6 ½ games back of the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington only has eight regular-season games remaining.

Earlier this season Leonsis said organizational changes are in play should the Wizards fail to reach their goals, which included reaching the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons.

Asked for his current thoughts on any off-season changes, Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington, “Don’t know yet. Let’s see how they do out West. It was disappointing. We were trying to catch [Miami].”

The Wizards embark on a four-game Western Conference road trip starting Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite any frustration with the game’s conclusion and the season at-large, Leonsis appreciated Wade’s gusto on his way out. 

The 16-year veteran and 13-time All-Star announced his retirement before the season. Wade, 37, looked anything but over-the-hill late against the Wizards.

Having turned into Miami’s closer after the All-Star break, Wade scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat (36-37) fended off several Wizards rallies.

“Kind of historic, right? (Wild) that Dwyane Wade beat us tonight,” Leonsis said. “What a career, what a game. Just everything about the way he plays is beautiful. He’s really great.”

Leonsis remarked the referees overlooked an apparent traveling violation from Wade in the third quarter.

“We wanted to beat them. They played better. The no-call on Dwyane on the travel was apropos. I thought he took five steps. You say, ‘Well, that’s when you’re a Hall of Famer you get that respect,” Leonsis said respectfully. “But, good for him.”

Miami moved one game ahead of idle ninth-place Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings.


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Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

Scott Brooks jokes that the Heat should be fined for letting Wade call it a career

On most occasions, elite athletes decide to finish their careers way after their skills have declined. It is uncommon for most icons to go out on their own terms. When you train your entire life to play professional basketball, it's a tough task to realize that your time has passed, and its time to move on to another venture. 

Dwyane Wade is not grouped into that category. Tonight's performance against the Wizards justified that. 

After announcing publicly last September that the 2018-19 NBA season would be his last, the news left the sports world nostalgic. Once a bright young star out of Marquette, "Flash" was must-see television.

After announcing last September that this would be his last ride in South Beach, Wade, albeit the face of the franchise, knew that this team wasn't the one he had joined when he was drafted fifth overall in June of 2003. It wasn't the squad he won his first title with in '06, or the bunch that started the "Super Team" movement. This was a collection of young prospects, journeymen, and he was a veteran presence, and no longer the marquee option. He welcomed the move to the bench and to be the veteran presence in the locker room that the team needed and has had quite the resurgence of sorts that has the sports world questioning whether retirement is really the best option, and whether he should come back another year. 

Scott Brooks is one of many who thinks Wade should reconsider.

In his final appearance at Capital One Arena Saturday evening, the veteran star lead his group to victory, showing flashes of the player he once was, and carrying his squad to a crucial road win. 

Brooks joked that "the NBA needs to fine the Miami Heat for letting him retire".

It appears that Wade's contemporaries are of the mindset of Brooks. Wizards forward Jeff Green, who exploded for 25 points off the bench in the tough loss, discussed postgame that despite his efforts to get Wade to change his mind, the latter knows that it's time to move on.

"He's playing amazing," Green said. "I've tried my convincing, I've been trying for the last six months, it didn't work."

Green expressed that he's glad his friend is choosing to leave the game before it leaves him.

"I'm happy for the guy." Green said. "He's going out the way he wants to."