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Ted Leonsis' declaration he won't trade Wall, Beal or Porter says plenty about Wizards' long-term plans

Ted Leonsis' declaration he won't trade Wall, Beal or Porter says plenty about Wizards' long-term plans

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made a habit recently of saying in no uncertain terms what he plans on doing with his NBA franchise. There was his interview in London where he said the Wizards would "never, ever tank." And now, exactly one week before the NBA trade deadline, he revealed in a wide-ranging interview with WTOP radio that the Wizards will not trade any of their core three players anytime soon.

That means John Wall, whom it should have already been obvious based on his injury and trade kicker. That means Bradley Beal, who has been the subject of many trade rumors this season. And that includes Otto Porter Jr., despite him often playing third fiddle to the other two and also being a popular name in trade speculation.

Leonsis told WTOP flat-out: “We’re not trading any of those players.” He went on to say he “wouldn’t throw in the towel on this core..”

That last line should stick out more than the others, even more than his comments on team president Ernie Grunfeld’s future and how it is tied to them meeting their goals, which at this point appears to be making the playoffs.

What Leonsis essentially said is that this core has a future in Washington. To take that literally would suggest all three will not only stay put at the Feb. 7 trade deadline, but be back next year as well.

That is interesting on several accounts. For one, the three are owed a combined $92.2 million next season and that is based on the current estimate of the 2019-20 salary cap. Wall is due to earn 35 percent of the cap, meaning an unexpected raise in the cap could net him more money.

But the bottom line is three players are making upwards of $100 million. Add in Ian Mahinim’s $15 million, and the Wizards are basically at the salary cap with only four players.

If the Wizards indeed keep it rolling with their core trio, they will have even less money to allocate to the rest of their roster than before with Wall’s salary essentially doubling from the $19.2 million he’s earning this season.

If the Wizards wanted to do something drastic to shake things up this offseason, a trade of one of those three would be the logical way to do it. They won’t have money to spend in free agency and are limited in their ability to package players in a trade given the relative few they have under contract.

That said, it’s not hard to decipher why Leonsis wants to continue building around Wall, Beal and Porter. They have produced the most successful era for the franchise since arguably the 1970s. The past two years have been greatly affected by injuries to Wall, but the last time they were all healthy for a full season, they won 49 games and reached the second round of the playoffs.

In the context of the franchise’s history, that’s not bad. One could argue the current group has gone stale, that it's not only about injuries, but those facts remain.

Leonsis has also proven to be a loyal sports owner. He has handed all three players large contracts, has stuck with Grunfeld through tough times and has made similar moves with his Capitals of the NHL. 

Leonsis likes to remind people that many fans and pundits wanted to give up on the Caps two summers ago. Some said trade Alex Ovechkin. He didn’t and his patience paid off with a Stanley Cup.

The NBA, of course, is a much different league than the NHL. In hockey, the eighth seed in the playoffs has a puncher’s chance to go on a deep playoff run and even win a championship. In the NBA, postseason upsets are rare and there is an unbalanced class system. There are the very good teams, the truly terrible teams and then a large middle class that can really only aim so high in the playoffs.

The Wizards have found themselves stuck in the latter. It has led to some fans to call for a rebuild or a more aggressive re-tooling, one that involves trading one of their core players.

Clearly Leonsis isn’t interested in either. He wants to move forward with Wall, Beal and Porter, and it sounds like that could mean through the 2019 offseason as well.


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Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

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Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Back in December following a tough loss to the Clippers, Bradley Beal's frustration with the referees boiled over. 

"Honestly, [my frustration] is out the roof," Beal said that night. "It really is. It's really unfair and unacceptable that they allow a lot of stuff to go on with me out there and I do not calls. Period. It's just unacceptable."

Everything for the Wizards' offense this season starts and ends with Beal, and while he's averaging career-best scoring numbers, he remains frustrated at how he doesn't get to the foul line enough. 

In a 134-129 loss to the Heat Wednesday night, Beal went off for 38 points on 16-24 shooting to go with nine rebounds and four assists. He only had four free throw attempts, resulting in another postgame riff about how he and his team aren't officiated the same as others. 

“It’s kind of sad the way we get disrespected," he said. "Especially myself getting disrespected like I do because I attack the basket.”

Among 32 players who average at least 20 points, Beal ranks ninth in free throw attempts per game. The Wizards themselves are 14th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. 

What had Beal particularly upset was not getting the whistle when he aggressively attacked the basket in the game's final moments.

"You can look at my last three drives and I got fouled on all three of them," he said. 

The NBA doesn't typically tolerate players and coaches openly criticizing referees after games. Beal knows he could be fined for his comments, so it shows just how frustrated the two-time All-Star is with how he's being called this season. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.