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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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No, John Wall will not play this season under the new NBA format

No, John Wall will not play this season under the new NBA format

The first question for a lot of Wizards fans hearing the news the NBA plans to return in late July and with a format that could put Washington in the playoffs may be how this affects John Wall. The season delay has allowed Wall more time to recover from his Achilles surgery, and now that the playoffs are seemingly more possible for the Wizards than they were previously, it's fair to ask.

But the answer remains the same. Wall, in fact, did a radio interview just this week on the Team 980 where he said he is not playing and the question was within the context of the new format.

Here's what Wall said:

"I won't play at all. I will wait until next season. The decision has been already made. No, I'm not," he said.

Wall was reiterating what he and the Wizards have said for months, including at different stops along the way as the NBA has floated other return-to-play scenarios. As he and general manager Tommy Sheppard have explained it, bringing Wall back after all this time off away from the team is just not as easy as it may sound.

They have a plan and are sticking to it. They are looking past this season for Wall, hoping the extra time will help him come back healthy and also preserve the investment they have made in him with a supermax contract.

There is also an element to this that isn't often being mentioned. If the Wizards made the playoffs and got past the eighth seed to qualify for the first round, they would play a Bucks team that was on pace for one of the best records in history. The Wizards would likely be knocked out quickly by them, if not easily.

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Is it worth bringing Wall back for that likely result? He would be thrown into the fire after 20 months off. Remember, he hasn't played since December of 2018.

Wall would have to, on a surgically repaired Achilles, get up to speed very quickly and then play in high-intensity games. If he waits until the 2020-21 season, he would get preseason games to work out the kinks, then essentially be in the same boat as everyone else at the beginning of the regular season campaign.

Also, it's logical to expect Wall to be on a minutes limit initially and be held out of back-to-backs. A truncated schedule of games would present a difficult scenario for him and the training staff. 

Add it all up and it just doesn't make much sense, beyond the fact the Wizards have been adamant he won't play. Unless it has all been a ruse, or something changes, don't expect to see Wall this year.

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NBA to propose 22-team format for return in way that would include the Wizards

NBA to propose 22-team format for return in way that would include the Wizards

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will offer a return-to-play proposal to the league's Board of Governors on Thursday that includes 22 teams convening in Orlando, FL at Disney World, and the draft lottery and combine taking place in August.

The news, which was first reported by The Athletic, would mean the Washington Wizards play more games this year, as they have the 22nd-best record in the league. And the specific playoff rules would allow for them to potentially qualify if they made up some ground in the standings.

The Wizards currently sit 5 1/2 games back out of the eighth spot, but the NBA's proposal would have a play-in tournament. If the Wizards were fewer than four games out of eighth by the end of the regular season, they would play the No. 8 team for a playoff berth. Right now, the eighth-ranked team in the East is the Orlando Magic, but they are only a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets.

The play-in format would be a short series. According to ESPN, the ninth-seed would have to beat the eighth-seed twice to get in.

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For the Wizards, there is a lot to like about this scenario. If it were agreed upon, they would be able to play more games and have a chance at the playoffs without being handed a spot.

According to ESPN, each team would play eight regular-season games before the playoffs. Even if the Wizards didn't make it, they would have eight games to develop their young players with something to fight for in terms of playoff stakes.

Eight games would also be plenty of time for them to potentially improve their draft stock. They currently have the ninth-best odds, but in this scenario would have room to move up or down.

The Wizards are 24-40 at the moment. Eight more games would give them 72 on the year, just 10 short of a full 82-game season. That would be longer and much closer to a full season than the lockout years of 1998-99 (50 games) and 2011-12 (66 games).

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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