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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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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.


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How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


Though there are several events this summer that could ultimately define the Wizards' offseason, one storyline will hang over everything and factor into just about every decision made by the front office and whomever ends up leading it as the team's new general manager. That is the future of John Wall, who is set to miss at least most of next season due to a ruptured left Achilles, in what will be the first year of his supermax contract.

Wall had surgery on Feb. 12. Even if he returns one year after going under the knife, he will still miss roughly 50 games next season. When he does come back, there are no guarantees he will be the same player. He turns 29 in September and a ruptured Achilles is a very serious injury, especially for a guy whose game has traditionally been reliant on speed.

The Wizards, of course, hope Wall will regain his peak form, but even if that happens it is unlikely to be the case right away. It may not be until the 2020-21 season until the Wizards get a true read on Wall post-surgery and how much value he can provide while making the money he is due. 

Speaking of the money, Wall will still take up a considerable chunk of the salary cap despite not playing. He is set to earn 35 percent of the cap next season, which right now is projected at about $37.8 million. Though that could technically fluctuate based on the final cap number, the percentage is what matters. The Wizards will basically have to build a roster with only 65 percent of the cap at their disposal.

There is an argument that Wall's injury is one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Supermax contracts, ones that allow players to make a contract that begins at 35 percent of the salary cap, are a new concept. And no one else has suffered such a serious injury while getting paid that type of money. 

It may not be quite what the Brooklyn Nets overcame in the fallout of their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics, the one that resulted in a net loss of three first round picks. But it's a bad situation, one that will require some creativity from whomever is tasked with pulling the Wizards out of it.

The long-term ramifications will depend on how Wall plays when he returns, but the short-term effect will clearly be felt. First, the Wizards have to have an insurance policy at point guard and a good one if they hope to compete for the playoffs. Maybe that is as simple as re-signing Tomas Satoransky, but regardless they have to shore up that position, knowing Wall's status.

Second, the Wizards need to find bargains to fill out the rest of their roster. They will have to find some cheap players simply to reach the 13-player minimum with Bradley Beal's max deal also on the books. Beal will earn roughly $27.1 million next season.

The biggest question as it pertains to Wall may deal with the NBA Draft on June 20. What if the Wizards get some luck in the May 14 draft lottery, but not enough to get the No. 1 pick (i.e. Zion Williamson), and Ja Morant is the best player on the board? Morant, of course, is the Murray State superstar who lit up the NCAA Tournament in March.

Morant is dynamic and has serious star potential, and he plays point guard. Wall was already asked about the potential of the Wizards drafting a point guard with a high pick. He said he would be fine with it, but that when he returns that draft pick can "be a great back-up" to him.

If the Wizards picked Morant, or even Coby White of North Carolina, it would arguably be the smart move to make. They need to select the best player available, no matter the position. 

But if they do take a point guard, that will present a unique dynamic to their locker room, especially if that player turns into a star. What if Morant comes in and lights it up as a rookie? How will Wall deal with that? And could you then put Morant on the bench when Wall returns, as Wall suggests they would?

Those are hypothetical scenarios that can be addressed if they actually enter the equation this summer and beyond. But there is no question that, even as Wall is sidelined with an injury, his presence will loom over the Wizards in many ways.