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.
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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