Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards are the NBA’s rumor mill piñata and every insider and reporter wants to take a swing.

That’s because of the Wizards’ chaotic start along with credible reports about eruptions during practice and potential roster shakeups. Any reporter with vague sourcing or those looking at potential trade partners for hypothetical scenarios can feel good dropping a Washington mention. Considering all that’s gone down already, who knows what tasty goodness might drop.

One example of this occurred the day after the Wizards downed the Knicks in New York Monday night as John Wall finished with 18 points and 15 assists. The five-time All-Star also sank the decisive 3-pointer in the closing seconds. 

Wall, one of the league’s top point guards, is the type of player New York’s youthful roster lacks. With that setup, here’s a tidbit from a New York Post article that focused on the Knicks’ future plans at point guard:

Some in the league believe the Knicks are stocking up their young assets and will make a major play for Wall if he becomes available. The Wizards (9-14) were said to be ready to break it up after their disastrous start. It would have to be a three-team deal with the Knicks throwing in Ntilikina, Dotson, Courtney Lee (for cap purposes), a 2020 first-round and second-round pick.

For the purposes of clarification, let’s go through this:

 
  • Read that first sentence carefully. It does not say the Knicks are stocking up on young assets with the intention of acquiring Wall if he becomes available. How could they? Nobody believed Wall was available when the season began. Even if the Wizards were ready to move on from the player who has been the face of the franchise for most this decade, such a decision would only have come recently. Those New York players were already on the roster when then season tipped.
  • The author, Marc Berman, a longtime and highly credible Knicks reporter, mentions the need for a three-team trade. However, he doesn’t even hint at other teams nor explain why a three-team deal is necessary. 
  • If Kevin Durant leaves Golden State, the Knicks and Lakers are the most rumored targets. Wizards nation certainly understands the perils of following that specific siren song into uncertain free agency waters. New York, which hasn’t been a contender this century, likely wants to keep all options available. Adding a player like Wall could be seen as an allure to another superstar. It also means tying up a huge chunk of the salary cap, which could hinder a Durant addition.
  • Speaking of vague, there’s that 15 percent trade kicker as part of Wall’s contract. Depending on one’s interpretation of the language regarding supermax contracts, Washington would be on the hook immediately for over $20 million based on the total value of Wall’s overall owed salary. That includes the four-year, $170 million extension that kicks in next season. Don’t bet on the Wizards forking over that massive amount just to move Wall.
  • As for the players mentioned in the trade, let’s just move on. Point guard Frank Ntilikina, a 2017 first-round pick, is the most interesting of the lot and he’s currently not playing for the Knicks. It’s the type of offer some might assume Washington considers if things truly implode in Chinatown. Realize that reporters view such concepts from the prism of the team they cover, not the other way around.
  • Now, here’s a very important part: The Wizards aren’t terrible right now. They are 9-7 over their last 16 games after that 1-7 start. Now, they certainly have solved all their problems as evidenced by Washington’s -4.9 net rating during that 16-game stretch. The Wizards must get by without Dwight Howard for the next several weeks as well. The belief around the organization is if the Wizards are going to crawl of this hole, they will need their star players. Until there’s a major organizational shift in goals -- getting out from under the luxury tax if the team isn’t over .500 by the February trading deadline for example -- it’s hard seeing Wall traded if the $20 million trade kicker applies.

Should we reach the summer of 2019 and the Wizards decide trading Wall is the plan, the trade kicker no longer plays a factor. Supermax rules prohibit the first year of a contract from exceeding 35 percent of the salary cap. That would be the case for Wall's deal with an extra $5.17 million next season via the trade kicker, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

If the Knicks whiff on Durant or other high profile free agents, they might kick those Wall tires especially if volatile owner James Dolan inserts himself into the discussion. Such thoughts are months and months away. 

What’s surely days if not hours away, more rumors about the Wizards. Some have legs, like the Kings interest in Otto Porter according to multiple league sources. Most others, just someone taking a free whack at the Wizards piñata just in case.

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