Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard had already indicated publicly he thought his team has plenty of work to do this offseason to become contenders and that he was willing to be aggressive to get them there. The Bradley Beal situation should only add urgency to their plans, as they have a star player on the fence about his future with essentially one year remaining on his contract.
So, the Wizards could in theory take that into account entering Thursday's draft where they currently hold the 15th overall pick. If they want to win this season, or at least sooner than later, then it would make sense if trading that pick for immediate help was on the table.
There is also reason to believe that if the Wizards want to make a sizable trade, either for rotation players or something more substantial, then they have to use the 15th pick. Many of their future first round picks are tied up in the trade they made last December to acquire Russell Westbrook. They traded John Wall and a protected first round pick to Houston, which holds protections starting in 2023 (lottery) and going all the way to 2027 (two second round picks). The 2027 draft pick is so far down the road it could convey to a player who is currently 12 years old.
There is also the Stepien Rule, which prevents teams from trading consecutive future first round picks. Given the traded draft pick begins in 2023, by the letter of the law, that would affect their 2022 selection.
At 15th overall this year, the Wizards are unlikely to find a player who can help right away, especially if they take a one-and-done college player who is 18 or 19 years old. So, with all of that laid out, what trade value does the 15th overall pick hold?
Well, looking back at drafts in the recent past, it's complicated. Many trades involving picks in their range were made well in advance of the draft, often years prior, when those picks weren't attached to a specific spot in the order. Many trades made on draft night or in the days leading up involved teams swapping picks for picks, either moving up or moving down. That doesn't apply to this particular exercise for the Wizards.
Looking back at the last five years, here are five relevant examples for comparison, including the deal made on Monday by the Grizzlies and Pelicans:
2021 - Grizzlies traded Jonas Valanciunas, 17th overall pick and second round pick to Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 10th overall pick, second round pick and protected 2022 first round pick (from Lakers)
This deal involved the Grizzlies taking on salary to move up, but the framework is interesting because Memphis traded the 17th pick (not far from 15), a veteran and a second round pick for two rotation players and more picks. Remove the salary dump element and swap out Valanciunas for, say, Davis Bertans and maybe a similarly structured deal could help the Wizards lengthen their rotation with a few players in return.
2020 - Blazers traded 16th pick (Isaiah Stewart), Trevor Ariza, future first to Houston for Robert Covington
This one shows what the Wizards may be able to do if they packaged the 15th pick with a veteran for another veteran. Maybe it's Bertans or Thomas Bryant the Wizards pair with the draft pick for a Covington-type player. If the Wizards need to match salary in a trade, Bertans and Bryant are prime candidates based on their payroll, which is top-heavy with Beal and Russell Westbrook.
2019 - Nets traded Allen Crabbe, 2019 first round pick (Nickeil Alexander-Walker) and 2020 protected first round pick (Aleksej Pokusevski) to Hawks for Taurean Prince and a second round pick
This one had an extra layer to it as Pokusevski ended up going to the Thunder and had a promising rookie season. But, as you see, the Nets wanted a rotation player with upside in Prince and were willing to trade not just one first round pick, but two to get him.
2016 - Three-team trade: Hawks trade Jeff Teague to Pacers, Pacers trade George Hill to Jazz, Jazz trade 12th overall pick to Hawks (Taurean Prince)
Here's a three-team deal where the Wizards would essentially play the role of the Jazz. They traded the 12th pick to get Hill. It could also be seen from the Hawks' perspective as Teague equated the value of the first round pick. Teague was one year removed from being an All-Star and slid right into the starting lineup for the playoff-bound Pacers.
2016 - Pacers trade 20th pick (Caris LeVert) and future second round pick to Nets for Thaddeus Young
This one wouldn't apply perfectly to the Wizards' situation because they do not have the cap room to trade draft picks for a veteran player like the Pacers did. But this one is interesting because the value of the 20th pick matched up with Young, a starting-caliber player in his prime. It is also interesting because the Nets made the most out of that pick by taking LeVert, which goes to show the risk of trading first round picks because LeVert is very good value for where he was selected.
The takeaway from this history lesson is probably that the 15th overall pick doesn't have a ton of value on its own at this juncture. The Wizards could use it as the centerpiece of a trade for a rotation player, and maybe even a starter, but likely not a major difference-maker, the type that closes the gap between the Bucks, Nets and Sixers. And that player would be more expensive than the rookie, likely on a shorter contract and would almost certainly not offer the long-term upside.
So, really, if the Wizards want to trade the 15th pick for something substantial, they will likely need to attach some players to the deal; either veterans to match salary, or young players to sweeten the pot, or both. It's probably a situation to either go big or go home. Take a player to develop in the long-term, or throw the pick into a significant package to swing big on a star or a group of players who collectively offer similar value.