Wizards

Wizards

Last summer, as the Wizards evaluated options for their 2018 first round pick, they took a particular liking to Michigan big man Mo Wagner. But they couldn't justify taking him 15th overall and were unable to secure him in a trade. He went to the Lakers with the 25th pick, but that interest from the Wizards seemed worthy of remembering, that down the road their paths could cross again.

Now, Wagner is heading to Washington in a deal that also gives the Wizards two other young prospects in Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones, plus a 2022 second round pick, as the Lakers continue to clear money in hopes of landing a free agent on a max contract this summer.

The Wizards are going back to the well of a strategy that worked for them last summer. It was nearly one year ago they claimed Thomas Bryant off waivers from the Lakers. He had a breakout sophomore season for the Wizards and is now a top priority for them to re-sign.

Perhaps Wagner or Bonga or Jones follows that same path. But in getting three players, the Wizards infused even more youth into their program.

Jones is 24, Wagner is 22 and Bonga is only 19. The Wizards can add them to the mix with Troy Brown Jr. (19), Rui Hachimura (21) and Admiral Schofield (22), plus Bryant (21) if they can work out a new contract.

That's a growing list of young players on cheap contracts who have considerable upside. The Wizards have had a tendency to make win-now moves in recent years and favor veterans over ascending, but unproven young players. Now, the tide has turned under interim president Tommy Sheppard.

Getting a second round pick is also pivotal. Before this deal, the Wizards had no second round picks until 2023. In trading for Schofield on draft night and getting this one from the Lakers, the Wizards have added two second-round picks in a span of seven days.

The 2022 draft is also a good year to have extra picks. The NBA is expected to abolish it's one-and-done rule that year, so it could be a loaded class with high school players making the jump for the first time since 2006.

Wagner, though, headlines the trade and the Wizards see a very high ceiling despite his up-and-down rookie year. He is a 7-footer who shot 39.5 percent from three in college.

During the John Wall era, the Wizards haven't had a big man who can consistently run pick-and-pop plays. Maybe Bryant can be counted on for that as well, but Wagner projects as an elite three-point shooter for his size. Having a big man that can shoot could open up new doors for the Wizards' offense.

Bonga was a second-round pick in last year's draft. He is a raw talent, but at 6-foot-8 has great size for a guard. And he played the point, giving the Wizards more depth at the position with Wall's injury in mind.

Jones went undrafted in 2018 out of New Mexico State, Sheppard's alma mater. He is a 6-foot-5 swingman known for his rebounding and defense.

The Lakers will steal the headlines with this trade, as it could allow them to sign a top free agent like Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving. But the Wizards were happy to help with that cause because they got a good return out of it.

Young, cheap and high upside players are always good to have. The Wizards now have more of them on their roster.

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