Wizards

Wizards approach trade deadline with major questions

Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Wizards star Bradley Beal was not set to play on Monday night, the fourth straight game he would miss due to a sprained ligament in his left wrist, an injury he is supposed to have re-evaluated on Tuesday to determine the next steps. Yet, he was there hours before the game, walking through the hallway at Capital One Arena alongside his agent, Mark Bartelstein, who had flown in from Chicago to make a rare visit to Washington.

Bartelstein was in town to meet with Wizards management as they get set to navigate a critical juncture for the franchise ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, NBC Sports Washington was told. The timing, of course, is interesting as it pertains to Beal. He has been mulling a max contract offer all season, which he has shown no indication he is ready to sign.

The Wizards are getting closer and closer to the stark reality he could opt out this summer to become an unrestricted free agent. While he can re-sign with them on a five-year deal worth a projected $241 million, roughly $60 million more than other teams can offer, the prospect of losing him for nothing is coming into view.

The meeting took place earlier before Monday's game, which was the Wizards' final showing before the deadline. They got demolished by the Miami Heat, 121-100, in a loss that saw them go down by 31 points. It was the second straight game the Wizards have trailed by more than 30.

This was also the eighth loss in nine games for Washington, as they fell to a season-worst five games under .500, now at 24-29 and a game back of the Hawks for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The problems the Wizards put on display against Miami were all too familiar. If you wanted to know what their biggest needs are heading into the deadline, you could have skipped the rest of their season and just watched on Monday.

 

They allowed a team that averages 108.7 points per game to score 121, as their defense once again performed well below the expectations they carried into the season and the bar they set in November when they started out 10-3. They also couldn't hit threes, going 7-for-31 from long range. And they gave up 26 points off 17 turnovers, making far too many unforced errors.

Their 3-point shooting problems have arguably been the most confusing weakness, given they have a host of players who just haven't shot to their career norms. The Wizards are last in the NBA in threes made (9.9/g) and they also shoot the sixth-lowest percentage on wide open threes, at 36.1%, which is defined by the NBA as when the defender is at least six feet away.

"It's tough. We may decent looks and they don't go, so it's somewhat deflating for the defense as you transition back," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "It's also frustrating because teams are getting similar looks and they're making them."

Beyond adding 3-point shooting and help on defense, the Wizards may need to do something to shake up their chemistry. Kyle Kuzma was just the latest Wizards veteran to complain about it openly on Monday night. He echoed some of the same things Beal has said about players on the team worrying too much about their financial futures, especially with the deadline looming.

"I think the biggest thing with us these past games is our effort level and then our response. It's really tough when you get punched in the face and you don't stand up. I think that just kinda sums up what's going on. As soon as we hit a little bit adversity, it's quite a challenge to get out of that," Kuzma said.

Kuzma says that players fighting for their next contracts has stripped away any semblance of everyone being on the same page. That has had a secondary effect.

"I think in order to be resilient in a team sport, you have to think about the team first. Right now, it's really, really murky in that sense of trying to have another guy be happy for the next guy," he explained.

As for Beal, the meeting between his representative and the Wizards is yet another indication he is growing serious about his own future. The Wizards will ultimately be able to make a strong pitch financially with the ability to offer him the largest contract in NBA history.

 

But the Wizards are seeing the losses pile up and clearly many on the team are frustrated. This game happened to include an incident in the final minute between a Wizards assistant coach trying to go after a fan in the stands.

The good news for the Wizards is they still have time to make some major changes. There may only be two-plus days before the deadline arrives on Thursday afternoon, but it's not too late and it seems increasingly likely that significant moves will be made.