The Wizards opened free agency on Sunday night with a logical move in re-signing Thomas Bryant, one that was widely praised. The next morning, they made a decision that opens the door for second-guessing.
After restricted free agent Tomas Satoransky fielded an offer worth $30 million over three years from the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards let him walk by orchestarting a sign-and-trade. They brought back two second-round picks and the right to swap a third, but let go one of their most valuable players at a position of major need.
Satoransky, 27, now leaves the organization for what was a little more than the Wizards wanted to spend. He entered free agency seeking a long-term deal worth double-digits in average annual value. Even in a loaded class of free agent point guards where he was only the ninth- or 10th-best option, he still got his money.
Ten million per year is a good haul for Satoransky, who is a starting point guard, but a below-average one in this era. But he is perfect for what the Wizards need, if they have any hopes of being competitive in the 2019-20 season.
They need someone who can capably start while John Wall recovers from Achilles surgery and then shift to a back-up role once he returns. Satoransky would fit the bill. He will probably follow that same track in Chicago once rookie Coby White passes him on the depth chart.
Also, though $10 million may seem like a lot for Satoransky now, the Wizards might wish they had that contract once Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard are off the books. One year from now, the Wizards will have more flexibility and could more easliy jusify Satoransky's deal.
The same could be said of Bobby Portis, who left the Wizards in restricted free agency for a two-year, $31 million contract with the Knicks. Both Portis and Satoransky have been casualties of their salary cap.
The Wizards have already found a replacement of sorts for Satoransky in Ish Smith, whom they inked to a two-year contract worth $12 million. But Smith is not as good as Satoransky. He's a back-up point guard by trade.
That may end up being the course for Smith in Washington. The Wizards would like to add another point guard in free agency, according to someone familiar with their plans. But with Smith taking the majority of their mid-level exception, they don't really have the resources to sign someone capable of starting.
The top free agents available is a list that includes Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, Jeremy Lin, Elfrid Payton, Jerian Grant, Isaiah Thomas and Emmanuel Mudiay. The Wizards have checked in on Cook, as NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller reported, and have shown interest in Isaiah Thomas, according to the Athletic.
If Smith is their starter, it's hard to see how the Wizards compete for a playoff spot with the supporting cast currently penciled in around him. You have Bradley Beal but also plenty of unknowns with Troy Brown Jr., rookie Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant. That group would lack experience and have some serious defensive limitations.
The move to let Satoransky go and bring in Smith may tell us about the Wizards' future plans more than anything. This was clearly not a win-now move, this was them taking the longview. It is the type of tradeoff that could end up lowering expectations of what the Wizards are capable of in the short-term.
Long-term, there is a lot to like about the Satoransky trade. They got a 2020 second-round pick (Memphis or Chicago's, whichever is higher), the Pistons' 2022 second-round pick and the right to swap with the Bulls' second-round pick in 2022. The Bulls also dropped the protection on the 2023 second round pick they sent to Washington in the Otto Porter Jr. trade.
Just a few weeks ago, the Wizards had no second round picks from 2019 until 2023. Now, they have a 2019 second round pick (Admiral Schofield), one in 2020 and two in 2022. Those assets will help them continue adding young players to their system, or give them more options in trades. They could even go that route soon and find a point guard using one of their trade exceptions.
Over time, what transpired Monday morning could work out for the Wizards. To salvage Satoransky's departure with a group of draft picks is a nice consolation prize.
But letting him walk should lower their ceiling next season, barring other moves. He was a solid player, and it's hard to see how the Wizards can find someone comparable to take his place.
Many expected the Wizards to re-tool this offseason. But with each move they make, they are showing signs of a rebuild.
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