What Should the Washington Wizards Do?
With the departure of LeBron James to the Western Conference, there was space for someone new to rise to the top of the Eastern Conference and the Wizards looked poised to be among the beneficiaries. Quite the opposite has happened this year as the Wizards have struggled to a 6-11 record, just 3 games up on the league-worst Cavaliers (all stats as of 11/21/18).
There’s no doubt the Wizards have talent. With an All-Star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal and versatile wings like Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre, Washington has one of the more talented teams in the East. The team’s problems actually start with their backcourt stars. Beal is shooting a career-low 33.1% from 3 this season, Wall’s assist percentage is the lowest it’s been in 7 years and lineups with both Wall and Beal have been outscored by 61 points in 524 minutes this season.
Washington’s main issue has been their defense, which currently ranks 28th in points allowed per possession. Beal and Wall play the most minutes on the team and must be held accountable for their poor performance on their end of the court. The Wizards’ defense is reliant on switching, which requires communication and accepting other teammates’ responsibilities in order to be successful, but the effort and communication simply hasn’t been there for Washington.
Considering they’re $29 million over the cap, Washington must do something about their struggles. It simply doesn’t make sense to pay those kinds of taxes for a mediocre team. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that everyone on the Wizards, including John Wall and Bradley Beal, is available in trade talks. Otto Porter, while a good player, is overpaid with 3 years and $81 million left on his deal after the Wizards matched Brooklyn’s offer sheet in the summer of 2017.
Ideally, they could move him and a younger wing like Kelly Oubre for a third star. However, as previously stated, Washington’s issues start with their All-Star backcourt and they might be inclined to shake that up. Beal is likely the more desirable of the pair to potential trade partners. He’s 25, makes $55.8 million over the next two seasons, and along with his 39 percent career mark from 3, he’s become a capable pick-and-roll ball handler and playmaker and has shown that he can be a physical on-ball defender.
The Wizards would likely have more trouble trading Wall, whose salary is about to double next season to just under $38 million when his supermax deal kicks in. His salary will continue to rise, and he’ll have a $47.3 million player option for his age-32 season in 2022-23. It’s a matter of who would be willing to pay for that risk, given Wall’s history of knee injuries for a player that relies heavily on speed and explosiveness.
Given that Wall was recently fined for a verbal tirade against his head coach, Scott Brooks, the Wizards might feel more inclined to trade him than Beal. But, they’ll likely find more suitors for the latter on the market. The Philadelphia 76ers are all-in after trading for Jimmy Butler and Beal’s shooting and secondary playmaking abilities would complement their core well. Could a package of Wilson Chandler, Markelle Fultz, and draft picks be enough to pry him from Washington? In search of a running mate for Kemba Walker, the Hornets have reportedly inquired about trading for Bradley Beal. It’s unclear what they offered but a package including Nicolas Batum, Malik Monk, and some draft picks could entice the Wizards.
It’s harder to think of suitors for Wall but the New Orleans Pelicans, who must compete and keep Anthony Davis happy, could try to swing a deal if they can find a way to keep Jrue Holiday around in the process. The Pistons, who took a risk on a resurgent Blake Griffin, might be willing to take another swing and see if playing alongside Griffin and Drummond could get the most out of his pick-and-roll playmaking. The Heat are similarly capped out and if they can’t afford a star in free agency they might be inclined to see if John Wall would benefit from a change of scenery.
In their last game, the Wizards came back from down 24 against the Clippers but according to Markieff Morris, even that can’t bring the team together. “The comments that’s coming from the locker room is f—– up. That don’t happen in sports.” The Wizards’ drama is at the center of the NBA’s attention and at this rate, it won’t be resolved until some moves are made.