Wizards

Gafford the Only Wizard Dealt at a Quiet DC Deadline

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Another trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET Thursday, marking the window’s end of teams exchanging players and assets for the 2023-24 season.

The Washington Wizards have few long-term ties to their rostered players, limiting themselves to one trade on Feb. 8 in shipping starting center Daniel Gafford off to Dallas, as first reported by ESPN.

The 2024 deadline was generally calm by its own eventful standards, with most swaps helping buyers at the margins and noticeably lacking the one splashy All-Star trade fans have come to expect.

The league is more loaded than ever, resulting in very few sellers in the open market, and the Miami Heat’s improbable transition from a Play-In competitor to an NBA Finals participant last season has inspired more front offices than ever that their mediocre teams may too have a shot at contending in the spring.

The Wizards, despite their positioning at the league’s bottom, were one of many teams who limited themselves to conservative moves without flipping more than they believed necessary.

League rumormongers have spent months ranking Washington’s tradable pieces, identifying young players and veterans whom the new front office is likely to flip for draft capital. Kyle Kuzma, Tyus Jones, Delon Wright and Landry Shamet each sustained murmurs of their potential relocations, but only the stalwart Gafford was sent packing.

The 6-foot-10 big man was the second-longest tenured Wizard behind only Deni Avdija, acquired from the Chicago Bulls three deadlines back in the early goings of 2021. He shared the floor with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal before leaving the team in the hands of Kuzma and Jordan Poole, having started across 45 games for this year’s losing ballclub.

The Wizards saw him off to the Mavericks in the midst of Gafford’s career year, as he’s averaging a career-high 10.9 points per game on 69% shooting. He’s largely a rim-runner and hustle big, someone who gets his numbers by finishing lobs and dunking any ball thrown in his vicinity.

He’ll play in a dream situation for a player of his archetype. Dallas is home to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the two most talented NBA guards Gafford will have played. Both of them know how to find a rolling big as well as anybody. 

Washington didn’t leave empty handed upon his exchange, as they’ll proudly add a late-first round pick to their asset pool, courtesy of Oklahoma City. Reserve center Richaun Holmes will also come over in the deal, and he’s likely here to stay. The former Mavericks benchwarmer has bagged 3.4 points per night across 23 games in 2024 with $12 million left to make this season, as well as a player option for the following season that’s worth closer to $13 million.

But what of their guard room? Other teams have been rumored to be keeping tabs on Jones, Wright and Shamet all season, yet none of them switched teams on Thursday.

Jones was the most likely to go, the only one of the three with a stable starting job in Washington and a recent history of succeeding with good teams. The Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly dangled multiple second-round picks for the longtime floor general, but the Wizards brass held out for a first. 

He’ll ride out the remainder of his expiring contract in a Wizards uniform, where the team hopes to re-sign him in the offseason in order to try to deal him again. He’s currently posting career highs in points (12.2) and assists (6.4) per night, but now they’re gambling on the market of the future.

Delon Wright is another guard who’s set to test free agency in the offseason, but he’ll go unrestricted. His forte is on the defensive end, and Washington’s front office seemed to really assume some contender would want his services. Wright and the shooting Landry Shamet were expected to field a package including one or multiple second-rounders, but the lack of any movement outside of Gafford means they never found the right trade offer.

A Kuzma haul would have blown any other Wizard-related move out of the water, but that deal was never close to completion. The forward just re-signed over the summer, meaning the team was under no pressure to squeeze value out of his contract before it expired. Washington would have needed the incentive of multiple first-rounders to get the paperwork ready, but they can test the waters the next chance they get for the offer they desire.

For now, the Wizards should prepare themselves for the full-time Marvin Bagley III show. He’s looked like a starting-caliber scorer and rebounder in his short time in Washington, and head coach Brian Keefe now has no choice but to examine what he’d look like with more minutes.

The Wizards will miss Gafford’s vertical defense and play-finishing, but the rest of the team remains unchanged.

About Henry J. Brown

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