Wizards

What Assets Remain for the Wizards to Trade?

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The curtains close on the honeymoon phase 30-odd games into every NBA calendar, forcing executives to take close looks in the mirror and evaluate whether their roster has a shot at executing the goals of the season.

Those front-office suits then commence a league-wide game of chicken to see who will crack first, and the stakes only further rise during the January march into the mid-season trade deadline. This year, that last call falls on Feb. 8.

The New York Knicks and the Toronto Raptors were the first to break the glass of this year’s invisible barrier. With both teams threatening to slip into Eastern Conference purgatory, the play-in-bound Knicks sent RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and a future second-round pick for OG Anunoby along with some fringe rotational pieces.

It showed that both teams were willing to give their snow globes a shake, but functioned as something of a starter’s pistol for everyone else. They were done waiting and ready to pull the trigger on the move.

The Washington Wizards have one of the least talented rosters in the association, evidenced in their 6-26 record entering the new year, but that’s not to say they’re completely talentless. The league is as loaded as it’s been in the 2010s, practically begging for expansion, and GMs both shrewd and desperate are willing to examine for any gems hiding in the NBA’s cracks. 

DC made its first trade on Sunday, parting ways with veterans Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala in a trade with the Detroit Pistons.

Who might be next to go?

Most Likely to Go

The Wizards lost a lot this last offseason, dealing Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis on inopportune contracts for little player value in return. Their biggest get in the Porzingis deal was Tyus Jones, acquired specifically to fetch a pick or a prospect in return by the deadline.

That plan certainly looks good nearly halfway into the season, as he’s currently Washington’s most glowing tradeable asset, sporting a $14 million expiring contract that will expire in the spring. He’s averaging career-highs in per-game points (12.7), assists (5.6), rebounds (2.8), field-goal shooting (52.9%) and three-point shooting (43.9%). 

The point guard has started every game this season, already surpassing his previous high of 23 starts in a year. He’s flourished as a backup across eight years in Minnesota and Memphis, and has embraced a starting role by improving in virtually every offensive category. 

He’s probably not viewed as a starter on a contender due to his struggles as a 6-foot-1 defender, but his steady augmentation means he could be worth more than he ever was before as a steady sixth man on some highly competent Grizzlies teams. He could draw as much as a first-round pick in the coming weeks, exactly what this front office wants.

It’s highly doubtful that any other rostered Wizards draw that much interest on the open market, one of many reasons for their languid on-court play. 

Landry Shamet has been one of the team’s few bright spots, a veteran who knows where to be on both ends of the floor and a respected shooter at 37.2% from long range. He could get swooped up by a contender for multiple seconds, as the poor situation in Washington has allowed him to look like an actual NBA player.

Delon Wright could have potentially gone for a first last season due to his quiet breakout as one of the league’s most effective perimeter defenders. He posted a defensive rating of 110.9, allowing several fewer points per 100 possessions than the teamwide average of 114.9. Now another year older, he hasn’t been quite up to snuff in 2024, missing 21 games with an injury while seeing his impressive steal count slip from 1.8 per contest to 1.4 this season.

Other teams may take a look at Washington’s center rotation, but there isn’t a whole lot to like. Daniel Gafford is averaging career highs of his own with 10.5 points per game and 7.7 boards to boot, but what really sticks out are his jumps in blocks (1.3 last season to 2.1 this season) and steals (0.4 to 0.9). 

He could be a great backup defensive anchor and shot-blocker as he continues to grow as a rim-runner, but in a league as loaded as this, isn’t widely viewed as a starter anywhere. Washington doesn’t have many contributors who’d start elsewhere— the price they pay for blowing it up without the assets to fall back on.

Different Varieties of Keepers

The remainder of the roster can be divided between the members of the young core they’re unlikely to part ways with and other veterans who wouldn’t play for anyone else.

Bilal Coulibaly is as close to being untouchable as anyone in Washington can be. He’s the only member of the team drafted by this newly instated front office, and he’s rewarded them with steadily improving defense, shooting and scoring backed by his brilliant feel for the game.

Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert have also put forth productive basketball this season, even though they were former GM Tommy Sheppard’s guys. Deni’s been inconsistent as a shooter, but his transition playmaking gives the team one of its best attributes and Kispert continues to thrive as a shooter off the bench as well.

Johnny Davis is the final remnant of the old regime’s draft woes, and he plainly isn’t worth much to anyone besides Washington who already blew a top-10 pick on him. He’s floundered in his minutes, wielding a shooting form completely alien from anything he displayed in college at Wisconsin. He’s only played 149 minutes across 18 games, and likely isn’t going anywhere. 

Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole are the two players with the highest pedigree on the team, a pair of scorers who won a ring early as a role player before moving east. 

Kuzma, the team’s leading scorer, doesn’t fit the long-term rebuilding timeline at 28 years old. He signed a fresh four-year, $102 million contract this past summer for his leadership and bucket-getting, but the team is unlikely to part ways with him. 

It’s not often someone signs to a multiyear deal just to get immediately traded, and the Wizards are, justifiably, looking for a first-round pick or two in return. Even looking in the short term, the team likely wouldn’t win another game this season without his 22.2 points per night.

Poole isn’t quite as coveted by the Wizards, who traded Chris Paul for his four-year, $140 million extension with the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2022. He’s underperformed in his first year in the District, averaging 41.4% from the floor and 31.6% from distance. He’s still young at 24, but isn’t viewed as a valuable asset due to his questionable shot selection, poor defense and bloated contract.

Lastly, Anthony Gill is still a Wizard for morale purposes only, a 31-year-old who rarely leaves the bench.

Wizards executives should capitalize on the few performing veterans before their value starts to diminish, as the league always needs more backup guards who can pass and shoot.

Washington, conversely, needs youth, as their asset garden has seen more fertile days.

About Henry J. Brown

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