The Washington Wizards are at a Crossroads


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It seems like ages ago since the Washington Wizards were the hottest story in the NBA. A 10-3 start had them sitting at first in the Eastern Conference with plenty of reasons for optimism going forward. However, Washington’s play dropped off, with a 13-22 record since the 10-3 start. A defense that once ranked third has cratered to 27th, combined with a disjointed offense, and you have a middling team with more questions than answers 48 games in. With the Washington Wizards trade deadline approaching, where do they go from here?

 

The Washington Wizards are at a Crossroads


Washington currently sits at 23-25, 10th place in the East. They currently have the 18th hardest schedule remaining, but uncertainty continues to mount. An uninspiring 3-5 record on a favorable homestand looks dreadful when you factor in the Wizards’ upcoming schedule. After blowing a 35-point lead in an embarassing home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington’s next 6 games before the trade deadline are as follows:

  • @ Memphis Grizzlies

  • @ Milwaukee Bucks

  • @ Philadelphia 76ers

  • vs. Phoenix Suns

  • vs. Miami Heat

  • vs. Brooklyn Nets

At some point, the Wizards front office will have to face reality; the roster as currently constructed cannot contend for a deep playoff run. Star power outside of Bradley Beal is severely lacking, along with connective playmaking, consistent shot-making, and defensive consistency. With the trade deadline fast approaching, here are the Wizards’ options to move forward.

 

Option 1: Reload, and go All In

With the exception of both Russell Westbrook trades, Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard has opted for marginal, low-risk moves that preserved the team’s draft capital and cap sheet. The acquisition of now-starter Daniel Gafford comes to mind, only dealing fringe rotation players Troy Brown and Moritz Wagner.

While these moves are wins on the surface, Washington has lacked the big-time deal that improves their trajectory going forward.

Beal has spoken ad nauseam about wanting to remain in DC as long as the team is a consistent winner. Washington has lost more games than only seven other franchises since 2019, and Beal has shown frustration at times.

It must be tough for Beal seeing his positional peers have stars coming to them, but not to DC; Devin Booker has Chris Paul, Zach LaVine has DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic; Beal has… *checks notes* Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma?

No disrespect intended to Dinwiddie and Kuzma (one of NBA’s most clutch players this season), but the Wizards deep roster lacks star power outside of Beal. This is why, in order for the Wizards to build a serious contender, they have to push all their chips in for an All-Star at this trade deadline.


Who Could the Wizards Get?

As the Washington Wizards trade deadline gets closer, they have been linked to Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons and Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers as the rumor mill heats up. Both players would represent positional upgrades over starters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Daniel Gafford, respectively.


Jerami Grant

Grant has grown into a primary scoring option in Detroit, averaging 21.6 points per game with a 55.6 true shooting percentage over the past two seasons. He would slot in as the Wizards’ second option offensively, getting his in isolation and spot-up opportunities alongside Bradley Beal. Grant’s athleticism and ball-handling make him a threat at all three levels.


Grant still remains a high-level defender both on and off the ball, capitalizing on his length as a prominent weak-side rim protector. Grant’s rim defense (opponents’ rim FG percent decreases by -4.6 percent when contested by Grant) and block percentage (3.1 percent) rank in the 72nd and 82nd percentiles respectively, of all NBA players with over 350 minutes played.

Domantas Sabonis


It’s been a long time since Washington has had a dominant inside presence, but that could change at the deadline if Domantas Sabonis gets traded to DC.

Sabonis is one of six active players (Giannis Antetokoumpo 4x, Nikola Jokic 4x, Westbrook 4x, Julius Randle 1x, DeMarcus Cousins 1x) to average at least 18 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists over a full season. His playmaking ability, specifically his proficiency hitting cutters and shooters on the move, would give a new element to this Washington Wizards offense; currently dependent on its guards to generate open shots via rim pressure.

Sabonis is also proficient in operating as the handler in dribble handoff actions; he formed great chemistry with former Pacer, Doug McDermott, during their time as teammates. Beal’s elite off-ball skillset, combined with Sabonis’ capability as a post playmaking hub could make for an awesome fit in Washington’s offense.

Washington has historically struggled to attract big-time free agents, so the best way to attract an elite partner with Beal would have to come via trade. A trade for a player like Grant or Sabonis would signal a willingness to give Beal the Designated Veteran Extension; a hotly contested debate among the Wizards' fanbase.

 

Option 2: Fire Sale and Commit to Rebuilding


Since Bradley Beal has taken the reins, the Washington Wizards have settled as a lower-end playoff team; good enough to make the playoffs, but not quite good enough to threaten contenders and make a deep run.

In doing so, you land in a draft spot where more times than not, teams fail to land a franchise-changing player. To escape this purgatory, teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Hornets opted to recoup assets for franchise pillars (Marc Gasol & Mike Conley, Paul Millsap, and Kemba Walker respectively) to kickstart a rebuild.

With this option, the Wizards would be punting on a Beal supermax extension and reloading the asset stash for a rebuild. While Beal is a terrific scorer, his porous defense and questionable decision-making in clutch situations do not meet the standard of other supermax players in the NBA.

A loaded package of young players and draft picks in a haul for Beal would accelerate a rebuilding process; plenty of teams have been interested in his services which would keep Washington’s asking price high.

Washington could also look to move veterans Montrezl Harrell, Davis Bertansarduous contract, Raul Neto, and even Kentavious Caldwell-Pope if they go down this route; freeing up playing time for the youngsters while gaining assets in the process.


The Next Steps

The Wizards have walked the fine line of rebuilding on the fly while trying to remain in the playoff hunt in recent years. As the Washington Wizards trade deadline approaches; they are staring down Beal’s free agency, an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference, and a roster in limbo, the Washington Wizards need to make a definitive decision on their path going forward. If not, it will just be more of the same for a franchise perpetually stuck in the middle.





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