As the Wizards continue to sink down the Eastern Conference standings, it appears Washington’s front office could be ready to abandon ship.
Now at 5-11 overall after back-to-back losses to the Nets and Trail Blazers, the Wizards have made every player on the team available in trade discussions, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Yes, that means backcourt buddies John Wall and Bradley Beal could be on the move for the right price.
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Finding potential trade partners for Beal shouldn’t be a challenge if the Wizards choose to go that route. He’s a 25-year-old All-Star shooting guard on a reasonable contract, and his peak years are still ahead of him. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor and operate with or without the ball makes him an easy fit in any team’s starting lineup.
Wall, however, is a different story. He could be nearly impossible to include in any trade. There are three big reasons why…
That massive contract: Wall signed a four-year, $170 million extension in 2017, but it doesn’t actually take effect until next season. The numbers on the back end of the contract are staggering.
And if that isn’t enough to make the front office gulp, Wall also has a 15 percent trade kicker as part of his deal. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently explained, the complexities surrounding the trade kicker make Wall less likely to leave Washington this season.
Devoting a massive portion of a team’s salary cap to one player is extremely problematic in Wall’s case, because there are real concerns about what he will become later in his career.
Talking to folks around the league it is very clear that the trade value of Washington’s players goes:
Otto Porter Jr
Teams are terrified of Wall’s extension. One told me “$47M four years from now could cripple your team.”
Aging and injuries: Wall turned 28 in September, and generally speaking, that’s right in the sweet spot for an NBA player’s prime. The former No. 1 overall pick might not follow a normal pattern, though.
Wall missed significant time last season after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in January. He only played 41 games during the regular season and saw significant drops in points, assists and effective field goal percentage.
At this stage in his career, Wall isn’t going to suddenly change his style. He is largely dependent on his speed and athleticism, and he hasn’t ever found consistency with his jumper to punish opposing defenses for sagging off him. (Wall is shooting 32.9 percent from 3-point range this season, right around his career mark of 32.7 percent.)
Those physical gifts make Wall a must-see on the fast break, whether he’s dashing to the basket for a left-handed dunk or high-flying block. But eventually, he will lose a step or two, and that vertical leap will come down a few inches. Paying that version of Wall more than $40 million… doesn’t seem appealing.
Impact and fit: The talent on the Wizards’ roster is undeniable, but they always seem to fall short of the lofty expectations they set for themselves. Wall doesn’t deserve all of the blame for that, but as the franchise player, he is at least partially responsible for the team’s shortcomings.
Head coach Scott Brooks ripped the Wizards after the loss to the Blazers, and his comments directly point to a lack of leadership in the locker room.
Brooks on getting down 20 only eight minutes in: “We gotta just play with more enthusiasm, more effort, more energy. That’s embarrassing. That’s embarrassing.”
Brooks’ strongest words so far this year: “No team in this league can win games if you don’t compete for your teammates, and I gotta find five guys that are willing to do that.”
If things don’t improve, Brooks could lose his job. The coach is often the first to go in these situations. But a lack of energy on a nightly basis goes to the players — coaching up effort shouldn’t be necessary for professionals. It starts at the top with Wall.
Beyond the basics, the Wizards have also been slightly better with Wall off the floor. That wasn’t the case in 2017-18 or the year before.
It’s certainly possible those numbers creep back toward a standard Wall season with a larger sample size, but it’s clear the Wizards are dealing with big problems. Wall could do a much better job of being proactive in finding solutions.
Throw all three factors together, and you’re looking at a trade for a player with a cap-crippling contract and serious questions about how much he can impact winning in the future. Sure you want to pull the trigger on that deal?
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