One of the hallmarks of Tommy Sheppard’s tenure as head of the Washington Wizards’ basketball operations department has been his creative and opportunistic activity in the commercial market. Four-fifths of the team’s current starting lineup arrived in Washington via trades: Daniel Gafford, Kyle Kuzma, Monté Morris and Kristaps Porziņģis. In the hours leading up to last season’s trade deadline, the Wizards completed three trades.
With several days left until this season’s NBA trade deadline expires on Thursday afternoon, league sources from other teams said. Athleticism they expect the Wizards to remain active in efforts to improve the team rather than a sale.
It lines up with something Sheppard said shortly after trading fourth-year forward Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks and also generated a trade exception worth $100. approximately $6.3 million.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Sheppard said, “we’re definitely a team in building mode as we continue to grow, but the goal is still to make the playoffs. We are not trying to make it worse. … Every player in this dressing room believes that we are going to improve. When we are healthy and can stay healthy, we can go for a run. I’m not going to take that away from them. »
The following is a collection of the latest information we have gathered on wizarding trade intentions and possibilities. We have granted league sources anonymity to give them the freedom to speak candidly and because NBA rules prohibit team officials from openly discussing players who play for other teams.
Kuzma still plans to decline his $13.0 million player option for 2023-24 and enter unrestricted free agency in July for the first time in his career, as Athleticism reported two months ago.
Wizards officials would like to re-sign Kuzma, who turns 28 in July, to a long-term contract. If they don’t trade him in the coming days, they would enter the summer with his Bird rights.
In free agency, those bird rights would allow the Wizards to re-sign him for freshman salary up to the maximum salary for a player with six years in the league. Bird’s rights would also allow Washington to offer him a five-year contract, while all other teams would be limited to offering him no more than four years.
Wizards decision makers don’t seem too concerned about their ability to retain Kuzma, and publicly at least Kuzma has said he can “100%” see himself re-signed with the Wizards, adding, “They showed me some love. They allowed me to have a platform to show my game and show the league that I’m not just a role player. I’m someone who’s coming right now. It’s the most important thing for me.
“I want to continue to elevate myself. To have a leadership position, to have a place where I develop and play my game and my role and improve with every game — Thisthat’s what matters to me.
It’s hard to imagine a rival team offering Kuzma a bigger role on offense than he has with the Wizards. Indeed, Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. gave Kuzma considerable freedom as a scorer, playmaker, and marksman. His use rate is the highest of his career, according to Basketball-Reference and advanced analytics database Cleaning the Glass.
A risk for the Wizards, of course, is that once Kuzma achieves unrestricted free agency, he could sign elsewhere without the Wizards receiving players and/or draft picks in return.
League sources tell us the Wizards have shown no willingness to accept trade offers for Kuzma. The six teams with significant cap space slated for 2023 this summer — Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Orlando and San Antonio — don’t plan to be contenders next season (although if one of them gets the top pick in the 2023 draft and takes Victor Wembanyama, they’ll would suddenly be much more intriguing).
“I think they’re playing pretty smart from the perspective of the guy who’s so valuable,” a rival team official said. “They would have his Bird rights, and those are valuable, especially for a team that may not have cap space. If a team that has no cap space is trying to acquire it, that’s why they’re trying to acquire it.
“So it’s not just this expiring contract, or potentially expiring contract, it’s how good the guy is, coupled with the fact that the team that acquires him next can then control him (to a certain measure by owning its Bird rights).”
League sources consider part of Washington’s justification for the Hachimura trade to be to clear a financial path to allow the team to re-sign Kuzma without going into the luxury tax for the 2023 season- 24. The John Collins extension the Hawks gave their now 25-year-old forward in 2021 — five years, $125 million — provides possible parameters for Kuzma’s possible re-signing with the Wizards.
“I think they’ll end up using Collins as a benchmark, whether it’s fair or not,” another team executive said.
It’s well documented that Beal has a no-trade clause in the five-year, $251 million contract he signed last summer.
The Wizards have no interest in trading Beal, and even if the team ever wants to move its 29-year-old starting shooter, the no-trade clause would limit potential destinations to only franchises Beal wants to join.
But it would be a mistake to assume that Beal will never be traded. In theory, there’s nothing stopping Beal from asking team officials for a trade at any time during his current contract, especially if he feels the front office hasn’t done enough to improve the roster around him. The jury is still out on what Beal thinks of Kuzma and/or Porziņģis long-term, but the pressure is still on the Wizards to add more wherever and whenever possible – making another deal possible before the deadline. Thursday, even if on the sidelines.
Best known for his defensive versatility, Avdija, the ninth overall pick in 2020, tends to be seen by other teams as having the most two-way upside of any young Washington player.
Although this is his third NBA season, he only turned 22 last month.
Still, league sources don’t consider the forward combo to have significant commercial value at this time.
“I think it’s very limited because he’s still a very speculative player,” a source from another team said.
The 27-year-old center has enjoyed a solid rebounding season, including largely avoiding the injuries that characterized his first seven years in the league. He appeared in 44 of Washington’s 52 games. He also ranks second in team scoring, averaging 22.5 points per game, and has exceeded initial expectations defensively.
Porziņģis has a $36.0 million player option for next season, and he recently said Athleticism he has not decided whether he will exercise this option.
Still, our league sources are skeptical that Porziņģis would command much in the commercial market right now. But if he exercises his player option after this season, that expiring contract could be valuable as a trade chip for Washington to engage with teams looking to shed players with large, long-term salaries.
conjure a star
It’s no secret that Washington would welcome the addition of an All-Star-caliber player, but league sources we spoke to consider Washington’s chances of doing so slim.
Much of the reason for this skepticism stems from Stepien’s rule, which prevents a team from trading their own first-round picks for two consecutive years.
In Washington’s 2020 deal to offload John Wall’s huge contract, Washington had to pair a protected first-round pick with Wall in Houston for Russell Westbrook.
This pick, which has since been redirected to subsequent trades and is now due to the New York Knicks, has various protections: top 14 protected for this year’s draft, top 12 in 2024, top 10 in 2025 and top eight in 2026.
Since the pick could be passed on until 2026, the first Washington that can trade a first-round pick is 2028 (unless the Knicks agree to eliminate the protections). Also, Washington doesn’t owe either team a first-round pick.
With no immediate first-round picks to offer, league sources consider it difficult for Washington to amass enough attractive coins to acquire a top player through a trade. A league source, however, said the Wizards were among the teams he most expected to be active before Thursday’s deadline – not for a star player per se, but to add to their depth with a smaller deal.
Morris, a solid point guard and 3-point shooter who turns 28 in June, could attract teams that need help in that position. For example, the LA Clippers would like to add a veteran point guard, as our colleague Law Murray noted a few days ago.
A Clippers scout attended the Wizards-Portland Trail Blazers game in Washington on Friday, even though the Clippers wrapped up their season against the Wizards and don’t have another game against the Trail Blazers until March 19.
Morris has a team-friendly contract with salaries of $9.1 million this season and $9.8 million next season. The Wizards have depth at point guard with defensive ace Delon Wright, Nunn and Jordan Goodwin.
Barton, a 32-year-old winger, was released from the Wizards’ rotation and is in the final year of a contract that pays him $14.4 million this season.
The Wizards would have to decide if taking the money beyond this season by using Barton’s expiring contract in a trade was worth it. (For what it’s worth, the 2022-23 salaries of Luke Kennard of the Clippers and Doug McDermott of the San Antonio Spurs are among the players whose numbers match Barton’s almost perfectly.)
But given Washington’s hopes of bringing Kuzma and Porziņģis back next season, combined with Ted Leonsis’ history of paying the luxury tax – only once since becoming the team’s senior governor , in 2010 – it’s hard to see the Wizards going that route.
If Barton isn’t dealt with by the deadline, he would be a natural candidate for a buyout.
(Top photo of Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal: Brad Mills/USA Today)