Oh boy. Are we really going to do this? I guess so.
The Washington Wizards are coming off of a 2018-19 NBA campaign in which they won 32 games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The Wizards lost John Wall for the season with a torn Achilles, and it doesn’t look like Wall will be playing this year, either. Bradley Beal is up for free agency in two years. There is limited young talent on the roster. They waited until late July—after free agency was essentially over—to hire a general manager.
Basically, Washington is in terrible shape heading into the 2019-20 NBA season, and I’m not sure the Wizards have any clue how to fix it.
Let’s start with the fact that Wall’s career became in jeopardy before his four-year, $171 million contract extension even kicked in. The new deal will start this coming season, where Wall will make $38.2 million to sit in street clothes.
Obviously, this is not what the Wizards expected. You can’t plan for injuries, but it doesn’t make them any more painful when they occur, and the fact that Wall, a guy who relies almost strictly on his athleticism, suffered an injury well-known for sapping athletes of their speed, quickness and bounce, regardless of age, makes this all the more devastating.
The problem is that Wall is all but untradeable. No one is going to want that contract, and I’m not even sure how attractive of a trade piece Wall was even before the injury.
He is 29 years old, and while he is blindingly fast and can get to the rim at will, he has never been able to develop a jumper, his performance late in games has been shaky and his leadership has long been a question.
Throw in a potentially career-altering injury on top of that, and you have a guy that you’ll have to attach multiple assets to in order to get rival teams to even think of trading for him.
But that’s not where it ends for Washington.
There is also the case of Beal, who is coming off of the most productive season of his career and has two years at a very reasonable $55 million remaining on his current deal.
The Wizards offered Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, but he has yet to sign it, and why would he? The team is in dire straits right now. No star player is going to want to sign up for that long term.
So let’s say Beal doesn’t sign the extension. Washington would then have no choice but to try and rehome Beal, which is something the Wizards probably should have tried to do over the summer to begin with.
It’s blatantly obvious that this club is light years away from contending, so blowing it up and trading Beal for a hefty return would almost certainly be the best course of action.
Seeing as how Beal is under contract through 2021, Washington could bring in a nice haul for the shooting guard, but, for some reason, the Wizards seem intent on staying on the hamster wheel.
The fact that Washington doesn’t have a whole lot of intriguing young talent makes its decision to hold on to Beal even more head-scratching.
Yes, there is big man Thomas Bryant, who had a terrific year in 2018-19, and rookie forward Rui Hachimura is definitely interesting, but otherwise, the Wizards’ pool of young talent is pretty barren.
You know how they can add some young pieces? By trading Beal.
Look: the Wizards are going to be bad this coming season. They aren’t making the playoffs, and they won’t even be contending for a playoff spot, not even in the weak Eastern Conference.
I find it doubtful that Beal will sign that extension, and if he doesn’t, then Washington would be foolish not to try and trade him between now and February when his value is at its highest.
If the Wizards wait until next summer, his value will dip, as he would then represent a potential one-year rental, which would limit the amount of trading partners Washington would have.
But, if the Wizards try and deal him now, just about everyone in the league would be in play, because some teams would be fully willing to experiment with two years of Beal and then re-evaluate their position during the summer of 2021.
I’m not sure there is a team in the NBA in worse shape than Washington at the current point in time, and the only way out of it for the Wizards is to start an all-out rebuild.
Regardless, the 2019-20 NBA season is not going to be fun in the nation’s capital.