Even if you haven’t been paying attention to recent headlines, the current state of the Washington Wizards team chemistry may not surprise you. Seeming to always foster some level of organizational or locker room dysfunction over the last few years, this season has been particularly rough.
Really, really rough. Like, to the point that the team could be ready to head into a rebuilding period amount of tough.
The emotional turbulence clouding the team combined with a 5-11 start to the 2018-19 season has led to the Wizards’ front office open intention to be fielding calls on all team players, including players like John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr.
While all three of these players will draw interest from certain teams around the league, one fit could make a lot of sense for the Los Angeles Lakers: John Wall.
Despite the team’s poor performance, Wall is averaging 20.9 points, 7.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and two steals so far into the season while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor. The former No. 1 overall pick could be both a player who helps the Lakers push for playoff success this season, as well as play a role in their blueprint to build a perineal contender around LeBron James.
If you have ever walked into a store that had a sign hanging outside reading “Going Out of Business Sale,” then you already know how this works. John Wall’s current trade value and the Washington Wizards’ asking price both make for a very favorable trade scenario for Magic Johnson and the Lakers.
Normally, an all-star player requires some combination of assets, young talent, valuable starters, relatively equivalent talent, or cap relief. Washington knows, especially seeing how the last few trades for top NBA players have shaken out such as the trade for Jimmy Butler, to keep their hopes realistic because no Danny-Ainge-Godfather-package is walking through the door.
There is even the possibility that Washington would have to attach picks of their own in order to move Wall because of his contract that will kick in next season at a starting rate of $38 million. Ernie Grunfeld also knows that he needs to act with somewhat urgency, as moving John Wall during that contract will be a much more difficult task than trading him now.
This means if the Lakers can offer the Wizards, who are looking towards a rebuild, some young talent with potential then they might have a very real chance at getting Washington to pull the trigger and send Wall to the west coast.
When packages have been discussed in the Lakers’ possibility to obtain a star player via trade, they always seem to include all, or the majority of, their young core, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. This may be a scenario where Los Angeles could bring in a star while only shipping out one or two of those players.
The ideal scenario for the Lakeshow would be to wait until December 15 to make the move happen. By then, a player like Rajon Rondo could be used to match salaries alongside Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball in an offer for the Wizards’ point guard. This could be the most likely route, as Washington isn’t seeming to rush for a deal to be done. If Grunfeld feels strongly that Ingram or Ball have serious potential, that package may be too enticing to pass up on. If the Lakers needed to act fast, or the Wizards sought more in return for Wall, then both Ball and Ingram could be offered together in exchange, likely requiring less draft compensation as well.
The thought of swapping two young pieces for a 28-year-old point guard who is less than a year away from being a colossal cap hit might have some Lakers’ fans ready to riot. The truth is, though, if Magic Johnson has any intention of trading Ball or Ingram, now is the best time to do it.
Brandon Ingram will enter the last year of his rookie contract next season. His trade value right now compared to next year, when he will be an expiring player, is monumentally higher. Ingram’s fit with LeBron is showing early signs of not being what all had hoped, also. If that is true and the league starts to notice, their idea of what he is worth in terms of their own assets will diminish.
Lonzo Ball has two more years on his rookie deal following the end of this season, and that would help the L.A. front office capitalize on his presently high trade value. Ball has made intermittent impact on this Lakers team and shown flashes of being a fantastic player. The majority of the time, however, he looks like he will be a viable starter most of his career, whose IQ and great defensive awareness make up for the times when his shot doesn’t fall. The ceiling on Lonzo may not be where many expected it, and be that the case, trading him now offers the highest return.
Obviously, Wall’s contract hinders the franchise’s free agency goals in the coming offseason, but all signs point to many of the top free agents this summer being happy in their current situation. The Lakers’ goal to sign talent in the offseason may be more out of reach than they realize. Trading for Wall gives them a back-up plan to add talent, rather than just striking out all together and scrambling to throw cap space at role players.
If they missed out on their free agent targets, having John Wall on the team allows them to enter the 2019-20 season with more star power on the roster than just LeBron James.
John Wall could even help things go better than expected during free agency. Prospective free agents could be more sold on the idea of joining the Lakers if they see potential in a big three already in place. Given the situation where Wall’s salary gets in the way of signing another big name, nothing is stopping the Lakers from moving on from him and trading him out in order to sign their target.
During the summer, other teams would have a greater financial capability to take on Wall’s contract and could be motivated by their own free agent plans not panning out as expected.
John Wall in purple and gold would obviously take time to figure out, as it always had for anyone playing alongside James. The advantage the Lakers have, is that if it doesn’t work out and the fit isn’t what they hoped it would be, he can always be traded again. Whether prior to the trade deadline during this season, in the offseason, or next season.
Wall’s contract would be easier to match with a player like Anthony Davis’ rather than having to mash together multiple rookie contracts to make the money work. As teams increasingly seek star player for star player compensation as well, Wall could prove to be a valuable bargaining chip in the future at the very least.