Where Can the Wizards Find Help at the NBA Trade Deadline?
In addition to throwing their hat in the ring for the unofficial award of Most Entertaining Regular Season Game of the Year, Monday night’s battle between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers also filled us in on some other hoops nuggets relevant to the season.
For starters, despite any form of growing suspicion we may have had regarding the Cavs in recent weeks following losses to teams like Sacramento, New Orleans, and Dallas, they reminded us how dangerous they really are.
LeBron James was classic LeBron as he dished out 17 dimes to go with his 32 points; Kevin Love went for 39 and 12 amidst “trash” trade rumors that began to creep around the internet mid-game; and Kyrie Irving turned it on when it mattered most, scoring 11 points in overtime with kill shots on back-to-back possessions in the final minute of action, all while James watched from the bench after fouling out.
We also learned that Washington is a tough team to guard in their own right.
Bradley Beal looked like the player we all envision when discussing his potential, always seeming to have a counterpunch for the Cavs as he cruised to 41 points. Otto Porter also had an opportunity to demonstrate his shooting efficiency on the national stage, knocking down 5-of-7 from three on his way to 25 points while John Wall, despite not having his best game, continued to make his case for top point guard in the East.
Also nestled in there is the notion that, despite the Wizards having flipped the script this season and looking like a team talented enough to make some noise in the playoffs, they could use another piece if they’re serious about taking a shot at the King.
The Overall Case
It may sound like a solid Debbie Downer impression, but this roster is the exact same roster we started with at beginning of the season. More specifically, it’s the same bench unit we were clowning just two months ago.
Are they playing better? Sure. But how realistic is it to believe your five starters (all of which must remain healthy) backed up by Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith is enough to challenge the Eastern Conference's elite?
Hitting the trade machine and plugging away is always a nice mid-workday pastime, and it can serve as a nice starting block for drumming up ideas. But for whatever reason, the names I keep coming back to most often are Louis Williams of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets, both of whom would serve as nice adds to the roster.
The Case for Sweet Lou
Despite averaging just 24 minutes a game, Williams is putting together a career year and earning himself praise as a contender for Sixth Man of the Year while posting personal highs in both points per game (18) and three-point shooting (.385).
Given the Wizards' second unit currently ranks 29th in points per game (15.9), Williams’ ability to come off the bench and get buckets is a substantial upgrade over anything they currently have on the roster.
Look back no further than Monday night, when the Washington starters scored more than 88 percent of the team’s 135 total points. Between Oubre, Smith, Tomas Satoransky, and Trey Burke, the bench scored just 16 points, 11 of which came from Oubre in 28 minutes of action. Williams would serve as an immediate upgrade in that department.
Lou Williams hits the jumper and gets the foul!#LakeShow
— Audible Sports (@AudibleSports) January 26, 2017
And while scoring would likely serve as the largest net gain from the Wizards adding Williams, they’d also benefit from rostering a backup guard they can trust.
Head coach Scott Brooks is currently burdened with the task of sitting his franchise player down for a breather and relying on Burke and Satoransky to spell him, one of which is bad and the latter of which remains a work in progress.
Williams, meanwhile, is sporting a career-high usage rate (30.4%) this season and using 11 years in the league to help lead a team with its own fair share of young talent. Again, he'd be an immediate upgrade in Washington.
Finally, with money at the forefront of every NBA trade possibility, Williams is even more attractive thanks to his $7 million salary through next season. The Wizards could certainly work something out in exchange for his salary, but other teams (presumably contenders) could potentially also view Williams’ talent and friendly contract as enticing.
The Case for Wilson Chandler
Following reports of being unsatisfied with his current role in Denver, Chandler has become one of the hotter names as we approach deadline day.
Similar to Williams, he's also putting up career-best numbers and helping to make a case for Sixth Man hardware, including career highs in points (15.4), rebounds (6.7), and assists (2.1).
While Chandler’s numbers, including his shooting, are similar to those of Markieff Morris, Chandler offers increased versatility, as his athleticism provides the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. Adding Chandler extends the bench, albeit not necessarily at a specific position, and it could allow Brooks to get even more creative with his rotations.
Supreme footwork, and awareness
Love it @wilsonchandler pic.twitter.com/oUd4Jb07HD
— Derek (@NoCoMotive) February 7, 2017
Chandler will also put a slightly larger dent in the wallet. After signing a four-year deal in 2015, he’ll be under contract through the 2018-19 season, making slightly more each season, from $11.2 million this year, to $12 million next season and $12.8 million in the final year.
The Final Case
Although we may not know what the Washington front office is thinking, we do know two things as it pertains to making a move by February 23rd.
First, the Wizards are finally starting to flirt with the return of Ian Mahinmi, who played 12 minutes on Wednesday night. And while that shouldn’t be enough to convince management that their bench is solidified and ready to roll into the playoffs on the rickety knees of last summer’s free-agent splash, it should help the team’s overall defense on a nightly basis.
Second, Washington doesn't have a ton to offer in terms of a trade package, which means including a 2017 first-round pick in the equation isn't out of the question. It’s not necessarily an exciting aspect for Wizards fans, but when taking Ernie Grunfeld’s drafting record into consideration, the actual return likely received from a pick in the team’s expected draft range and the task at hand of taking down an entire conference, you have to be willing to shoot your shot.
It may seem like a bad idea to pour so much into a regular season game (and perhaps that's happening here), and it may seem unfair at how quick expectations for this team have shifted, but if Monday night was any sort of barometer, the Wizards have a chance to do something.
Certainly their valiant effort (also known as a loss) doesn’t mean they bop through the East and win the best-of-seven against the defending champs. But the Wizards showed, at the very least, they can slug it out and hang around, which is a huge step in the right direction given where they were just two months ago.
To take the leap from slugger to contender, the Wizards will need to add a piece in the coming weeks, and there seems to be a couple names out there who could fit the bill.