This (two) week(s) in Wizards: Trade deadline!

By Zach Rice

Heading into the week, the Wizards were candidates to get Domantas Sabonis from the Pacers, and Bradley Beal was healthy. It seemed like the Wizards were poised for a second half reminiscent of last season, where they went on a late run and defeated the Pacers in the play-in game to make the playoffs…albeit a destruction at the hands of the Sixers. 

Oh, how the turntables…

A confusing blockbuster trade between the Kings and Pacers sent Sabonis to Sacramento, and what seemed like a day-to-day wrist injury for Beal ended up requiring season-ending surgery. Eek.

As the trade deadline was getting crazier than the New York Stock Exchange at 10 a.m, the Wizards were wheeling and dealing themselves. The highlight of the hectic day was a semi-surprising trade for Kristaps Porzingis in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. The last two hours of the deadline saw the Wizards ship two veterans — Montrezl Harrell and Aaron Holiday – that have helped outline the Wizards future.

Moving off of the trade deadline, the Wizards back-breaking schedule resulted in four losses in six games this week, all of which were by double digits. 

To start off an eventful week, the Wizards lost by double digits to the Bucks. However, the Wizards played pretty well, especially considering Beal was ruled out shortly before game time. The Wizards took a three point lead in the fourth quarter; then, Giannis Antetokounmpo took over. The Milwaukee superstar had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the final eight and a half minutes, which sealed the deal, and he also tallied his fourth triple-double of the season.

Following a tough loss in Milwaukee, the Wizards earned one of their best wins of the season on the road against the Sixers. It hasn’t been said in awhile  but the bench was the difference- maker in the win. The bench scored as many points as the starting lineup on 18 fewer shots. Another rare occurrence was the Wizards winning a game that came down to the final shot. Thankfully, big plays from Montrezl Harrell, Corey Kispert, Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie helped the Wizards salt away the Sixers with a 106–103 victory.

A season-low 80 points against the Suns was the result of the most inefficient offensive performance all season. The Wizards shot 35% from the field and 21% from three, washing away a stellar defensive performance against the best team in basketball. Not a single Wizard shot over 50% from the three, and only two Wizards — Montrezl Harrell and Aaron Holiday — put up double-digit points.

Another underwhelming offensive performance led to the Wizards getting blown out by the Heat. While the Wizards shot below 23% from the three, the Heat were unconscious from behind the arc, hitting over 56% of their threes. On the bright side, Corey Kispert matched his career high of 20 points, despite struggling from three point range. He’s showing signs of improvement offensively by becoming more and more versatile every time he steps on the floor, and hopefully he can become a key player in a Wizards rebuild.

In the first game after the trade deadline, the Wizards were able to outlast Kyrie Irving and the Nets. Kyle Kuzma showed that he can thrive as a primary ball-handler, as he dropped his first career triple double with his increased role. Raul Neto also had a season-high 21 points on 7–9. Washington’s efficiency was impressive and despite almost blowing another late lead, the Wizards held on and won 113–112.

After barely holding on against the Nets, the Wizards collapsed in the second half against the Kings. Sacramento’s starting lineup shot 63% from the field and 50% from three by taking advantage of a Wizards starting five that lacked chemistry. On a positive note, Kispert matched his career-high of 20 points and Kuzma had 22 points, eight boards and seven assists, flourishing in a higher usage role.

Here are three takeaways from a crazy week for the Wizards:

The trade deadline was… eventful

After doing nothing monumental during the majority of the trade deadline, the Wizards were on the phone nonstop from 1–3 p.m. To analyze everything, the only way to make distinctions is by listing the pros and the cons.

Let’s start off with the pros. Both trades the Wizards made yesterday will better the future of our franchise. The Kristaps Porzingis trade was shocking, but I was a huge fan. Porzingis has struggled with injuries, however, I think he can still be great for the Wizards. I love that the Wizards dealt away Dinwiddie, whose performance has taken a complete nosedive after a really nice start to the season. Getting rid of Bertans was my favorite part, however, as the Wizards were able to trade one of the more regrettable contracts in recent NBA history. The deal with the Hornets to receive Vernon Carey, Ish Smith and a second rounder in 2024 in exchange for Harrell was also beneficial. Harrell, who is an unrestricted free agent after this year, very well could’ve left after the season. The Hornets never gave Carey a chance to develop and is still just 20 years old, so who knows the player he will become. Smith, a veteran point guard who knows Washington well, can help fill the void at point guard for the rest of the year. On top of that, a second round draft pick couldn’t hurt.

Despite making quality trades, not everything went the Wizards’ way. While the Beal injury was unpredictable, the Wizards don’t have Beal to help them make a playoff push or as a weapon for a trade and rebuild. Beal has a year left on his deal, so the Wizards could trade him next year, but his value will have decreased. In order for the Wizards to be successful, Beal has to be traded. They need to replicate hitting on draft picks with receiving picks in exchange for Beal, unless Porzingis and Kuzma shine, and the Wizards can contend with Beal as their best player next year. 

The Aaron Holiday trade was quite the mystery though, as he is surely worth more than cash considerations. It’s unsure what the reason behind the trade was, but it was likely to clear cap space or to evaluate young guards who could contribute to the future more than Holiday.

The Wizards missed out big time on Sabonis

Domantas Sabonis is just 25 years old and would’ve been a cornerstone in Washington for years to come. Unfortunately, the Wizards couldn’t make an offer Indiana liked.  In his first game as a King, Sabonis scored 22 points and got 14 boards, a statline the Wizards haven’t gotten from a big man all season. Hopefully, Porzingis can be Sabonis-esque in Washington.

The future is bright

After dealing many older players, the Wizards have entered the first stage of a rebuild. The Wizards will likely miss the playoffs and have a lottery pick this season, and it would be phenomenal if the Wizards could nail a draft pick. Besides the veteran guards, the Wizards core looks young and filled with potential.

Hot Take: Kristaps Porzingis blossoms in D.C

Many people see the trade as a dump off of a large salary for the Mavs. However, a healthy Porzingis can be a game-changer. Standing at 7’3, he’ll be a versatile scorer and could immediately have a large role in Washington’s offense. Porzingis has become somewhat underrated, as he is subtly averaging 19 points, eight rebounds and nearly two blocks per game. Even though he has been hampered by injuries, his production in Dallas was exceptional. He averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game, and with a larger role and better fit, he should be able to replicate numbers similar to that, if not better in Washington.