Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and John Wall
There will be no more "This is fine" memes for the Washington Wizards. Their house is on fire, they're screwed, they know it, and now, finally, they might be prepared to act on it.
League sources told ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski the Wizards have "started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster—including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal—is available to discuss in trade scenarios." A fire sale could be on the horizon. Or maybe not.
Washington still prefers to "reshape the team around Wall and Beal" rather than blow up everything, according to Woj. Playing armchair GM is necessary anyway, because this squad is at least flirting with a major overhaul. Beal reportedly told team officials "I've been dealing with this for seven years" during a recent hostile practice, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
To keep expectations in check, here are some things to remember about Washington's marquee trade chips:
- Bradley Beal: Easily the Wizards' most valuable bargaining tool. He's shooting a career-worst 33.9 percent from three-point range, but his efficiency will climb amid better spacing, and teams always surrender value for No. 1 scorers. He doesn't hit free agency until 2021 and is earning slightly less than max money relative to the salary cap. Smaller markets not known for poaching stars and teams reticent to compromise this summer's spending power both have the incentive to take a look.
- Otto Porter: Strong plug-and-play options are hot commodities, but his price point is less than ideal. The $55.8 million he's owed over the next two years (player option for 2020-21) is superstar money. The Wizards cannot expect more than long-term cap relief and low- to mid-end goodies in exchange for his services.
- John Wall: Good luck to Washington here. Wall's four-year $170.9 million extension includes a 15 percent trade kicker and doesn't take effect until next season. No one is giving up the farm to pay a 32-year-old point guard 47.3 million in 2022-23 (player option). The Wizards will be lucky to get more than cap relief.
And now, we hypothesize.
Otto Porter to Indiana (After Dec. 14)
Indiana Pacers Receive: Thomas Bryant, Otto Porter Jr.
Washington Wizards Receive: Darren Collison, Doug McDermott, Kyle O'Quinn, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Truth be told, the Wizards might not need a protected first from the Pacers to co-sign this deal. They're getting enough in tangible assets to beef up their depth and potentially remain afloat in the Eastern Conference. The calculus changes if they're jettisoning Porter as part of a teardown.
Collison is on the wrong side of 31 and having a down year, but he's one season removed from leading the league in three-point accuracy. Kyle O'Quinn is forever underappreciated, continues to be underplayed and will help address Washington's horrid defensive rebounding. Doug McDermott is canning almost 38 percent of his three-pointers and doesn't impede the ball dominance of playmakers around him.
Viewed through the lens of a potential overhaul, Washington is still making out.
Collison and O'Quinn are on expiring contracts, and McDermott will earn less over the life on his three-year agreement ($22 million) than Porter is taking home this season ($26 million). The $4.2 million the Wizards save now leaves them roughly $3.6 million away from ducking the 2018-19 luxury tax, and subbing in McDermott for Porter amounts to a $41 million difference over the next two seasons.
This deal eats into the Pacers' cap space this summer, but they'll deal. Free agents have never flocked toward Indiana, and Porter, still just 25, elevates their ceiling within the East if they milk his spot-up shooting and cutting in volume.
Plus, even with his money on the books, the Pacers won't be displaced from the offseason festivities. They'll retain a path to $25 million or more in spending power if they renounce all their own free agents.
Bradley Beal to Charlotte (After Dec. 14)
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Bradley Beal, Jeff Green
Washington Wizards Receive: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protection), 2020 second-round pick (from Brooklyn or New York, via Charlotte)
Most would rather see the Hornets pivot into a rebuild of their own. They're again on the fringes of the East's postseason race, they're not in line for cap space before 2020, and Kemba Walker will be due a massive raise this summer. They have no discernible path out of the middle.
But starting over isn't in the cards for owner Michael Jordan. He remains "hell-bent" on re-signing Walker, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. And if the Hornets aren't going to hit reset, they'll need to do the opposite: double-down.
Acquiring Beal gets the Hornets the second star they've never slotted beside Walker. He has shimmied between on- and off-ball work his entire career while playing next to John Wall. Walker is a much cleaner fit. He's a better shooter and just generally more active when not controlling possessions. The East wouldn't have a better starting backcourt.
The Hornets might flinch at what this package does to their wing rotation. They'll get over it. Rookie Miles Bridges is ready for a larger workload, and Green, while not a game-changer, can soak up the power forward (and center) minutes left behind by Kidd-Gilchrist.
Selling the Wizards on this proposal is difficult if they're steering into a full-tilt deconstruction. They're also not guaranteed to do much better.
Monk and a pair of picks will jibe just fine with Washington's long-term window. Lamb replaces some of Beal's scoring, and his expiring contract can be treated as a rental. Kidd-Gilchrist won't be terribly overpaid if he picks up his $12 million player option for next season. Nor is he especially old. He doesn't turn 26 until September.
With the way he's fared as a reserve power forward (when healthy) in Charlotte, Washington may find MKG is more than a reasonably priced placeholder.
John Wall to Phoenix
Phoenix Suns Receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., John Wall
Washington Wizards: Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren, 2020 second-round pick
Cliche destination alert!
Phoenix isn't just the most popular starting point for John Wall hypotheticals. It's the only one. As ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote:
"The Luka Doncic-Trae Young trade filled point guard holes in two franchises. Orlando still has a hole, but chasing Wall—even on the cheap—would violate the patient approach Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have taken. De'Aaron Fox looks like the answer in Sacramento. Brooklyn is too smart, even if the Nets decide neither Spencer Dinwiddie nor D'Angelo Russell is their answer. (Caris LeVert might be.)
"The Knicks appear to have gotten religion, though we should never underestimate the damage James Dolan might inflict if they whiff on free-agent stars."
Defaulting to the Suns isn't idiotproof logic. They have a vacancy at point guard, but a 28-year-old about to earn supermax money doesn't fit the timeline of the Western Conference's worst team.
Then again, the Suns have not exactly spent the past few months emphasizing their rebuild. Trevor Ariza, 33, is second on the team in minutes per game, and they waived Shaquille Harrison to make room for the 38-year-old Jamal Crawford. Trading for an All-Star probably on the decline would be right up owner Robert Sarver's alley.
What the Suns would be willing to give up for Wall is anyone's guess. Using Ariza's expiring contract as a salary anchor (after Dec. 14) makes some sense, but he's hardly expendable to a team bringing in a veteran point guard and attempting to accelerate its standing.
Warren isn't dispensable material either. His four-year, $50 million contract looks right around market value these days. (He's hitting threes now!) But the trio of Wall, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton combine for enough ball denomination. Both Ryan Anderson and Mikal Bridges are superior fits within this prospective makeover.
Giving up Jackson shouldn't be a turn-off for the Suns. His playing time has fluctuated wildly under head coach Igor Kokoskov, and they would be getting a months-long look at Oubre before he reaches restricted free agency.
Washington's side isn't hard to argue. Failing to get a first-rounder stings, Jackson has two more seasons on his rookie-scale deal after this one, and Warren, a proven scorer, could end up being cheaper than Oubre by next year.
Otto Porter Jr. to Portland
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Thomas Bryant, Otto Porter
Washington Wizards Receive: Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Anfernee Simons, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Testing the Porter waters is something the Blazers only do if they're buying into their scorching-hot start. They're already close to $8 million over the luxury tax, and this deal tacks on another $4.2 million.
That shouldn't be a problem. The Blazers don't shy away from elephantine payrolls as much as other small markets, and the West's chaos is finally tilting in their favor. They won't hold the conference's best record forever, but the absence of a clear-cut No. 2 behind the Golden State Warriors invites confident dice rolls.
Putting Porter next to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is patently unfair. He's cut his teeth orbiting other ball-handlers, and Portland's offense has a touch more room for him to attack off the dribble. Closing games with him, Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins up front should help what has been the worst crunch-time defense to date.
Harkless' left knee injury won't sit well with the Wizards if they're trying to trade Porter while remaining Eastern Conference players. His health is less of a concern if they're just looking to save money and pick up spare parts.
Leonard and Harkless make $4.5 million less than Porter next season and come off the books a year earlier. A 19-year-old Simons is intriguing even if the Wizards don't flip Bradley Beal, and stockpiling future firsts is a big deal whether they're starting over or just trying to keep their payroll under control.
It might, in fact, be the Blazers who balk. Porter upgrades their wing rotation now, but he erases their ability to carve out cap space before 2021, when he, McCollum and Lillard are scheduled for free agency.
If they believe a healthy Harkless gives them two-thirds or more of what Porter brings, the Blazers could think about pulling the first-rounder or including a player other than Simons. The Wizards shouldn't bite if Portland goes the hardball route. Harkless has yet to prove he can float Porter's three-point volume, and Leonard's contract is still a hindrance.
Bradley Beal to Los Angeles (After Dec. 14)
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, Jeff Green
Washington Wizards Receive: Michael Beasley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram
Chiseling into the Lakers' 2019 cap space has been considered sacrilegious up until now. They didn't empty their stable of assets to crash the Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. They shouldn't make an exception for Beal, who isn't a top-20 player.
Then again, perhaps the Lakers should soften their stance.
Free agency isn't looking so hot for them right now. The Toronto Raptors are making it so Leonard (player option) cannot spin leaving into a basketball decision. The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to keep Jimmy Butler (player option), according to Wojnarowski. Klay Thompson isn't leaving Golden State. Kevin Durant (player option) isn't bolting the Warriors himself to be a hanger-on for an inferior team.
Other household names like Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton (player option) and Kemba Walker will be up for grabs over the summer. But they're not players the Lakers should be waiting on. Besides, they can still get to around $20 million in cap space while accounting for Beal's salary—and even more if they're no longer married to Lonzo Ball.
Forking over both Ingram and Kuzma in the same trade is tough when the return doesn't include a top-10 player. The Lakers may have to get over it. Ingram's value has dipped as he grapples with a crummy shot profile and inches closer to restricted free agency in 2020. He's still their highest-ceiling prospect, but the mystique of the unknown is wearing off.
Similarly important, Beal isn't the typical star acquisition. He has another two years left on his deal. The Lakers—and any other team that bids for him—must pony up for that security. They have some leverage thanks to Washington's implosion, but the Wizards are not backed into a corner like the Minnesota Timberwolves were with Butler and the San Antonio Spurs were with Leonard. They don't have to move Beal this season.
Sitting out another blockbuster shouldn't be part of the Lakers' plan. They of all teams know nothing is certain in advance of free agency. (Cough, Paul George, cough.) If they can reel in a 25-year-old All-Star who complements LeBron James' game without obliterating their asset base, cap space should be a secondary concern.