They have the NBA’s leading scorer, Bradley Beal, a guy who has
dropped 30 or more points in 20 of 29 games. They Russell
Westbrook, who has posted a league-leading 10 triple-doubles in
just 24 games.
Not only that, but being a quarantined league laughingstock not
so long ago, the Washington Wizards have won six of their last
seven games, including two victories over the Nuggets, one against
the Lakers and another over the Celtics prior to a 16-point victory
vs. the Timberwolves last night. They play Boston again on Sunday,
followed by the Grizzlies and Clippers on the final night of a
five-game, nine-night road trip. Sweep those three, and they go
into the break 16-18.
In that case, we would be talking about a team that is just two
games under .500 with only three teams sporting winning records in
That’s right, three: The Nets, Sixers and Bucks. Everyone else,
more or less, is not at that level.
The Raptors and Knicks are tied for fourth at .500, the Heat and
Celtics are a game under .500 and the Bulls, Heat and Pacers are
two games under .500 as play begins Sunday. This is not imbalance;
this is the conference normal right now -- three good
So there is room for a fourth, which means we have to
start looking at unlikely candidates. We shall today, toward one
team with two very good players.
The Wizards got hit hard by COVID and had six consecutive games
postponed, which means their schedule is going to be extra tough
from a wear-and-tear standard the rest of the way. They have eight
remaining back-to-backs, but they will play six games in nine
nights coming out off the All-Star break, including two with the
Sixers, one with the Bucks and one with the Jazz. After that, they
get a matchup with the Nets, then play three games in four nights
four times over the remainder of the season.
This makes the strength and conditioning team 10-times more
important than anyone in D.C. not named Biden. The franchise will
not have Thomas Bryant this season, nor is the organization getting
what it expected from five-year, $80 million man Davis Bertans.
Still, Sheppard has gone blue in the face telling anyone who will
listen that Bradley Beal is not being traded anywhere.
What Sheppard and Brooks need to try to do is find a third key
player on the trade market before the March 25 deadline. They have
a few decent role players in Rui Hachimura, Robin Lopez, Raul Neto
and Deni Avdija, but this roster would be hard-pressed to win a
single playoff series, much less two, as presently constructed. But
if you assume that recently-starting center Moritz Wagner, Jerome
Robinson and Isaac Bonga are expendable and their expiring salaries
can be packaged, their salaries add up to roughly $7.5 million. If
Troy Brown Jr. were to get added to the mix, that is roughly $11
million, which can get you something. And they have Detroit’s
second-rounder (likely No. 31 or 32) as a trade sweetener.
A big man would have to be prioritized, because you will need
one to defend Joel Embiid if you face the Sixers, and to be used
offensively in the low post if you play the Nets or Celtics. If you
face the Bucks, you wish “good luck” to Hachimura and have Alex Len
use all six of his fouls if Giannis gets anywhere near the rim.
So what can $7.5 or $11 million get you? (And remember, the
salaries will have to match because Washington has a $132 million
salary, the league’s ninth-highest, and is only $813,000 below the
luxury tax.) Only a bad team would give up on a big, and among
those who could be presumably acquired and fit into these two
salary spaces include JaVale McGee of Cleveland, Mason Plumlee of
Detroit, Jabari Parker, Hassan Whiteside or Richaun Holmes of
Sacramento and Dwight Powell or Willie Cauley-Stein of Dallas (not
on a bad team, but superfluous). DeMarcus Cousins is also a free
Washington ranks 29th in defense in terms of points allowed per
game (119.3), so a rim defender such as Whiteside could help, in
the abstract. He was having a career season with Portland last year
before Jusuf Nurkic returned in Florida and was All-Bubble
It has been three years since the Wizards won a playoff series,
and Beal is the only holdover from then. Andrew Nicholson was on
the team at that time, and he is putting up numbers in China (24.4
ppg on 66.9 percent shooting for Fujian, whose season ends April
13. Maybe a reunion could be in order afterward?
Scott Brooks did not acquire Russell Westbrook in order for the
Wizards to be a middle-of-the-road team, and the season-ending torn
ACL injury to Bryant was devastating.
But the East is three deep right now, and therefore somebody has
the opportunity to rise up and be a conference semifinal team.
There are more likely candidates, but it has to be somebody.
Of the Wizards’ 41 remaining games, 11 are against the Pistons,
Cavs, Hornets and Kings. They've got three more until the All-Star
break; if they come out on top in those, the noise will start to
Why not Washington? They could be one deal away from being that