The Washington Wizards’ decision to fire general manager Tommy Sheppard after two decades with the organization could set into motion drastic changes for the downtrodden team.
Washington ended up bringing in former Los Angeles Clippers general manager Michael Winger as its president of basketball operations to run things.
Winger will pretty much be given carte blanche over the direction of an organization that has not won a playoff series since back in 2016-17.
After pushing back against the idea of a complete rebuild, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is no longer full-throated in opposition of it.
This makes sense with star frontcourt players Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma boasting player options for next season. Both are expected to decline the options and hit NBA free agency this summer. Meanwhile, the future of Bradley Beal could very well be up in the air.
Winger was brought in to change what we’ve seen in D.C. for the better part of the past decade. That could lead to a number of moves as the summer plays out. Let’s look at the players could exit the Washington Wizards and further plans for the organization over the next couple months.
Washington Wizards could pull off sign-and-trades
If Porzingis and Kuzma were to opt out of their contracts, the Wizards would have roughly $30 million in cap space. We’re not expecting a rebuilding team to be active in free agency. But there’s another layer to this.
Washington could use that excess cap space to entice teams into a sign-and-trade for Porzingis and Kuzma. The idea here would be to take on contracts while adding future draft capital and young players to the mix. In turn, an acquiring team gets cap relief in the form of moving off other contracts. We’ve seen this in the recent past around the Association.
As a pure hypothetical and just to point out what we’re talking about, a Western Conference team such as the Portland Trail Blazers could have interest in Porzingis to team up with Damian Lillard. Under this scenario, Washington takes on the contract of Jusuf Nurkic to help Portland create the necessary cap room to make other moves. In turn, the Wizards add a youngster such as guard Keon Johnson and a future first-round pick for help facilitating a sign-and-trade.
Winger and Co. could do the same thing with a player in Kuzma who is due a significant raise from his expiring three-year, $39 million contract. It’s a team building method that makes a ton of sense. That is to say, acquiring rebuild capital for players you were going to lose in the first place while taking on some salaries.
Washington Wizards to finally pull off Bradley Beal trade
This three-time All-Star guard signed a five-year, $251 million contract extension with the Washington Wizards back in July of 2022. He just finished up the first year on said deal and has four seasons remaining.
If Washington were to go into a full-scale rebuild, the 30-year-old Beal wouldn’t want to be a part of that. It also makes very little sense for the Wizards to retain Beal long-term without much shot of contention over the next couple seasons.
As one of the best pure scorers in the game, Beal would net Washington a nice return on the trade market. Teams such as the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks would be among those interested.
Houston has young guard Jalen Green and a plethora of picks to offer up. Golden State boasts youngsters Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga as well as several future first-round picks. Los Angeles could offer up Austin Reaves in a sign and trade.
As for the Wolves and Knicks, a third team would likely have to get involved. Either way, there are several avenues for the Wizards to pursue should they opt to trade their long-time star.
Former Washington Wizards draft picks on the move
Winger does not have a built-in relationship with recent first-round picks Deni Avdija (No. 9 selection in 2020) or Johnny Davis (10th pick in 2021). Given their relatively low salaries it would be easy to move off both of these underperforming youngsters.
It all depends on market value. But we could easily see the Wizards be able to add more draft capital and/or young players for two former first-round selections who might not fit what Winger is looking to build in the nation’s capital.