As the calendar flips to February, we are three weeks away from the NBA's trade deadline and the Washington Wizards are making their move up from the murky terrain of the Eastern Conference's middle-tier to the home-court seeking top four.
With trade possibilities in mind, it's important to recognize Washington has very little cap flexibility. Bradley Beal is under contract through the 2020-21 season, while John Wall and Marcin Gortat are signed through the 2018-19 season. In addition, the NBA's current three-point leader (46.8%) Otto Porter is going to get a significant raise in the off-season as a restricted free-agent. Several Wizards players on lower-tier contracts, who they might otherwise look to move, are on multi-year deals (Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith, and Tomas Satoransky).
The Mahinmi contract may look bad now (4 years, $64 million), but his defensive real plus-minus numbers from last year (3rd among centers at 4.4) told last summer's suitors he was worth it and as we know, the cap explosion through everything out of orbit. In retrospect, the biggest question has to do with his medical diagnosis. Did the Wizards staff miss the knee damage (partially torn meniscus), that has plagued him since October? Mahinmi is a modern defensive center, with good footwork in the pick-and-roll and excellent ability to absorb contact without fouling (verticality) at the rim. Unfortunately, his creaky knees may be a chronic situation — after the meniscus surgery, he has just received the wonder-of-all-wonders, a platelet-rich-plasma injection. Mahinmi hopes to return by late February.
What the Wizards Need and Trade Targets
- Backup center: Marcin Gortat is playing 35 minutes per game and needs 20 good minutes behind him.
- Reserve wing: An upgrade over Tomas Satoransky would be helpful. Kelly Oubre has been more effective as a stretch four.
- Backup point guard: Trey Burke has shown some improvement over the season but needs help defensively.
Brandan Wright, Memphis Grizzlies
Like Mahinmi, Memphis center Brandan Wright has missed the entire season. Wright’s ankle was the culprit. Finally healed, he returned to action this week. Wright’s 7-foot-5-inch wingspan has had scouts drooling for a decade. He’s shown glimpses over the course of his career and would be a perfect lob-option who can protect the rim when Washington needs to go big in specific matchups. If the Hawks end up holding onto Millsap, an Atlanta first-round matchup would pose more problems than Indiana. If Memphis will part with Wright and Washington senses a chance at the second seed or the Conference Finals, he’d be worth a future pick.
Willie Reed, Miami Heat
In July 2015, the Brooklyn Nets signed Willie Reed to a one-year deal for $500,000. A drop in the bucket for an NBA team. An enormous payday for any human being. Reed’s diligence had literally paid off. Then bad luck hit. In a preseason tilt with the Celtics, Reed tore a ligament in his thumb, and it wasn't until December 4, 2015, that Reed finally made his NBA debut. 25 years old and five years after he’d hoped to make it, Reed had arrived. He played in 39 games for the Nets, averaging only 11 minutes per game, but putting up solid averages of 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds, with close to one block per game. Multiply those numbers by three and you have a 14 points, 9 boards and 2.5 blocks.
Fast-forward to January 2017: Reed signed a one-year deal with Miami last summer and is making close to $900,000.
Reed’s performance and playing time have risen in the past month. Miami may be highlighting him more as a pre-deadline value boost, but Reed has taken off. Reed's January line: 20.5 min/game, 8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, while shooting 65% from the field, and putting together a +6.8 on/off rating. Teams searching for a reserve interior boost and some rim protection will be calling Miami. Washington will likely be one of those teams.
Darrell Arthur, Denver Nuggets
Darrell Arthur is another one of those role players who has thrived in Denver. The Nuggets simply have too many big men to go around. Arthur is a somewhat versatile big who can knock down a three with consistency. In fact, with more playing time, Arthur would be among the league leaders in 3-point percentage. He’s draining them at the ridiculous rate of 51.7 percent, including 18 makes in his last 32 attempts. While Reed is an interior presence, Arthur would be ideal for a bench unit that lacks range.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Will Barton was a highly-recruited, high school star who fell to 40th overall in the 2012 draft because of his questionable outside shot and his slender build. What Neil Olshey saw in Barton was an electric scorer who could make lemonade out of proverbial offensive lemons. Barton provided a kind of bipolar ecstasy for Blazers fans, but how he fit into the Blazers system long-term was an open question. He was traded to Denver for Arron Afflalo in a deadline move. With increased playing time in the altitude of Denver, Barton’s scoring has taken off. Perfectly suited to an up-tempo style, Barton’s range has improved as well. If Washington is looking for a scoring punch to replace Satoransky’s minutes off the bench, and for someone to run 100-meter dashes with Wall, then Barton should be their number one target. Denver is in a strange situation, with a glut of options and moveable contracts. In many ways, their moves will dictate the role-player exchange at the deadline.