As the trade deadline approaches, the Wizards currently sit at fifth in the Eastern Conference. The question that emerges is, “How do they plan on getting better in the home stretch of the season as they head into the playoffs?”. The goal for any competitive team in any sport is to get better every day and over recent years. One thing that has stood out about the Wizards is their player development. In his eight years in the NBA, we’ve watched John Wall grow up right before our eyes. Establishing himself as one of the best two-way point guards in the league. While Wall’s play can attribute too much of the team’s success. Players like Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris (when healthy) have greatly emerged in the last season and a half to take the team to new heights. After missing the playoffs two seasons ago.
Before Paul Pierce left the team after the 14-15 season, he asked Beal, “Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you have to do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.”
Since then, Beal’s average PPG has increased by about six points going from 17.4 points per to 23.6. Which included a career-high 51-point road performance against the Trail Blazers this season. To compliment John Wall and Bradley Beal, Otto Porter has emerged as one of the better small forwards in the league. Averaging a career-high of 13.7 PPG. With these three players alone, the Wizards pose a threat to any top team in the league.
The frustrating part about this for many fans is that while it seems that individual players are getting better, the team’s development overall has become stagnant. For example, late in the year last season, they suffered a few losses which led them to a fourth seed position in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. When they had been competitive enough all year to be at least a second or third seed. They took care of the Hawks in round one. Went on to lose to Boston in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, 115-105; the bench only scored 5 points in this loss. Plain and simple, the Wizards bench was and still is, subpar.
The development of players like Kelly Oubre and the addition of Mike Scott has once again been very noticeable this season with career-high averages in PPG from both, 11.6 and 9.6, respectively. Aside from those two, the bench struggles to be productive enough to help the team with late-game fatigue. Since both John Wall and Bradley Beal are both averaging above 33 minutes per game. As mentioned before, both players have struggled with injuries in their careers. John Wall has been in the league for 8 years and has only been able to complete a full 82-game season once. As for Beal, this has never been done.
Their high number of minutes isn’t a horrible thing since they’re young guys in their primes. However, seeing other players take away some of the workloads would be beneficial for the team. Both would perform better in clutch situations if they were more rested.
The first step in adjustment to a more well-rounded and productive team would be with starter Marcin Gortat. While his play hasn’t been horrible per se. He finds himself in tough binds with his ability and size in trying to guard the more athletic big men in the league. For example, players like Karl Anthony-Towns (who had 20 points in their last matchup) and Demarcus Cousins. Who had 26 feasts on Gortat’s lack of athleticism and ability to guard the perimeter. In addition, players like Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Love are also centers that are capable of giving Gortat tough outings. Their ability to step out and knock down a three-ball or beat him off the dribble. Other players like Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside also pose problems for Gortat because of their athleticism near the rim.
Wall x Jordan?
A couple months ago, I saw a way that the Wizards could fix this issue. Which involves finding a way to trade for Deandre Jordan—one of the most athletic rim protectors in the Association. Jordan, who is a 2x First Team All-Defensive Player, is considered a great defender because of his shot blocking and ability to adjust people’s shots. Furthermore, he brings a physical, dominant presence when matched up against other near rim centers. On the contrary, just like Gortat, Jordan struggles to stretch and defend the floor against the more versatile centers. While this may be the case, the upside to his defensive struggles is that he brings an offensive threat. Which can be compared to his stint with point guard Chris Paul in what was known as “Lob City”. Wherein their last five years together his average field goal percentage was 69%.
Another good comparison for Jordan would currently be the pick & roll attack that the Rockets bring between James Harden and Clint Capela. While there aren’t many plays that are called for him as the focal point. His offense is created from rebounding and lobs leading to the basket. With this change, Gortat could come off the bench. Which I believe may be the best option for him and the team. If they want to live up to their potential. That also gives more fluidity within certain lineups that can allow players like Kelly Oubre to run the stretch four positions against certain teams.
What makes this trade difficult is who we would have to give up in order to get DeAndre Jordan. More than likely, we would have to part ways with Kelly Oubre. However, if the Clippers were smart, they’d ask for a draft pick or Mike Scott in addition to Oubre. The best case scenario for the Wizards is that the Clippers take a draft pick or Oubre. Along with a couple more players on our bench who are expendable at this point. Especially Mahinmi, who really seems to serve no purpose to the team.
Considering we keep the draft pick, I’d be all for giving up Oubre in order to draft a small forward/stretch power forward to get our team over the playoff hump. In a league dominated by shooting. The Wizards are lucky to have a great team leader with John Wall. And consistent shooters like Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter, who all recently resigned contracts to maintain continuity within our starting lineup. Hopefully, that can happen with our bench.