Entering the trade deadline as a playoff team, the Washington Wizards are in an unusual position: for the first time in years, February isn't about gathering assets and looking ahead towards the draft. If Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld makes a move between now and Feb. 20, expect it to be done with a possible postseason run in mind.
That may seem hard to believe for a team sitting below .500, but in the weak Eastern Conference, Washington might be the most dangerous team outside of Indiana and Miami. The plan to make the postseason is working, even if the roster could still use help. We'll see if Grunfeld can find it.
The big deal that already happened
A trade or two might happen this week, but it's worth remembering that Washington already made its big deal of the season. That happened in late October, when the Wizards dealt Emeka Okafor's expiring contract and a protected first-round pick to Phoenix for big man Marcin Gortat.
Acquired to shore up the frontcourt after Okafor came down with neck problems, Gortat has done exactly what Washington asked of him. As the Wizards' starting center, he's averaging 11.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while playing sound defense on the other end.
It's probably fair to say the Wizards don't make the playoffs without adding Gortat.
However, that deal has significant implications for the Wizards' ability to make future deals. After including its 2014 first-round pick in the trade, Washington doesn't have many assets left to use this week. Unless the team wants to deal a key rotation player like Trevor Ariza or prematurely bail on 2013 first-round pick Otto Porter, it's hard to say exactly what Washington could offer most teams.
Backing up John Wall
On the first day of free agency last summer, the Wizards handed Eric Maynor a two-year deal using their bi-annual exception. Essentially the team's lone acquisition for the summer, he's since proven to be one of the worst players in the league.
That's left coach Randy Wittman to depend on Garrett Temple as John Wall's backup. While he's filled in admirably, and his understanding of the team's defensive schemes gives him added value, most people would agree Temple isn't an ideal backup for a team with playoff aspirations.
As a result, we've heard the Wizards tied to a number of veteran point guards, including Milwaukee's Luke Ridnour, Denver's Andre Miller and New York's Beno Udrih. None of those guys would likely require a first-round pick or major asset, so they may be reasonable targets if a point guard upgrade is in play.
The Ariza Factor
There's probably only one way that the Wizards can really change their roster this season, and that's trading Trevor Ariza. He's been a pleasant surprise all year as the team's starting forward, nailing shots at an uncharacteristically high rate while being a catalyst on defense, and he's on an affordable expiring contract.
All of those factors make Ariza the Wizards' most obvious trade asset should they pursue a major deal. Some possibilities include Detroit's Greg Monroe and Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young, but those guys would surely require a good deal more than just a good veteran on an expiring deal.
Still, those names give you an idea of what Washington would likely need to part with Ariza. He's proven to be a key part of Wittman's rotation, particularly given his work on the defensive end, and the team likely won't deal him in a lateral move. This would need to be part of a bigger deal for a bigger name.
Alternatively, as mentioned before, a deal involving Otto Porter makes some sense, but it would need to be a major move. It's possible, but not particularly likely.