The Wizards are a dumpster fire, and it appears they finally realize it. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting everyone on the team is available via trade.
They have no business being this bad — not with the talent on their team. Not after pairing John Wall and Bradley Beal, extending Otto Porter, breeding Kelly Oubre Jr., trading for Austin Rivers, then signing Dwight Howard. They should be halfway decent at the very least, fringe contenders at the very best.
But here we are. Washington sits at a despicable 5-11 after yet another frustrating loss. This time, they were embarrassed by the Portland Trail Blazers. Earlier, they were beat by the Orlando Magic, a team — no disrespect to D.J. Augustin or Jerian Grant — with no point guard that instills fear, whose best players are Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, without very many players capable of creating their own shot.
In that game, Washington trailed by as many as 25 and never led after the 4:51 mark in the first quarter. Against Portland, they fell behind by 20 points within the first eight minutes of the game. They looked like garbage. Flaming hot garbage. And they’ve looked this way all season long.
It’s time to blow the Wizards up, press the big red button, line the roster with explosives and detonate it all. It’s been past time.
But where do you start?
You can point the blame at a number of people, from president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld to head coach Scott Brooks and down the line. And ESPN’s Zach Lowe masterfully detailed Grunfeld’s role in the Wizards’ dysfunction.
But the brunt of this meltdown falls on John Wall’s shoulders. The Wizards’ best option just might be trading their best player.
It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have. Wall is one of the best point guards in the NBA, a perennial all-star viewed as one of the fastest players with a ball in his hands to ever play the game of basketball.
But as ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted, his game stagnated years ago. He still hasn’t developed a reliable three-point shot. He signed a massive contract extension that doesn’t kick in until next season.
The Wizards proved last season they could compete at a high level without their all-star point guard, and Wall has come out sloppy to start this season. His game seems to have plateaued, and everyone notices. Everyone including Stephen A. Smith, who called the Wizards a “disgrace” and “an abomination” on national television, with Wall’s performance at the center of his tirade.
“Now listen, I like John Wall. John Wall is an all-star. John Wall can play. Then this year arrives. For some reason, a man that struggles with his perimeter shooting comes back and is shooting worse. He can’t get to the hole with the ease that he used to. He’s actually bigger! He looks out of shape, and that’s a problem!
“So now you got that as a problem, then you got him and [Bradley] Beal and not meshing as a problem. It’s contaminated Markieff Morris, who can play! Otto Porter, he looks comatose half the damn time! And oh by the way, he’s in the midst of a $ million contract!
“John Wall, he can ball. Be clear: He can ball. I’m not questioning John Wall’s abilities. I’m questioning his level of production. It ain’t just your job to score, it’s your job to lead. To lead. They have no leadership. They have no chemistry. They don’t even look like they want to play together.
“This situation is an abomination, it has to change, and unfortunately, you can’t trade Wall because of the contract I just read.”
But it’s not impossible to trade John Wall
Nothing in the nation’s capital will change unless they can blow everything up and start from scratch. The easiest path to a rebuild begins with moving on from their floor general.
The problem? He just signed a four-year contract extension that’ll pay him $169 million through the 2022-23 season, and it includes a 15-percent trade kicker that would payout much less — potentially nothing at all — if the Wizards wait until next season to find a trade.
No team wants to take that exorbitant of a contract, not for a player with Wall’s talents that hasn’t lived up to Wall’s expectations.
Washington could fire Scott Brooks and replace him with a motivator like Mark Jackson. They could trade Bradley Beal, and Beal is a very good player in the third season of a five-year, $127.7 million contract. It sure seems like they’re open to both.
But trading their best young player would not bring equal value in as it would send out. Trading Porter wouldn’t move the needle very much, and trading Oubre doesn’t help at all.
All those options also still leave Wall on the roster. There are 29 other teams in the NBA. Would any be interested in Washington’s point guard?
Here’s how the calls would go from Washington to the league’s other teams.
Do you have the wrong number?
27. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs didn’t even pick up the phone.
26. Atlanta Hawks
The keys to the kingdom belong to Trae Young. Too many nightclubs. No thanks.
25. Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray has the fort held down up there. Call ignored.
24. Houston Rockets
The Rockets like threes, and Wall is shooting 28.6 percent from three. It’s gonna be a no from them.
23. Boston Celtics
We have Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier. Not interested. We actually wouldn’t be interested if we didn’t have those guys, anyway.
21. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are very fine as is. Call declined.
20. Utah Jazz
The Jazz will have space to sign a max free agent next summer. Wall erases that. Hard pass.
Philly already has its own share of issues with point guards who can’t shoot. No need to add another. (Sorry, Markelle! Hit a three and shut me up!)
17. Sacramento Kings
Not even the Kings would bite. They’ve got De’Aaron Fox. No need to add another cook to the kitchen.
16. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets love reclamation projects, but not ones that a) are 28 years old and b) are about to make $169 million over the next four years. Brooklyn also loves three-point shooters.
15. Chicago Bulls
Are the Bulls crazy enough to put John Wall next to Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen? I don’t think even they go for this one.
The Clippers have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to groom, and Wall might not be the best role model. Hard pass.
Cleveland’s a great place to get away from nightclubs. Just ask J.R. Smith — you’ll focus on basketball. But the Cavs are giving the keys to Collin Sexton, at least for now. They’re building, and Wall’s contract is ugly. Hard pass.
Wall is from North Carolina, and the Hornets could trade Kemba Walker. But they don’t want to pay Walker, someone who’s well-deserving of a max contract. No way they pay more for a downgrade.
11. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks could always use an upgrade at point guard, and the more star power they surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with, the better their odds at keeping him in Milwaukee beyond his current contract expiration in 2021.
But Wall isn’t the type of player you put next to Antetokounmpo — Kyrie Irving, and perimeter-oriented scoring playmakers are. The Bucks are also the best team in the NBA right now. The Bucks don’t bite.
Magic Johnson wants star power, and Wall has proven to be a star in the past. But this rendition of John Wall is much dimmer. His game wouldn’t fit next to LeBron James, either.
The Lakers might look at the phone call, but they won’t pick up.
Are the Wolves crazy enough to trade Jimmy Butler in a deal for John Wall? Probably not, though Wall, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns might be fun?
Tom Thibodeau thinks hard about the call, then declines it.
The Knicks want Kevin Durant. Durant didn’t go home to play with Wall and Bradley Beal. That, and Wall’s contract extension destroys all their cap flexibility.
The Knicks pull a Will Smith when the phone rings.
7. Orlando Magic
Hey look! It’s a team that actually needs a play-making point guard!
Imagine Wall running with Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Johnathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. Orlando probably isn’t signing a max free agent. The Magic pick up the phone, but eventually come to their senses: Playing the draft odds and hopefully landing a future star sounds a lot better than rushing the process in a trade for Wall.
6. Phoenix Suns
Lowe says the Suns may be the real destination for Wall:
We might be down to one plausible candidate to send Washington real value for Wall at some point over the next year-plus: Phoenix, run by an impatient owner, Robert Sarver, without a seasoned GM to check his most dangerous impulses.
The Suns don’t need Wall problems right now. They’re young, and he’s further along the timeline than they are. Phoenix needs a point guard, but Wall’s not the one they need.
The Pacers need to put a superstar next to Victor Oladipo, and fast. But Wall’s salary is ugly, and there are better options for Indiana via trade or free agency.
Indiana picks up the phone, but puts it back down five minutes later.
Are there any nightclubs in San Antonio? Dejounte Murray’s injury leaves San Antonio with a gaping hole at the floor general slot, and there’s no telling how he’ll recover from his torn ACL.
Wall plus DeMar DeRozan plus LaMarcus Aldridge could be something worth watching. And if there’s any coach that can unlock the best in a player, it’s Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs answer the phone and entertain Washington, though they’re not giving up any meaningful assets or doing the Wizards any favors. San Antonio’s window is now, and a player of Wall’s caliber — motivated — makes them better.
The Pelicans need to do whatever they can to keep Anthony Davis, and John Wall could play a similar role to the one Rajon Rondo played in New Orleans last season. The Pels will have space to sign a max free agent next summer. Will they convince a star to sign long-term, when Davis can and will opt out to become a free agent the following summer?
Or do they trade for Wall and bring a star to New Orleans, whether Davis stays or not? Davis and Wall both played at Kentucky. That counts for something — it did for DeMarcus Cousins.
The Pelicans pick up the phone. It’s all or nothing for them to keep Davis. If they’re floundering, they might just be desperate enough to pull off a deal.
The Pistons are in an interesting situation: They could use an all-star point guard, but they won’t have cap space to sign a max free agent until 2020. Blake Griffin’s window is now, and Wall is a pick-and-roll maestro. Wall, Griffin and Andre Drummond could be a really nice three-headed monster, especially with three-and-D shooters on the wing.
This one makes a little bit of sense, especially given the Pistons’ future payroll. Detroit reluctantly picks up the phone.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat are another team with a payroll as high as the heavens. Take a look. All the blue numbers are player options that Heat players will more than likely opt into. Miami will likely have more than $128 million committed to eight players with $65 million dedicated to Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic.
The Heat have the best conditioning program in the NBA. They’re also located in the nightclub capital of the country.
Miami’s only chance at landing a star until 2021 is via trade (or a late draft pick). If they strike out on Jimmy Butler and other all-stars available on the trade market, we could see the Heat pick the phone up first, and drive a hard bargain to get him.
There you have it! It is very hard to find a trade destination for John Wall, especially given his exorbitant $169 million contract extension that kicks in next summer. There are a few teams that might give the Wizards the time of day in a trade call, but Washington can’t expect much in return at this point.
The Wizards can try, and try and try again, and maybe one team — like the Pistons, Spurs, Pelicans or Heat — will bite. But Wall’s play and production is doing Washington no favors.
It’s ugly, and it’s only getting uglier.