The Washington Wizards are in desperate need of a lifeline through just 17 games in the 2018-19 season. The infighting has reached irreparable levels both in the locker room and on the court.
“It’s f—ed up what’s going on” – Markief Morris.
“This is embarrassing,” a person familiar with the team said. “This is crazy.”
“I’m sick of this s—.” – Beal was reported to gesture towards general manager, Ernie Grunfeld by the Washington Post.
This is not what Washington Wizards’ Owner Ted Leonsis had in mind when he dipped deep into his pockets for the $130 million luxury tax price tag for this season’s squad. With minimal available salary cap space around the association, there are few options for dumping salary, and even fewer opportunities to recoup value in return for them.
John Wall’s temperament, his injury history and most importantly, his inflated salary make moving him almost impossible without taking back awful salary in return. Retrieving a first-round pick for him is a laughable proposition. Grunfeld may hope newly appointed Phoenix Suns’ general manager James Jones gets desperate after seeing his predecessor lose his job, but outside of that, no team in their right mind would take a swing on the league’s soon-to-be third highest NBA player (Four years, $169.34 million). In addition, dealing Wall before July 1st activates Wall’s 15% trade kicker, costing the Wizards an additional $20 million. Barring a slam dunk trade offer, Wall will stay in Washington until next summer, likely when Grunfeld will lose his job.
Speaking of injury history, Otto Porter and his inflated salary seem an even riskier overture. With two years and $55.8 million remaining on his deal, Porter is scoring 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists in 29 minutes of action, and has regularly missed crunch-time minutes to well-traveled veteran, Jeff Green. Dumping Porter for a pick will require taking in more bad salary, and a lot of it.
Tomas Satoransky, Markief Morris, Austin Rivers, and Kelly Oubre Jr are intriguing options for contending teams. The Wizards don’t have the capital to bring back restricted free agent, Oubre, and dealing him for a lottery protected pick would be a coup for a player they will likely lose for nothing.
But if the Wizards really seek to shake things up, they will look no further than backcourt scoring guard, Bradley Beal. The Wizards will be hesitant to move on from their most valuable commodity, a player who proved successful last season in the absence of Wall. A career 39% three-point shooter, Beal possesses the range and the size (6’5) to space the floor and shoot over backcourt defenders within the perimeter. An expert finisher, Beal closes within five feet with an eye-popping 71% finishing rate. His size makes him a proficient mid-range scorer, sinking over 57% with defenders in very tight coverage.
At 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, Beal provides the elite scoring punch that a team like the Orlando Magic desperately needs, and the Orlando Magic have exactly what the Wizards need.
— NBA (@NBA) November 15, 2018
The Orlando Magic have perennially been one of the lowest scoring teams in the NBA. True, the Magic combined for 261 points in victories over the 76ers and Lakers, respectively, but the Magic have also failed to score 100 points on seven occasions this season. At 106.6 points per game, the Magic rank 22nd, and their offensive rating (107) holds them in the bottom ten in the NBA (not including last night’s 91 point performance against Toronto).
Ranking in the bottom ten in nearly every offensive category, the Magic could certainly use a little spacing (34.5%, 21st).
The Magic targeted rookie point guard sensation Trae Young in the 2018 NBA Draft but were thrilled once the wing-spanned wonder, Mo Bamba, fell into their lap at sixth.
But it presents a quandary: How will the Magic utilize Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, and Nikola Vucevic long-term?
Vucevic was thought to be the odd man out. The big man has been subject to trade rumors for two seasons now, and at just over $12 million, his contract is beyond moveable following his Eastern Conference Player of the Week performance. 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, all on 42% shooting from three-point range hardly seems a player worth unloading.
So, do you let him walk this summer for nothing? If not, how will this relationship continue between four players who inherently play the same position?
The Magic are a net negative per 100 possessions when Isaac, Gordon and Vucevic share the floor. They are a -4 when Isaac and Gordon share the floor, and a -31 when Isaac and Bamba share the floor.
Sure, the Magic can be patient. After all, everyone thinks ‘they’ can properly duplicate the success the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors have achieved by drafting sure-fire superstars. The only problem is that the Magic have selected three players who can’t simultaneously share the floor with Nikola Vucevic. In fact, you can argue only one of them can do that at any given time.
Now, all in all, this argument seems to insinuate that Mo Bamba is the odd man out. Both he and Isaac carry similar ceilings, freakish athleticism, defensive instincts and impressive long-range shooting for players of their size and build. In many ways, Isaac is the more versatile of the two, as he can ably handle the 4/5 and 3 positions for brief stints. Isaac is the move I would make based on his injury history, having missed 64 of 100 regular season contests through his first two seasons.
Will he bounce back and carry out a long, fruitful and healthy career, probably! But the Magic have the opportunity to acquire a 25-year-old All-Star backcourt player who fits EXACTLY what these Magic need and doesn’t even require the offsetting of a first-round pick.
An exchange of Bradley Beal for Evan Fournier and Jonathan Isaac saves the Wizards $3.5 million bringing them just under $4 million over the luxury tax, an easy task for the Wizards to overcome at the deadline. A simple buyout could achieve those means. In addition, Fournier provides John Wall with a much better-suited backcourt partner. A light version of JJ Redick, Fournier can curl off screens poses by Howard and Morris, and fire deep balls without stopping the ball.
Isaac, when healthy can mitigate the Wizards’ 28th rated defense, shore up the boards (25th), and provide Wall with the transition partner who can finish with the speed and ferocity that Howard is losing (nearly 33).
JONATHAN ISAAC WITH THE BLOCK ON JOEL EMBIID
LEADS TO A BIG TIME TERRENCE ROSS THREE! pic.twitter.com/cxGXrpDd2U
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 15, 2018
Magic fans will not take kindly to the breaking up of their young core. The big three of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba have been affectionately referred to as “The Victorious B.I.G.,” and through an early sample size in 2018-19 have presented the fans with quite the future.
At 9-9, with early-season victories over the Celtics, 76ers, Lakers, and Spurs, among others, the Magic could elect to ‘hold the course,’ and we are all readily aware of just how much admiration president Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond have for players with length. But the Magic routinely strike out in free agency and have little to no cap room to operate with this upcoming summer, especially once they elect to re-sign Nikola Vucevic.
Why not take a swing on a 25-year old sure-fire All-Star with two years remaining on his deal at a position of need? The Magic could then save their first-round to invest in a point guard like Ashton Hagans, or even send it out for a player like Terry Rozier. Many point guards could also become available on the cheap near the deadline including Monte Morris, Milos Teodosic, TJ McConnell, and Tomas Satoransky.
The Orlando Magic will likely continue building on what has been a successful start, by their standards, but should they look to take the next step, a home-run swing like this could shorten a rebuilding process that has now extended to six seasons.
For more on the Magic, check out our podcast, “Do You Believe in Magic,” and thanks for reading!
Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports