The Washington Wizards started the season 11-5 and were one of the great stories of the league. But since Dec. 1 they have been a below .500 team, they have lost 5-of-6 games heading into this weekend, which has dropped them to 10th in the East, clinging to a play-in-spot.
General Manager Tommy Sheppard — who got his contract extended after the fast start — apparently feels it is time for a shake-up and every Wizard player except Bradley Beal is available in a trade, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his “The Lowe Post” podcast (hat tip Bleacher Report). He said Spencer Dinwiddie and Montrezl Harrell are the names most mentioned, but the Wizards are considering a number of moves.
Harrell has played well in his familiar sixth man role for Washington, but with Thomas Bryant healthy and the young Daniel Gafford as well, there is a bit of a logjam at the five, and Harrell is on an expiring deal. Having returned this season from ACL surgery, Dinwiddie is struggling to find his shot at 38.8% overall. He is not getting to the rim as often (14.8% of his shots this season, it was over 30% at his peak in Brooklyn) and he’s not finishing as well when he gets there. Dinwiddie also has two seasons guaranteed after this one at starter money (more than $18 million a season).
Raul Neto and Bryant also are on expiring contracts and could draw interest, but apparently, trades for anyone not named Beal could happen.
Note there is a big difference between saying a player is available in a trade and is likely to be moved. What Sheppard seems to realize is he has one foundational piece — if he can keep Beal — and a lot of work to do.
Beal told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller that the trade rumors are getting to the team and part of the problem right now.
“We have a goal and the direction we’re trying to move towards, but we’re kind of hindered in the process of that with the deadline coming up and making proper adjustments on the team. And I was just thinking about this last night, but it’s very tough to kind of be one foot in, one foot out as a player, if you know you’re possibly being traded, if your minutes are being skewed, if you don’t know when your opportunity comes and you feel like if you are out there, you have to kind of press and kind of showcase what you can do in the minutes that you have.”
Fans tend to think of trades more in fantasy basketball terms — a clean and soulless swap of stats — but on a team they can be messy, even when necessary. Someone is forced to pick up and move their life to another city at the drop of a hat, and there can be family, friends, a home and community interests that get upended by the decision. For players, particularly young players, just the prospect of a trade can be unsettling.
That said, it’s part of the business of the NBA (a business where the players are well compensated). Here is how Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. put it.
“You have to address it and understand it’s a real dynamic, I’m not going to gloss over it. It can affect a lot of people. We still have a job to do. We have to stay present in the moment, we have to say connected as a group. And if there’s a change, that’s just life, it’s business. It’s a tough part of this business, but it can’t affect what we’re doing at this moment,” Unseld Jr. said.