By now we’ve all seen the rumors. The Los Angeles Lakers are interested in upgrading the point guard position after a disappointing first round exit.
The first name that was thrown around was Chris Paul. That makes sense when you consider his relationship with LeBron James. It was the other name mentioned that got Wizards fans to raise some concern. Russell Westbrook has been thrown into the Lakers Wish List.
Trading Westbrook isn’t a simple discussion because of Bradley Beal’s pending free agency. How much would trading Westbrook impact Beal’s decision?
Washington has said all along that they will not trade Beal. They are going to ride this out but the organization can’t afford to lose Beal for nothing. GM Tommy Sheppard has to be honest with himself on whether Beal is returning or not. We all saw how Oklahoma City getting nothing for Kevin Durant impacted the organization going forward.
Washington is in a situation similar to Portland. Damian Lillard had indicated that he wanted to stay in Portland for the duration of his career. But shake-ups on the sidelines have led to rumors that Lillard would like to leave in Portland. Situations like that are always fluid no matter what the player or organization says.
The same could be said about Beal. He has indicated that he would like to stay in Washington and why not? He is the face of the organization. With that comes a certain amount of input that he might not get with another organization. But like Lillard, Beal will have a new coach on the sideline. How will that impact his decision making?
Westbrook’s future in Washington is in play whether a trade is made or not. Westbrook has two years left on his deal at $44.2M and $47M. If Washington rides out Westbrook’s contract, what happens when it expires? If Westbrook wants to stay, how much will it cost a Wizards team that will probably be a tax payer? If he wants to leave, does the Wizards trade his expiring deal for assets or risk losing him for nothing?
Lets just say Washington trades Westbrook for the Lakers pieces mentioned above. One would have to assume that Kuzma would get some major minutes. Who would suffer because of that? The first person that would come to mind would be Deni Avdija. This is where it could get dicey. Sheppard believes in Avdija and his development. Would he want to bring in someone that would squarely impact Avdija’s playing time? On the surface the answer would be “no”.
What Sheppard could also do is check around the league to see if another team would be interested in Kuzma. That could provide Washington with a back-up point guard and/or an athletic wing. Washington needs both pretty bad.
Horton-Tucker has continued to improve every season and has tremendous upside. If there was one player I wouldn’t want to move it’s Horton-Tucker. The biggest knock on him is his three point shooting. Last season, Horton-Tucker was a 28.2% three point shooter. That won’t get it done for a team that needs to be able to be more efficient from the three-point line. The Wizards were 23rd in the NBA in three-point percentage.
Schroder’s presence would be an obvious need. One point guard going out, one coming in. The Wizards would have to find a way to sign Schroder. He is a free agent that just turned down a four year-$84M deal with the Lakers.
When you really look at it, the Wizards don’t gain enough to make this trade. They would be better off going into next season with this roster and seeing if they could get a better feel for what Beal is planning on doing. Even Washington wants to start over, they would get a bevy of assets if the move Beal and Westbrook via trade.
Those assets would be added to the young players Washington already has. That’s where the front office deserves some credit. Washington has young, solid talent on the back-in and that young talent has been garnering serious NBA minutes.
Sheppard shouldn’t answer any phone calls from Rob Pelinka. Let it go to voice mail…