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Addition Of Kristaps Porzingis Makes Wizards Interesting Again

Up until about 2:30 p.m., it looked like Bradley Beal’s season-ending wrist injury would leave the Wizards with the same roster that had lost 26 of its last 40 games.

But sometimes, deadlines create an increased level of urgency.

Minutes before the 3 p.m. buzzer sounded, Washington agreed to send point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and power forward Davis Bertans to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for forward/center Kristaps Porzingis. General manager Tommy Sheppard found a suitor for his team’s two least tradable contracts without attaching draft picks to them, while acquiring a valuable player.

The Tale Of Thursday

There were two trades made by the Wizards prior to the Porzingis deal. First, they traded center Montrezl Harrell to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for point guard Ish Smith and center Vernon Carey, Jr. Moments later, they shipped point guard Aaron Holiday to the Phoenix Suns for cash considerations.

At that point, it seemed as if deadline day would be quiet and rather disappointing for the organization. After all, their reported top target Domantas Sabonis was sent to the Sacramento Kings approximately 48 hours prior.

In acquiring Porzingis, however, not only did the Wizards add a player who’s nearly as talented as Sabonis; they managed to do it without giving up their greatest assets – which I had expected would be necessary.

The Data

Dinwiddie had averaged 12.6 points per game on a paltry 37.6 percent shooting, to go along with 5.8 assists (second-best on the Wizards). Bertans, who averaged 15.4 points per game in 2019-20 on 42.4 percent three-point shooting, has watched his scoring drop to 5.7 points at a 31.9 percent success rate from distance.

Conversely, Porzingis is averaging 19.2 points and 7.7 assists per game. He’s struggled from behind the arc this season, but he knocked down nearly 38 percent of his threes last year.

At 7-foot-3, the 26-year-old who was once known as “The Unicorn,” provides the Wizards with a realistic second option on offense (behind Beal), as well as versatility – he’s spent a nearly equal amount of time at power forward as center, despite his size.

The Financials

The off-court minutia surrounding the deal is equally important. Dinwiddie is scheduled to earn more than $36 million in the next two seasons (through 2023-24), while Bertans is slated to make $49 million over the next three years. Porzingis, on the other hand, is owed nearly $70 million through 2023-24.

In summary, Porzingis will be paid slightly more than Dinwiddie and Bertans combined. However, in addition to being the best player of the three, Porzingis (unlike Bertans) comes “off the books” after only two more seasons. Even the most pessimistic fans should recognize that this trade at least eliminates one year of suffering.

How it Helps On The Court

Assuming Beal stays in DC (which seems to be just a formality), it’s incumbent upon the franchise to give him a running mate with some degree of cache. Porzingis is a former No. 4 overall draft pick and was an All Star in 2017-18, prior to undergoing ACL surgery. However, he has struggled to be available for games since the injury. He’s played 34 of Dallas’ 55 games this season and is currently sidelined with a knee injury – although it isn’t viewed as requiring a long-term absence.

Once next season comes around, barring another move, Porzingis will be Beal’s top running mate, with Kyle Kuzma close behind. Porzingis replaces Bertans as one of Washington’s go-to three-point shooters, as well as a logical pick and roll partner for Beal and [insert point guard here].

To that end, the Wizards will need to replace Dinwiddie at point. They should use the half-season debacle as a lesson, though. With Porzingis in the fold and Kuzma ascending as a scoring threat, the Wizards will need someone who can do the stereotypical point guard things: bring the ball up the court, run the offense, and create optimal looks for the team’s shooters – although some defense would be nice, too.

Still, the possibilities seem pretty endless. The Wizards likely won’t have to force Kuzma to take as many three-point shots, and they’ll have lineup versatility, particularly as Daniel Gafford’s minutes at center increase, Porzingis will have to play some power forward, which will force Kuzma, Rui Hachimura, and Deni Avdija to play some small forward, all of which may be a blessing in disguise. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and they have three bigs on the court at almost all times.

A Change in Focus

On the whole, the Wizards got a bit younger at the deadline – and they were already young. Ish Smith (in his second stint in Washington) is by far their oldest player (33 years old). Bertans, Dinwiddie and Harrell were two of their oldest players, though. As it stands, everyone other than Smith is under the age of 30 – and the second oldest, UVA alum Anthony Gill, plays very sparse minutes. Additionally, nine of the 16 players on their roster have played fewer than three NBA seasons, whereas only three have played in the league for more than seven years.

With that stated, there will be an increased emphasis on developing young players. Minutes that had previously gone to Harrell (24.3 per game) are now available, as is the heavy workload Beal carries. Considering this season is likely down the drain as it relates to making the playoffs, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may also see his role reduced in favor of someone like Corey Kispert.

In some respect, the rest of this season will be much like the first half. The goal should be to determine the roles that players fit into entering next season, as well as developing them into roles they need to fill (like Kispert as a 3 and D wing). As long as he stays healthy, though, Porzingis should be no trouble to fit into the offense.

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Friday, 30 September 2022

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A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

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