The Wizards Move On. We Adjudicate.
Three fun trades need grades!
There’s a reason people say that dust settles.
If something falls in a dusty room with a whoomph (maybe a book accidentally dislodged from a table), it shoots up a cloud of microscopic particles into the air. That dust changes the texture and tint of the room for a brief but lingering moment as it slowly acquiesces to gravity and drifts back down to Earth. It never falls back exactly where it started, and it takes time.
The Washington Wizards must’ve dropped one of those heavy, leather-bound tomes, as the particle-cloud hasn’t fully cleared out yet.
Bradley Beal is finally gone. Kristaps Porzingis is finally gone. Chris Paul stopped in for a snack, but he’s gone, too. But we’re still waiting to see what happens with Kyle Kuzma, and some of the players returned in the trades seem almost certain to be moved again.
The trades that happened did not assume the shape that normal transactions do. Your typical “star player is moved for a couple of first-rounders” does not apply here. All of these moves were, to an even greater extent than usual, about dollar values and contract lengths as much as talent.
Reporting is mixed on how competitive the Miami Heat were in attempting to get Bradley Beal, but at the end of the day, Beal chose Phoenix. Washington came in and took everything Phoenix had left after the Suns’ massive trade for Kevin Durant, and while it was a different shape than usual, it was still an intriguing return.
Trade 1: Wizards/Suns
Wizards get: Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, six second-round picks (2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, 2030), four first-round pick swaps (2024, 2026, 2028, 2030)
Suns get: Bradley Beal, Jordan Goodwin, Isaiah Todd
Without firsts to offer, swaps were the best Phoenix could do. But that’s four swaps and six second-rounders. (Phoenix no longer controls their draft picks in any round until 2031!) The value of swaps isn’t typically high, since the team giving away the swaps for a star player intends to be good, and the team sending out the star usually wants to be bad, but it’s impossible to predict what teams look like in five years, much less seven.
This is a stronger return for Washington than was initially reported, changing it from disastrous to okay, and it’s a good reminder to wait to judge until the fine print has dried.
The Wizards finally end the years-long trade speculation around Beal and add a ton of ammo for future trades (indeed, they already used one of those seconds in a draft-night deal to move up a spot from #8 to #7). They could and should have demanded a higher price in the past, but that’s not this front office’s problem. New team president Michael Winger inherited this situation just a few weeks ago and salvaged decent value.
As we’ll see momentarily, Chris Paul was an important piece in another trade. Shamet is a shooter with a bit of playmaking ability. He could be a rotational bench piece, but he’ll likely be moved by the trade deadline to a contender in need of shooting for yet another second-rounder.
For the Suns, this completes their moving and shaking. They just don’t have anything left to give teams. Their new big three of Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant should be unstoppable offensively without having to try particularly hard. Beal’s defense is underrated by many; he’s not good, but when he’s motivated, he can be not-terrible.
With center Deandre Ayton not drawing much interest on the trade market, he’s presumably returning. The Suns will be rotating through mostly the same cast of characters in that fifth starter spot as last year — Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, etc.
I love Jordan Goodwin, and he showed flashes of being a defensive-minded point guard with some shooting ability. If the shot holds up, it won’t shock me to see him take some of those fifth-starter minutes. His 6’10” wingspan allows him to defend bigger guards and wings, and his addition gave the Suns the flexibility to play smaller without sacrificing much defense. Flexibility is vital in the playoffs, and the Suns should be applauded for snagging Goodwin.
Beal isn’t a perfect fit for Phoenix. He has many offensive redundancies with Devin Booker, and his health should terrify Phoenix fans. Like Durant’s last superteam in Brooklyn, this trio could have major problems accumulating enough minutes together to form any chemistry.
But we’re also overthinking things here. If all three are healthy in the playoffs, they could be the championship favorite.
Beal’s contract will be onerous in the future, as we’ve mentioned recently. New owner Mat Ishbia wants a championship, and he’ll realistically have two years to go for it before this team becomes far too expensive to maintain. But the Suns would have been in cap hell even before this trade, so it doesn’t change their situation down the road as much as one might think.
Like the Kyrie Irving-Dallas situation, the Suns would likely not have been able to fetch a similar talent to Beal for the package they sent out. They picked up a distressed asset (nobody wants to be holding the bag on this guy three years from now) for whatever they had left over.
At this point, the Suns are pot committed. What’s a few hundred million dollars extra?
Wizards grade: C+
Suns grade: B-
Trade 2: Wizards/Warriors
Wizards get: Jordan Poole, Ryan Rollins, Patrick Baldwin Jr., 2030 first-round pick (top-20 protected), 2027 second-round pick
Warriors get: Chris Paul, #57 pick in the 2023 draft (Trayce Jackson-Davis)
This feels like a good fit for both teams. The Warriors never recovered from the Draymond Green — Jordan Poole incident in last year’s preseason (and by incident, I mean when Green coldcocked Poole in the face). Poole had a prolific but inefficient regular season and was an unmitigated disaster in the playoffs. He did little to endear himself to Steph and Klay with his bizarre shot selection and porous defense, and teammates and coaches grew frustrated with him.
If the Warriors are keeping Draymond, some sort of Poole trade felt inevitable. Chris Paul is an unexpected and interesting choice to replace him. The 38-year-old will almost certainly be coming off the bench behind Steph Curry to stabilize the non-Curry minutes (which were typically disastrous last season). Golden State’s ragged bench needed a leader. Poole was certainly happy to lead the way in shot attempts, but Paul will provide organization and competence in a way Poole never could.
Paul’s play declined significantly last year, but he was still a solid player. If a reduced role keeps him healthier for the playoffs, he provides new flexibility to a Warriors team that can get sloppy. Paul’s mere presence reduces turnovers, and he prefers to run pick-and-rolls until a defense inevitably slips up. The Warriors have typically eschewed the pick-and-roll in the regular season but turn to it more in the playoffs; having Paul around to orchestrate can only help.
Poole’s value was at a nadir, and getting back a short-term player who will bolster their title odds for at least the next season is a minor win.
For the Wizards, the value proposition is the exact opposite. For all of Poole’s frustrating tendencies, he has elite shotmaking talent. There were times in the last two years when it felt like he was trying too hard to be Curry… and then there were times when it felt like he was Curry. Perhaps playing on a team where he’s less liable to get punched in the face will revitalize him.
I’ve already seen prognosticators predict Poole will average 25 points per game next year, and he’ll have the green light to explore his boundaries and grow (not that he ever needed outside approval to chuck audacious 30-footers).
The money ($128 over four years) is significant but pales in comparison to Beal’s contract. And given Poole’s youth, there’s a reasonable expectation that he should be able to recoup some trade value if the Wizards decide to go in a different direction in a few years.
No matter how much a team wants to bottom out, someone has to be the go-to scorer. It may as well be a 24-year-old with breathtaking talent in desperate need of new surroundings.
Baldwin is an intriguing player, a 6’9” shooter with shades of Michael Porter Jr. who never got much opportunity with Golden State. He’ll get those chances with Washington. Rollins is a guy.
Wizards grade: B
Warriors grade: B-
Trade 3: Celtics/Wizards/Grizzlies
Celtics get: Kristaps Porzingis, #25 pick in the 2023 draft (traded for three future seconds), 2024 first-round pick (from GSW)
Wizards get: #35 pick in the 2023 draft (traded later for two more seconds), Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala
Grizzlies get: Marcus Smart
This is a perfect example of how the best trades aren’t zero-sum.
On the surface, it looks like a massive win for Boston. After diving deeper, yep, it’s a massive win for Boston. But that doesn’t preclude good vibes for everyone else!
I’ve never seen a team’s fanbase make such an excellent move and act so sad about it. Marcus Smart was heroin to Bostonians, and based on the uproar after they traded him for a nice haul, it’s clear that an intervention was needed. This will be good for you, Boston fans, once you get over the withdrawal symptoms.
Porzingis is injury-prone but coming off an excellent, All-Star-level season. The 7’3” former unicorn is a good drop defender with a reliable outside shot (38% from three over the last two seasons) and an improved post game. He’s sort of a hybrid of the aging Al Horford and fragile Rob Williams: in theory, he can protect the rim like Rob while spacing the floor like Al, and he provides more offensive versatility than either (and he’s just as likely to be hurt as Rob!). It’ll be fascinating to see how coach Mazzulla staggers minutes and uses KP; he could be the offensive anchor of the second unit or a floor-spacing tertiary piece around the Jays.
(Porzingis’ signing does mean that Celtics forward Grant Williams likely will not return. Grant is a useful player, but he fell out of Mazzulla’s favor and will likely ask for more money than Boston would want to give him.)
Health is always a concern with KP, but at this point, it feels like we’re saying that about almost every star. Boston also snagged two late firsts (one which they later turned into three seconds) to ship Marcus Smart to Memphis. It’s rare for a team to get back the best player and receive the most draft capital. Even with caveats, this is an excellent trade for Boston.
Smart is a good player, albeit one who regressed defensively last season. He’s a vocal floor general, but teammates didn’t always appreciate his leadership style. With Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White in the fold and Payton Pritchard waiting for an opportunity, someone had to be squeezed out. White looked like the best guard on the team for long stretches of last season, and Brogdon reportedly has a concerning medical issue that makes him difficult to trade. Hence, unloading Smart while his value is still high (especially on a very team-friendly contract) makes sense.
Marcus can take over for the departing Dillon Brooks to defend the opponent’s best guard or smaller wing. Smart is also comfortable playing off the ball or running the offense. He’ll be the starting point guard while Morant serves his 25-game suspension (for reckless conduct with a firearm) and the backup point guard when Ja returns, but Smart’s more than capable of starting alongside Morant and sharpshooter Desmond Bane if the Grizzlies want to go small. Losing Tyus Jones hurts, but Smart is an upgrade and provides more positional flexibility.
The shot has never been Smart’s strength, but with his willingness to shoot, he can’t be entirely ignored on the perimeter. There are a lot of similarities between him and Brooks, but Smart is a far better passer and more disciplined player (inside the arc, at least). He fills an area of need for Memphis, and although losing two late firsts hurts, it’s a fair price. Smart is the win-now player Memphis needs after finishing as the two-seed in the West for the second year in a row. It remains to be seen if this moves the needle enough, but it indisputably improves the Grizzlies.
The Wizards get back a point guard of their own in Tyus Jones. Jones is the polar opposite of Marcus Smart — a steady offensive player with a high floor and low ceiling, the exact kind of captain you want for a rebuilding team. He’s the steady hand at the wheel to rein in the erratic Jordan Poole, and he might also help set up Wizards second-year guard Johnny Davis for better success. He’s also not good enough to accidentally win the Wiz too many games.
Muscala is a useful stretch center, but he’s more likely to be traded or waived than receive meaningful minutes. Gallo will almost certainly never suit up for Washington. Washington later turned the #35 pick into two future seconds, a solid move. I’m still a little confused that the ‘Zards couldn’t have gotten one of the firsts that went to Boston, but if that offer had been available, the Wiz presumably would have pounced.
As Porzingis was only under contract if he picked up his player option for this year and has a history of health problems, a significantly larger return couldn’t have been reasonably expected. It’s not the sexiest trade for Washington, but it’ll do.
Celtics grade: A
Wizards grade: B-
Grizzlies grade: A-
The Wizards are tearing things down to the foundation and starting over. There are a lot of moves left to be made, too. For Washington fans, the next few years will be ugly, but at least there’s purpose. The dust is still settling, but if they squint, the future is starting to take shape.