Trilly Grades Your Rebuild 2020: Washington Wizards

Trilly Builds is back! Same as last year....only different! We still have our "Good Things" and "Bad Things" section. We no longer have our rebuild status grade because, with the way the season ended, just about every team could claim incomplete. I've added three things that I would do if I took over the franchise tomorrow. And a "protected players" section, as I may do an expansion draft later and want to cover my bases. Previous editions can be found here. Let's get to it!

Washington Wizards (24-40, 9th place Eastern Conference)

Good Things

1. Bradley Beal

30 PPG scorers are rare. Only ten guys to hit that mark since 2000: Eight of them have a regular-season MVP or Finals MVP (if not both) and then there are Tracy McGrady and Brad Beal. That's the entire list. 25 points a night is attainable, even 27. But hitting 30 a night for a season is rare air. And Beal joined that company this season despite not making the All-Star team. 

And Beal wasn't just chucking to get his shots either. He's getting to the line eight times per game (7th best in the league) and making three 3-pointers a game (10th in the league) His usage rate tied him with Russell Westbrook but his turnover rate was similar to Larry Nance Jr, someone who used less than half as many possessions as Beal. With his next two leading scorers combining for 28 PPG (Bertans/Hachimura), Beal served as the fulcrum for an offense that finished tied for 11th in Offensive Rating. He should get better as the team around him gets better. Speaking of that...

2. GM Tommy Sheppard

Sheppard has done a nice filling out this roster with legit talent that other teams gave up on. He took over and July 2019 and since then:

  • Took on Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga & a 2022 2nd round pick from the Lakers so they could clear cap space in the Anthony Davis trade.
  • Traded Isaiah Thomas for Jerome Robinson. Robinson was a lottery pick in the 2018 draft by the Clippers.
  • Signed Anzejs Pasecniks (ORL 2017 first-rounder) for nothing after Philly traded for him then renounced his draft rights
  • Acquired Davis Bertans from SA so they could get Demarre Carroll, whom they waived this season. More on Bertans later.
  • Worked a sign-and-trade to land two future second-round picks for Tomas Satoransky.
  • Most importantly, he got Beal to re-sign. Before the season, Beal agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $72 million dollars. For the next two seasons, Beal will make less than Jamal Murray, CJ McCollum, and Andrew Wiggins

Will Sheppard make good use of Beal re-signing? Will any of those picks turn into anything significant? Who knows but in a clear rebuild, these are the types of swings you need to be taking. Credit to Sheppard for getting creative in building a roster that competed for the eighth seed. 

3. Don't look now but the cap situation isn't terrible

The Wall contract is what it is. Lost in all the Rona talk, is that this contract is now one year shorter! Next year, Wall and Beal will cost $69 million dollars. It's not ideal but Philly is paying Horford/Tobias $60 million and Cleveland will pay Drummond/Love similar. Wall is overpaid but Beal is a relative underpay, so it doesn't cripple your team cap-wise. 

Aside from those two, there's not a bad contract on the roster. Next season, they'll have seven players still on rookie deals and two veterans (Ish Smith/Thomas Bryant) on fair deals. Big money deals for Ian Mahinmi and CJ Miles expiring open up plenty of cap space to re-sign impending UFA Bertans.

Bad Things

1. Defense

Washington finished dead last in Defensive Rating this season, after finishing 28th last season. For all the stink about Trae Young's defense, Beal is neck-and-neck with him in a lot of advanced defensive numbers. It's a limited statistic but each of Smith/Beal/Wagner/Brown/Hachimura/Bryant all finished with negative defensive real plus-minus scores. They're in the bottom-four defensively in opponents' field goal % by every single zone. This means teams are killing the Wizards from 0-3 feet, 3-10 feet, 10-16 feet, 16-3p range, 3p range+, aka literally everywhere. They could use defensive help at every position.

2. Lack of high-end talent

I love Wall but he's coming off of maybe the toughest injury for an athletic guard to recover from. I like Beal but those other guys on that 30 PPG list were winning major hardware when Beal can't even get into the All-Star game. They have some solid young talent but they were all available for a reason. Bertans was a revelation and they have the cap space to keep him, but he's a UFA so he can walk for nothing. 

They're projected to get the #9 pick in this years draft, but have a 20% chance of jumping into the top-four. Stranger things have happened.

3. Need more size

The NBA can trend as small as it wants as long as you can still protect the paint and grab a rebound when you need it. The Wizards did not get this memo as they played two "traditional" bigs at a time, usually a mix between Bryant/Mahinmi/Hachimura/Bertans/Wagner at the frontcourt spots. Again, this is all well and good as long as your big man lineups are doing big man things. The Wizards big men did not do big men things.

They couldn't rebound (20th in ORB%, 29th in DRTG%) or protect the rim (opponents shot 70% from 0-3 feet away, second-worst in the league). Bertans/Bryant/Wagner did a great job of spacing the floor on offense but the Wiz will need to complement them with frontcourt players than can hit the boards and defend the paint. 

3 Decisions I’d Make If I Was GM Tomorrow

1. Get a big

Or someone that can grab a rebound or block a shot, I should say. This shouldn't be too hard as solid big men are available at the ready. They could hit the UFA market for veterans like Paul Milsap, Aron Baynes, or Derrick Favors. They can step in and help a team with legitimate playoff aspirations.

Even the next tier of bigs has plenty of solid contributors. Hassan Whiteside or Tristan Thompson would help the rebounding. Nerlens Noel or Bismack Biyombo could help the defense. Again, these would be short-term fixes but Washington could also look to solve the position long-term. How? I'm glad you asked.

Washington Wizards get Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks get Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith, and 2020 first-round pick

Beal/Wall are ready to win now. They'll have the money to re-sign Bertans and still make a move like this. Capela would be a nice running mate for Wall/Beal/Bertans/Rui in DC and a boost to the boards/defense. The Hawks traded Evan Turner & the 16th pick in this year's draft to get Capela. In return, they receive the 9th pick and two rotation players. Everybody wins.

Myles Turner to Washington for Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner, and 2020 first-round pick

Indiana gets a former Hoosiers great player in Bryant, a young big in Rui, and some shooting in Wagner. This move is more about them committing to Sabonis as their big of the future and flipping Turner into multiple pieces to fit around their core of Oladipo/Sabonis/Brogdon. 

How you feel about this deal probably comes down to how you feel about Turner. If the poor rebounding numbers and stagnation of his offensive game scare you, you may not like it. If his fit as a 3-and-D center excites you as an intriguing running partner for Wall/Beal, then you may. I fall into the latter category.

Sign Christian Wood or Montrezl Harrel

I'm higher on Wood and I'd make him the priority, but both are UFA and young enough (Harrell is 26, Wood 25) to grow with the core of the Wiz. Harrell would bring nonstop energy and become a dangerous pick-and-roll partner for Wall as Beal/Bertans space the floor. He'd be a fine fit but I'd set my sights on Wood:

The ability to finish inside allows him to be productive even on nights when his jumper isn’t falling. Wood is the rare stretch 4 who doubles as a rim-running 5. He’s in the 85th percentile of players leaguewide on spot-up attempts this season and in the 95th percentile among roll men.

The other unique thing about Wood is that his versatility extends to the other end of the floor. He’s holding opposing players to just 54.2 percent shooting at the rim, a respectable number which puts him right ahead of Drummond. But what makes him truly special is his ability to guard on the perimeter. There aren’t many players his size who can stay in front of players like Chris Paul, De’Aaron Fox, and CJ McCollum on switches.

He offers the rim-running potential that Harrell does, but adds in the ability to space the floor and defend at a plus level. You'll have to pay big bucks for either, as they are unrestricted. But you'd be able to hit the ground running with a veteran team that's still young enough to have some upside. Depending on what Wood/Harrell costs, Washington may have to find takers for Bryant ($16 mill/2-yrs left) or Ish Smith ($6 mill/1-yr). This is where those extra assets, like the second-round picks they got for Satoransky, may come in handy. They can help sweeten a deal if the Wizards need a favor in a pinch.

2. Keep Bertans at all costs 

Bertans, like Wood, hit unrestricted FA at the perfect time. He made $7 million last season and looks to double that for his next contract. Wood/Harrell would be a luxury, but keeping Bertans is a necessity. Beal watched Bertans have one of the best shooting seasons ever. Bertans took 8.7 threes per game this year and hit 42.4 % of them. This is the list of people all-time that have done that:

So try explaining to Beal, just after he re-signed with you when he didn't need to, that the dollar amount got too high for Bertans. He just saw you pay Ian Mahinmi $18 million dollars for four straight seasons. If you let Bertans walk to the highest bidder, then Beal might not be far behind him.

3. Let your young talent cook

Washington is in a unique spot because they've already found their stars (Wall/Beal) and have their young, rotational talent. They're trying to find the stuff in the middle, per points 1 and 2 above. In the meantime, they should explore their bench pieces to see if there's more there.

Hachimura matched Zion Williamson as the only rookies to post 13/6. He got into basketball relatively late after a baseball career so he may only be scratching the surface.

Troy Brown hit 35% of his overall three-pointers but 49% of his corner threes/39% of his catch-and-shoot threes. He also managed to be non-godawful on a godawful defensive team so they may be something there as a 3-and-D guy that can handle the ball a little.

Wagner (10/5 on 58/34/82 shooting in 19 MPG) was a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft and Bonga (5/3/1 on 52/40/81 shooting in 19 MPG) was the youngest player taken in the 2018 draft, 39th overall pick.

The #9 pick in this particular draft should have them ready to add another solid prospect. Guards like Tyrese Haliburton or Cole Anthony figure to be available. Isaac Okoro or Deni Avdija could help on the wing. Onyeka Okongwu or Obi Toppin are bigs that could step right in and contribute immediately. 

Protected Players

  1. Bradley Beal
  2. John Wall
  3. Rui Hachimura
  4. Thomas Bryant
  5. Troy Brown Jr
  6. Isaac Bonga
  7. Ish Smith
  8. Moritz Wagner

Thoughts: It's easy to leave Wall unprotected here and hope an expansion team takes him but is that reward worth the risk? If they take him, he's off the books but you have to replace him immediately or Beal is pissed. If he isn't selected, does it risk pissing off a healthy Wall when you appear to have a good relationship with him? If the players they had to leave on the chopping block were better, this would be a tougher decision.

Unprotected Players

  1. Admiral Schofield
  2. Jerome Robinson
  3. Anzejs Pasenicks 

Thoughts: Are any of these three guys keeping you up at night if an expansion team selects them from you? Probably not. It makes the decision to protect Wall easier.

Ineligible players (unrestricted FAs)

  1. Davis Bertans
  2. Ian Mahinmi
  3. Shabazz Napier
  4. Gary Payton II