Washington Wizards trade deadline intel: What we’re hearing about potential moves

WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards aren’t contending for the NBA title this season, but some of their players almost certainly will chase the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the months ahead.

Rival executives and rival front-office officials said they expect the Wizards to be active as the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches.

It’s no secret that Monumental Basketball president Michael Winger and Wizards general manager Will Dawkins would like to add draft picks and high-upside young players.

No one should be surprised to hear that. It’s common sense. As everyone within the NBA community knows, Washington started a rebuild only recently — and began that rebuild without much of a jump start. Because Bradley Beal held a no-trade clause and would accept a deal only to the Phoenix Suns, the Wizards’ brand-new front office had zero leverage in trade talks and could not negotiate the kind of pick-laden deal they almost certainly would have preferred to make. Because Kristaps Porziņģis was prepared to decline his 2023-24 player option to become an unrestricted free agent, the Wizards had minimal leverage there too.

The Wizards have already made one deal that has helped salve at least a little of this wretched season, getting 24-year-old center Marvin Bagley III, 25-year-old forward Isaiah Livers and two future second-round picks for Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala, two veteran impending unrestricted free agents who weren’t going to be in D.C. next season. With Washington in no danger of exceeding the luxury tax threshold, Bagley’s $12.5 million for 2024-25 is easily absorbable into the Wizards’ finances. Perhaps the Wizards can mine the untapped potential that made Bagley a No. 2 overall pick, turn Livers into a serviceable 3-and-D player and either repackage the second-round picks or use the picks to find a diamond in the rough in the draft.

Winger and Dawkins have already made significant changes to the franchise they joined last spring, but they have much more work to do. To obtain draft picks and young players, they’ll have to deconstruct the roster further. The upcoming trade deadline offers an opportunity, as will the offseason and the 2024-25 trade deadline.

With a little more than a week remaining before this season’s deadline, which Wizards players could command trade offers? We’ll pore through the roster one player at a time in alphabetical order. Although we’re including Jordan Poole in this list, we don’t anticipate Poole to draw much (if any) interest.

Position: Forward. Age: 23.
Potential fits: Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies.

Why the Wizards would trade him: It’s not that the Wizards would want to trade Avdija. Instead, he’s one of the few young players on the team who might command valuable draft picks or a promising young player in return.

There’s another potential consideration: Avdija and Bilal Coulibaly are competing against each other for playing time to a degree. Perhaps Washington could fill another position of need if it moves Avdija, which also would have the benefit of creating more time for Coulibaly. Still, other than Poole, Avdija could be the least likely player to be traded in the next week among the Wizards’ starters.

Why teams would want him: Even before this season, a good number of other teams regarded Avdija highly because of his positional size, ability to guard perimeter players, effort on defense and untapped potential as a secondary ballhandler. After all, Avdija is the No. 9 overall pick from 2020. His value no doubt has only grown in recent months after he signed a relatively inexpensive four-year, $55 million contract extension and improved as a 3-point shooter and his finishing through contact.

What a deal could look like: Because Avdija is a first-round pick whose rookie-scale contract extension hasn’t kicked in yet, any trade involving him before July 1 would be subject to the dastardly named poison pill provision. That’s a fancy way of saying that any team that receives Avdija in a trade right now would be considered as obtaining $12.3 million in salary (the average of his salaries for this season and the next four seasons) while the Wizards would be sending out just $6.3 million in salary (his salary for this season). The poison pill makes Avdija very difficult to trade for now, and it would require other players (or other teams) to be added to make the salaries match.

Fourth-year forward Deni Avdija has made strides this season. (Daniel Dunn / USA Today)

Position: Center. Age: 25.
Potential fits: New York Knicks.

Why the Wizards would trade him: Moving Gafford would be a surprise because A) Gafford is on a very reasonable deal by NBA standards for a starting center, B) Washington wouldn’t do any better replacing his production at his salary and C) Gafford and Avdija provide what little defensive presence the starting lineup contributes. As it is, even with the undersized Gafford trying to protect the rim, Washington is 28th in defensive rating and last in defensive-rebounding percentage.

Why teams would want him: Gafford has become a credible offensive threat. Once limited to dunks off lobs, he’s extended his range at least a few feet, to where he can catch, gather and score in the paint. His top-10 true shooting percentage, just above 71 percent, and a more-than-respectable PER of 19.46, along with a contract at a little less than $28 million total the next two seasons, make him a potentially attractive piece for a team needing another big.

What a deal could look like: The Knicks are suddenly hurting up front. Julius Randle is out for an extended period of time with a dislocated shoulder. And New York already needed a big after the season-ending injury to starting center Mitchell Robinson, which has left backup Isaiah Hartenstein sucking up monster minutes — though New York did get Precious Achiuwa from Toronto in the deal that brought OG Anunoby from the Raptors for Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.

A prototype for a Gafford trade could be last February’s deal between the Clippers and Hornets, in which Charlotte sent center Mason Plumlee to LA for guard Reggie Jackson, a 2028 second-round pick and cash.

You’d guess under this framework that Washington would hold out for someone like New York guard Quentin Grimes, who has upside and defends well. But Grimes has been on Utah’s radar for some time too. A three-way deal in which Gafford would go to the Knicks, while Kelly Olynyk (who’s on an expiring contract), a young talent like Utah’s 2023 first-rounder Brice Sensabaugh and one of the Jazz’s myriad future firsts go to D.C., and Grimes and Evan Fournier go to Salt Lake City, would make sense too.

Position: Point guard. Age: 27.
Potential fits: Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics.

Why the Wizards would trade him: Wizards officials value Jones’ professionalism, veteran leadership, floor spacing and ability to deliver on-time, on-target passes. But — and it’s an important “but” — Jones is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Jones knows that team officials regard him highly, and he enjoys being a starter, but would Jones want to re-sign with a team that has a long, and likely arduous, rebuild ahead? If Jones wants to test unrestricted free agency in search of a contending team, then the Wizards would be well served to trade him now instead of risk losing him for nothing. They have asked teams that have inquired about Jones for a first-round pick.

Jones is in the final year of a two-year contract, and because teams are not permitted to extend existing contracts that span one or two years, he is ineligible for a contract extension.

Why teams would want him: While most contending teams have elite point guards, almost no one has a backup/potential spot starter of Jones’ quality. That, in turn, should make him valuable on the trade market, especially for teams that would pair Jones with capable defenders with positional size.

Jones does not turn the ball over. Period. His assist-to-turnover ratio is almost unfathomable 7.63-to-1, which leads the league’s regular rotation players by so much it’s ridiculous. (For added context: Delon Wright and Chris Paul also have admirable assist-to-turnover ratios, at 7.40-to-1 and 6.05-to-1, respectively, but have played in far fewer games this season than Jones.)

Jones is the kind of ultra-dependable, experienced and durable point guard whom contending teams would love to have as insurance come playoff time. Making Jones even more attractive to potential suitors: He’s having the best offensive season of his career so far, with career highs in points (15.6 per game), field goal percentage (50 percent) and 3-point percentage (41 percent).

What a deal could look like: Washington could hold out for a lot. The Wizards would like to re-sign Jones and could do so at a number that makes sense for both sides — think the Lakers’ four-year, $54 million deal to keep Austin Reaves, maybe a little more. And the Wizards can offer Jones what most contenders can’t: a starting job for the foreseeable future. But the Wizards need more talent and picks so much that it’s fair to wonder whether they can afford not to trade Jones if a good offer is available.

So, if Minnesota really wants a reunion with Jones, who was there his first four NBA seasons, the Wizards would certainly hold out for a plus deal. Washington could ask for forward Leonard Miller, an early second-round pick in 2023 whose draft rights were sent from San Antonio to Minnesota and is putting up big numbers for Minnesota’s G League team, and also ask Minnesota to give back the conditional 2024 second-round pick (the less favorable of either Memphis’ or Washington’s second-round selections in ’24) the Wizards are currently slated to give to the Wolves.

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Tyus Jones has enjoyed a banner season in Washington. (Daniel Dunn / USA Today)

Position: Swingman. Age: 24.
Potential fits: Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets.

Why the Wizards would trade him: A team that went 11 months between winning consecutive games can, and should, make anyone on its roster available, even younger guys like Kispert who still are developing.

Why teams would want him: Kispert has become more than a catch-and-shoot guy in his third pro season. His improved handle has allowed him to be able to get to the basket much more frequently this season against defenders who have to close out hard on him. His 3-point numbers are down a little this season, but not enough to cause alarm. He still gets hunted defensively, but his offensive efficiency keeps him on the floor. If he played on a better team that could help/hide him defensively (Houston or Orlando, perhaps), he’d become even more effective.

He’ll be in line for a rookie extension after this season, so teams would certainly have to take that into account when looking at acquiring him; you’d think Aaron Nesmith’s three-year, $33 million extension with Indiana before this season would be a realistic comp for a new Kispert deal.

What a deal could look like: The Rockets have a traded player exception of $4.5 million from their trade of Kevin Porter Jr. to Oklahoma City last fall, which would be large enough to take in Kispert’s $3.7 million salary this season. Washington could then see if the Rockets would part with one of their future firsts; Houston also has multiple first-round picks and/or pick swaps still incoming from Brooklyn from the James Harden deal in 2021.

Position: Forward. Age: 28.
Potential fits: Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings.

Why the Wizards would trade him: Kuzma is Washington’s best and most consistent offensive player this season. His averages of 21.9 points and 4.4 assists per game this season are career highs. His defensive-rebounding rate of 16.9 percent is a little less than his rate last year and far below his career-best rate of 21.3 percent set during his first season in Washington. His 3-point shooting also has stagnated. Still, Kuzma has received attention from several playoff teams, and he was a key contributor to the Lakers’ championship run in the 2020 NBA bubble. If Washington were to trade him, it would get much more for him now — with three-plus years left on his current deal — than next season or in 2026.

Why teams would want him: Kuzma has a very favorable contract going forward, having re-signed with Washington last summer for four years at $90 million guaranteed. Most importantly, his contract descends year-by-year, starting with this year’s salary of $25.6 million and going down to $19.4 million in the final year in 2026-27. That was done by design; it gets Kuzma more money up front than he would have under a more traditional contract structure but also makes him easier to move. (His deal does include a 15 percent trade kicker, however.)

Obviously, Kuzma wouldn’t be the No. 1 or No. 2 offensive option, as he is with the Wizards, for most contending teams. Ideally, he’d be your third option, which you could argue he was here last season behind Beal and Porziņģis. Would he chafe at a role as a third option on a contender? At this point of his career, he is not interested in returning to the role he had in L.A. as a spot-up shooter in the corner, waiting for passes from LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis. But, he’s talented, and long, and is still just 28.

What a deal could look like: League sources maintain Washington has been holding out for two first-round picks for Kuzma, though team sources indicate that is somewhat overblown. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The Sacramento Kings have coveted Kuzma for some time. They had a deal done for him in 2021 for Buddy Hield while he was with the Lakers only to see L.A. pivot and then deal Kuzma to Washington in the multi-team trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Lakers. Sacramento had interest in signing Kuzma this summer as an unrestricted free agent before he re-signed in D.C. And the Kings have been a bit off-kilter for large parts of this season.

There’s a relatively clean trade for the teams to make, with Kings guard Kevin Huerter coming back to the DMV after starring at Maryland in college. At 25, on a good contract (a little more than $34 million total in the last two years of his deal, through 2025-26), the 6-foot-7 Huerter fell out of favor in Sacramento at the start of the season, though he’s played better of late. He would give Washington positional size at the two-guard spot, whether starting or coming off the bench, or he could slide up to a small-forward role. As a career 38 percent shooter from behind the arc, Huerter is on every team’s scouting report.

Adding veteran forward Trey Lyles to the deal would make it work financially. And the Wizards could certainly flip Huerter and/or Lyles for more draft capital if they desired.

If Dallas is indeed in on Kuzma, the Wizards would have to be willing to take on either veteran Maxi Kleber or veteran Richaun Holmes, neither of whom fits the Wizards’ expected player-development timeline, along with whichever young players and/or picks in which Washington would have interest. Rookie forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper would fit the young-player profile, but it’s unclear at best whether Prosper would interest the Wizards. It is possible that a potential deal with Dallas could expand so that Kleber and/or Holmes were rerouted to a third team, with Washington getting the requisite young players and/or picks it wants from that team.

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Kyle Kuzma is averaging 21.9 points per game this season. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

Jordan Poole

Position: Shooting guard. Age: 24.
Potential fits: Only a team that is looking to get rid of an untradable contract.

Why the Wizards would trade him: On the court, Poole’s first season in Washington has been near disastrous. There have been many nights during the first half of the season in which he didn’t look like a capable NBA starting guard. He’s made only 41 percent of his shots overall and just 31 percent of his 3-point tries. And worse, he’s played atrocious defense for the majority of the season.

And then there’s that contract. He’s in the first year of a four-year contract worth $123 million guaranteed. He signed that extension when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors.

Why teams would want him: Given his inconsistent play at both ends, and given that he’d likely be coming off the bench for a contending team, it’s hard to think of any team that would happily take on the remaining three years and $95 million-plus on his deal. You would think a team would be looking to unload a similarly onerous contract.

But you can’t discount the possibility entirely. Poole can score, especially if he’s surrounded by high-gravity teammates who can open the floor for him. And while Poole does things in games that drive people in the organization to distraction, he has, by most accounts, tried to be a good teammate here. That controversy about his behavior during a timeout late in a game in Brooklyn this season was a nothing-burger stirred up by a video edit.

Still, the chances of Poole being dealt by the deadline are remote at best. For Washington to rid itself of Poole’s terrible contract, it would have to take on either a similarly bad contract or include draft capital (and the Wizards’ cannot afford to part with the relatively minimal draft capital they have).

What a deal could look like: It’s almost impossible to find any team that would be willing to take on Poole. A team that’s always looking to win and has taken chances on mercurial talent in the past, and which is also offensively challenged — read: Miami — would have made at least theoretical sense. But the Heat made their move recently by trading Kyle Lowry to Charlotte for Terry Rozier.

Position: Combo guard. Age: 26.
Potential fits: Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns.

Why the Wizards would trade him: With Coulibaly, Avdija and Kispert needing (and deserving) playing time, minutes have been relatively thin for Shamet.

Why teams would want him: Shamet has 53 games of postseason experience, and his steadiness, long-range shooting and defense would provide ideal depth for a contending team. It also helps that his $11 million salary for next season is non-guaranteed and that he has a 2025-26 team option worth $11.75 million. In other words, he can be used as an expiring salary this offseason for a team facing a luxury tax crunch.

What a deal could look like: Shamet could command a protected second-round pick.

Delon Wright

Position: Combo guard. Age: 31.
Potential fits: Milwaukee Bucks

Why the Wizards would trade him: Wright will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so there’s little chance the veteran will want to stick around. Moving him before the deadline would be wise roster maintenance.

Why teams would want him: Wright’s defensive impact has slipped a little this season, though it’s fair to add that the defense behind him has been so bad that it’s certainly not all his fault. But he’s still an excellent on-ball guard whose size, smarts and length make him among the best in the league at causing deflections and creating general havoc for opposing half-court offenses. A team like the Bucks, which has fallen off considerably on defense this season, could use an upgrade like Wright to back up Damian Lillard on the ball or play alongside Lillard to get the All-Star off the opposition’s top guard threats.

What a deal could look like: Milwaukee is deep into the luxury tax and doesn’t have much in the way of draft assets after sending most of its future first-rounders to New Orleans (for Jrue Holiday) and Portland (for Lillard). All the Bucks control outright over the next several years are their own 2024 and 2027 second-round picks. A deal with the Bucks would be difficult to pull off.

The Wizards could, though, take in a salary for Wright like Milwaukee’s veteran wing Pat Connaughton by absorbing him into one of their traded player exceptions for draft picks that could be protected to the point where they’d likely never convey to the Bucks. Washington has a $9.8 million TPE, for example, that it received from Detroit in the Monté Morris trade last summer. Connaughton’s $9.4 million salary for this season would fit into that slot. In this scenario, Washington would likely then try to flip the 31-year-old Connaughton either at the deadline or next summer for future assets.

Trade deadline blog: Latest news, big board, deals and players to watch ahead of Feb. 8 deadline

(Top photo of Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija: Brett Davis / USA Today)

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