By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Writers
Mired in an early season collapse, the Washington Wizards are a few more blunders away from clearing house and listening to the sounds of the Capital One Arena, the Wizards home court–and it couldn’t happen sooner. A 1-7 record never looked so bad especially when you consider the team’s payroll. Washington owes mega dollars to a core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. that’s earned more criticism than credit in their now five-year run together. A home loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 2 earned the home team a booing off the court as fans let their feelings be known as early as the first quarter. This kind of start was the last thing the team could afford and it appears the wrecking ball is approaching quickly. But who gets moved first if the team decides to retool on the fly? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, of the AFRO Sports Desk, debate.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroeder (17) makes a layup past Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2), guard Bradley Beal (3) and forward Jeff Green (32) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Washington. The Thunder won 134-111. (AP Photo/Al Drago)
Riley: It starts with Wall and it ends with him. If he was the piece the franchise wanted to build around then he is the piece the club needs to move. We’ve been covering Wall since his incoming freshman year at Kentucky, but it’s time to accept the truth about Wall in that he’s reached his potential. Athletically and skill wise, Wall’s been in the upper echelon of professional point guards since he first did the dougie to open his NBA career. While lighting-fast guards with leaky jump shots and flaky defense draw heavy fans for summer league and street ball matchups, rarely do they win championships in the NBA. The content with his game has spoiled this Wizards roster. If your best player is still the same player he was four or five years ago then where’s the pressure on the other guys to get better? John Wall is still an asset in the NBA, he’s just not the centerpiece of the Wizards’ rebuild anymore.
Green: I agree that Wall should be the first one moved if the Wizards are going to clean house but with a $207 million extension set to kick in next season, that’s too big of a poison pill for most teams to swallow. Wall’s going to get paid like he’s Steph Curry, Anthony Davis or LeBron James–just without the franchise-changing ability. The next logical option is Beal and or Porter. Each only has two years remaining after this season on mega extensions they signed a few seasons ago and they are both under 25 years old. They’ll fetch a bigger return in the trade market and will probably sell faster than Wall. I’m all in favor of keeping Beal and shipping everyone else out, but wiping the shelf clean is probably the best idea in D.C. now.
Riley: The things that have hurt both Porter and Beal since the Wizards drafted them is that they’re both great players but undersized at their spots and far from playmakers playing positions of little impact. Point guards and big men run the league, not shooting guards and tweener forwards. Beal stands under 6-foot-5 and Porter barely cracks 200 pounds. Neither has been models of health in their NBA careers and the pretty word “potential” that every NBA scout is looking for is perhaps dried up with this pair. Wall still offers elite size and speed; add athleticism at the position and he is still a much more regarded name in NBA circles. He’ll sell tickets and immediately insert as the point guard on any team. The return should be a lot higher if the team can flip Wall.
Green: If Wall was on a smaller contract then moving him to a contender would be a no-brainer, but consider just the basics of how the NBA works and it’ll be a difficult mission to move him. The only teams with cap room sizable enough to absorb Wall’s deal are bottom-of-the-barrel teams looking to rebuild. But, why would any team bring in a near-30-year-old guard with historic knee problems on that size of a deal? It can happen but then it falls to another variable we haven’t even considered: Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Is he savvy enough to pull off a Wall trade with grace and style? Or would he be outsmarted again in his constant quest to rid his own team of deals that he orchestrated? It might be sad to say but moving Beal and Porter’s contracts might be the only thing Grunfeld is qualified for as it won’t take a whole of creativity to swap those deals. Moving Wall might take a little bit more expertise and savvy than Grunfeld has shown over the seasons that he doesn’t have.