February 05, 2019
With most of the NBA world focused on the trade deadline and demands being made by Anthony Davis, the fate of another Kentucky product has everyone feeling a bit down on Tuesday. After tearing his Achilles tendon from a fall he took in his home, Wizards guard John Wall will be out for approximately 12 months, devastating news for the team a few hours down the road.
The Wizards were already in a perilous position before Wall suffered this latest injury, with his supermax extension starting next season. Wall will be on one of the richest contracts in the league over the next four seasons, making $170 million over four seasons, assuming he exercises his player option for the 2022-23 season.
Washington, in many respects, is stuck. Between Wall and Otto Porter, the Wizards have a pair of unsavory contracts and limited flexibility with which to build out their roster. Their best player, Bradley Beal, is on the best deal of the trio, but has long been proclaimed as off-limits in trade talks.
Does that change in the wake of Wall's injury? I would argue it could be the opposite. Because the Wizards are going to be committed to Wall (presumably) through 2022-23, and because they have a stated aversion to complete teardowns, I can't see them dumping their most valuable player for assets and/or cap space. That's not what the organizational history says they're likely to do.
(If that changes, Beal is obviously a target of significant interest for Philadelphia. He fits their timeline and perimeter needs almost perfectly.)
Where I think you could see this impact Washington's overarching plan is in their desire to thin out the books and avoid more salary commitment beyond this season. With Wall likely missing all of next season and the Wizards in no position to compete as a result, this could be the impetus they need to move a couple players for assets. That would mean having to swallow an ugly end to the year, but the Wizards have a few role players in the rotation who would help the Sixers and/or other playoff teams down the stretch.
The first name that comes to mind: Wizards forward Markieff Morris, who I mentioned in my ranking of team needs on Monday. He's an unrestricted free agent in July with an $8.6 million cap hit this year.
Morris has been a lot more inconsistent from three than you'd like and is actually below-average beyond the arc for his career, and he represents another wild card in the locker room that doesn't necessarily need one. But on the positive side, he would absolutely add some toughness up front and some shot-making versatility from mid-range. The latter could loom large in a playoff setting when teams take away Philly's primary options.
(Worth noting: Morris is currently out with a neck issue, and would likely be unavailable until after the All-Star break.)
A more expensive (in several ways) option could be Tomas Satoransky. Washington's backup guard played sparingly during his rookie season in 2016-17, but he has since evolved into a flexible, useful role player for the Wizards that has helped keep things afloat in Wall's absence.
Here's the problem Washington now faces: Satoransky is a restricted free agent this summer unless they agree on an extension before June 30. The Wizards would be in an extremely difficult position if they held onto him for the rest of the season into July. Can you let one of your only useful players go with Wall's future in doubt? On the flipside, can you really justify investing more money on (ideally) a backup guard/wing this summer, given the long-term outlook of the franchise, when you could pick up assets for him at the deadline?
Satoransky would be an excellent fit in Philadelphia. On a roster full of malcontents in Washington, teammates rave about him as a glue guy, as ex-teammate Marcin Gortat did in this interview with The Ringer:
You can always find a subject or topic to speak about with Tomas. And he’s the guy who is always going to make your day better. He’s going to always speak to you. Laugh about something. He’s going to joke about something. He’s going to be the guy that when you call him, say, ‘Hey let’s go for dinner,’ or, ‘Let’s go out for a drink,’ or whatever; he’ll be the guy who’ll do that with you. He’s never going to come up with a ‘Hey, I don’t want to,’ ‘I’m not feeling well,’ or he’s not going to respond to your message. Because you’ve got guys like that around the league that you’re going to send a message and you’re not getting a response back. “From a locker room standpoint, he’s a perfect fit.” [TheRinger]
Beyond the locker room, his multi-faceted skills would help fill in the blanks on a Sixers team that has too many of them. He can shoot a little bit (41.3 percent from deep for his career, albeit on low volume), he's an unselfish passer, he minimizes turnovers, and he's the sort of high-IQ guy who would fit beautifully into Philadelphia's free-flowing offense. And best of all for Philadelphia, he's on a cheap deal this season (just over $3 million cap hit), which makes it easier for them to potentially match salaries in a deal.
That combination of factors might increase the price on Satoransky, but he's the sort of name Philadelphia should take an interest in. He would give them guard skills off the bench with wing size at 6'7", along with the ability to match any deal he gets offered in the summer if he ends up fitting in with this group. Even if they have no interest in the eventual match, he'd be a great rental.
(As an aside: Trevor Ariza's name will pop up in the wake of this news, but since he's on a $15 million deal this season, it makes it very difficult for Philadelphia to construct a deal without sacrificing what little depth they have. If he reaches the buyout market, then we can talk.)
The Wizards do not exactly run the tightest ship in the world, so this information could lead them in any given direction. Philadelphia should be prepared to capitalize on this, regardless of where it heads, and I trust Elton Brand will be on the horn over the next couple of days.
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