WASHINGTON — The 2017 NBA trade deadline is still more than 48 hours away, but John Wall has a pretty good feeling the Wizards won’t be standing pat.
The Wizards star offered his thoughts on the 3 p.m. deadline when he spoke after the All-Star Game on Saturday night, saying he thinks his team will make a move or two to bolster its weak bench.
For what it’s worth, Wizards coach Scott Brooks previously told The Sports Junkies that he and GM Ernie Grunfeld had “talked about” making a trade to improve the team’s bench.
This year’s trade deadline was expected to be fairly quiet. With so many teams in the hunt for a coveted postseason berth, not many teams wanted to do anything to disrupt the always precious chemistry. But sure enough, through the final weekend before the deadline, the league has already been hit with a trio of deals, each one bigger than the last, that will help shape the final landscape come Thursday’s deadline.
First, the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers swapped big men. Jusuf Nurkic went to the Blazers along with a 2017 first-round pick, while Mason Plumlee packed his bags and headed to Denver along with a 2018 second-round pick. The thinking behind that was the Nuggets (currently 25-31 and in eighth place in the Western Conference) are trying to improve immediately and steal the final spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Blazers added a third first-round pick in the loaded 2017 draft while evidently looking toward the future.
Just two days later, the Toronto Raptors made a significant move to bolster their starting lineup immediately, sending Terrence Ross and a first-round pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for veteran big man Serge Ibaka. Ibaka’s contract expires after this season, but the Raptors will reportedly attempt to re-sign him; if they cannot, the Raptors at least get considerably better for the remainder of this season, on paper at least.
And then the big one happened.
The Sacramento Kings finally broke on DeMarcus Cousins, the provocative big man who has been linked to trade rumors for years now, and traded him well below market value to the New Orleans Pelicans. The meager return Cousins, one of the league’s most dominant big man, garnered was just Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a first-round pick and second-round pick in 2017. Kings GM Vlade Divac gave a head-scratching press conference after the deal, claiming he received a better offer two days earlier.
The Pelicans are evidently chasing the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference while the Kings appear to be going into full-on rebuild mode, though neither of those teams have much of an impact on the Wizards. However, New Orleans appears to now be entering the buyer’s market for guards and the seller’s market for big men, while the Kings are likely all-in on the seller’s market.
Role players such as Sacramento’s Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore might very well be available, and considering how weak the Wizards are in the backcourt after Wall and Bradley Beal, the time might be right for Washington to strike.
In addition, due to the aftershocks of the Cousins trade, several teams in the hunt for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs — the Nuggets, Kings, Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves — might opt to forgo their playoffs chase this season and become sellers instead of buyers. If Cousins and newly-crowned All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis mesh well immediately, the Pelicans (23-34) could quickly become a force in the Western Conference.
Wall might know something we don’t, or maybe he’s just hopeful. But this trade deadline has taken a few wild turns already, and more appear to be on the way. At this rate, it’s difficult to see the Wizards not getting involved in some way.