The Kristaps Porzingis Trade is the Wizards’ Last Chance to Build Around Bradley Beal

Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

With about twenty minutes to spare before the trade deadline on Thursday, the Washington Wizards made a big swing, trading point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and slumping forward Davis Bertans for former all-star unicorn Kristaps Porzingis.

Depending how you look at it (and how long), the trade can invoke a handful of reactions. For fans who’ve rooted themselves in the rebuild camp, the move feels like a stubborn step in no direction. For those who still believe in a Wizards team that can contend with Bradley Beal, it provides a brief window of hope—as long as the off-season goes right.

In a vacuum, moving off two burdensome contracts in Dinwiddie and Bertans is a clear win. Even if Porzingis has a questionable track record when it comes to his health, he is a 7’3 former all-star who at his very best can defend the paint, space the floor, and give you 20+ points a night. He also fills the gap left by Montrezl Harrell, who’d been traded minutes before to the Charlotte Hornets.

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Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Now, Wes Unseld Jr. has two stars reminiscent of the core he had when he was an assistant coach in Denver. Not to suggest that Bradley Beal and Kristaps are the same kind of duo as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, but there is enough overlap in their roles and their skillset that maybe Unseld Jr. can replicate some of what made that Nuggets team so successful. Kyle Kuzma could play the Michael Porter Jr. role. Rui Hachimura or Deni Avdija could play the Aaron Gordon role. You see where I’m going with this.

The problem is, like past Wizards teams, a vision doesn’t always translate to real, measurable production. If Porziņģis can’t get healthy, then he becomes another burdensome contract preventing the Wizards from making a change. If Bradley Beal doesn’t rediscover his All-NBA play after his wrist surgery, then the Wizards will be stuck in the same middling mediocrity that’s held them back since John Wall faced his first injury setback.

This is the Wizards final chance to build a contender around Beal and they have no choice but to get it right.

Wizards will have Lineup Options Around Porzingis and Beal

Assuming little else changes, one imagines the starting lineup next season to look something like this:

PG – ?
SG – Bradley Beal
SF – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF – Kyle Kuzma
C – Kristaps Porzingis

Guard-pairings remain a perpetual, seemingly unanswerable question. There will be players with upside available for trade (Malcolm Brogdon), young restricted free agents (Collin Sexton) and bargain veterans (Goran Dragic).  Or perhaps, Unseld will finally start playing Deni Avdija at the one.

Let’s not forget the Wizards also accumulated two second round picks on Thursday, ammo that might help them make another move on draft night.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The point-Beal experiment had flashes of brilliance, and maybe if there’s real intention behind it, the Wizards can try something along the lines of:

PG – Bradley Beal
SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF – Rui Hachimura
PF – Kyle Kuzma
C – Kristaps Porzingis

Just as it was this season, the possibilities feel almost endless, and we won’t know anything until we see it on the court. The Wizards say they want to compete without Beal (and they did win on Thursday night), but everything moving forward needs to be about the roster in October.

One thing is for certain, Tommy Sheppard has to get this next move right. Porziņģis isn’t enough to turn this team around, but like Chicago’s trade for Nikola Vucevic, it could be the transaction that leads to the real transaction.

If it isn’t, then we can settle in for another 6’9 forward drafted with the 9th overall pick this summer, and every summer after that, for the rest of Wizards eternity.

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