The most dreaded — and anticipated — day of the regular season has arrived, and teams are poised to add a missing piece for a postseason run, surrender postseason hopes to begin rebuilding efforts, or simply dump undesirable contracts to avoid the stiffer penalties for exceeding the salary cap. Though the Wizards (15-37) have climbed out of the muck of their early struggles and won 11 of their past 20, Coach Randy Wittman said the team isn’t necessarily in position to stand pat.
“We’re not Miami. We’re not Oklahoma City, where you’re pretty set,” Wittman said. “Teams like ourselves, we’re always looking. We still need to continue to build and improve this team. So for a team like us, we’re probably looking or listening. Again, I’m not up there, I don’t know. Even though we’ve been playing at a good clip here, I still think you’ve got to look at the future and [ask], can you make the team better? And if you can, you’re probably going to try to do some things.”
Two blockbuster deals have already been completed, with Oklahoma City trading James Harden to Houston before the season opener and Memphis shipping Rudy Gay to Toronto last month. Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith is arguably the biggest name talent that could be acquired in a deal with the 6-foot-9 forward becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer and seeking a maximum salary deal worth $94 million over the next five years. Other talented players have also been floated around, including Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston, big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap from Utah and Milwaukee guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But as Wittman said, “A lot of turns out to be a lot of talk.”
The Wizards have made inquiries about Smith, whose athleticism, versatility and defensive skill could possibly mesh with an uptempo team led by former No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Those talks didn’t go very far, according to a league source with knowledge of the Wizards’ plans, because they were unwilling to meet Atlanta’s trade demands and were also lukewarm about making such a large financial investment for a player who hasn’t made an all-star appearance in his first nine seasons.
In each of the past three seasons, the Wizards have been among the league’s most active teams at the deadline. They shipped Antawn Jamison to Cleveland and Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in 2010 in two deals that yielded Josh Howard, spare parts and draft picks. Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong were traded in 2011 to Atlanta for Crawford, Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and the draft pick that turned out to be Singleton. And, in a stunning deal last March, the Wizards traded JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Ronny Turiaf in a three-team deal that landed Nene.