Yet amid the generalities and coy responses they offered after being asked what the trade deadline is like for a coach and a veteran and which holes Washington needs plugged most, Brooks and Beal described the Wizards’ situation rather tidily.
“I could sit here and say we need a lot,” Beal said. “I could sit here and say we’re really good with what we have, and it’s just a matter of us being consistent.”
For the Wizards, in many ways, both things are true.
Like most teams around the league, Washington (15-26) isn’t looking at a bombshell deal come 3 p.m. Thursday — one blockbuster trade in a season is enough, and nothing with Beal’s situation has changed. The all-star guard has not indicated he wants a trade, according to people with knowledge of the situation, and Washington has not made him available for one.
Still, the Wizards have marginal pieces they could move; they have plenty of areas of need to address; and, sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference entering Monday, they were just four games out of playoff position.
Defense and three-point shooting are the most pressing needs, with Washington sitting fourth worst in both points allowed per possession and three-point shooting percentage.
As Sunday’s 113-106 loss at Brooklyn showed, the Wizards don’t have enough shooters to withstand a quiet night from Beal, the league’s top scorer — not when they’re missing three-point specialist Davis Bertans (right calf strain) and offensive-minded center Thomas Bryant (torn left ACL), at least. Some opposing executives believe the Wizards are seeking a dependable third scorer to support Beal and Russell Westbrook.
But Washington should get Bertans back in about two weeks, and Bryant is expected to return next season. The organization believes in the group it has, and according to people in the league and within the organization, the Wizards are not in a hurry to make a costly trade solely for the sake of making the playoffs this year. As one NBA executive put it, the Wizards’ front office is “operating as if they’ve got time on their hands.”
Brooks gave a similar quip Monday when asked about his communication with General Manager Tommy Sheppard leading up to the trade deadline. Washington is in an awkward spot in which it is neither a full-bore buyer, looking for immediate — and expensive — ways to impact the season, nor a cut-and-dry seller, trying to clear salary cap space for a rebuild in the coming years. The Wizards are somewhere in between.
“We’ve got some young players that need experience, and when you [also] have some high-level players on your team, it’s a fine line,” Brooks said. “You have to find the sweet spot. I think we’re doing a fairly good job. We’d like to have some more wins. A lot of the things that’s happened to us, we can’t control. But we feel like with [rookie Deni Avdija and second-year forward Rui Hachimura], we’ve got a good opportunity for those guys to get better. Rui has stepped up and is playing some good basketball. Deni still has to earn his minutes and play his minutes better, and our job is to get him better. Tommy’s going to look. ... If there’s something out there, we’re definitely going to look.”
The Wizards have a few young players on expiring contracts who haven’t played many minutes this season, including guard Jerome Robinson and forward Isaac Bonga — though Brooks said Saturday that Bonga is likely to see his minutes increase with Bertans sidelined. Washington also declined to pick up center Moritz Wagner’s fourth-year option earlier this season, before the 23-year-old moved into the starting lineup for a spell and gave Washington a much-needed energy boost during its successful run in February.
Wagner and guard Troy Brown Jr., the No. 15 pick in the 2018 draft, are generating the most interest of the Wizards’ group, according to multiple people in the league. But whatever moves the Wizards make by Thursday afternoon, they are likely to be modest and cost-minded. Washington is less than $1 million under the luxury tax, a line it does not want to cross.
“As a vet, it’s always weird during this time because you never know what’ll happen. Stuff is usually quiet until literally like the last day, or hours, leading up until the deadline,” Beal said. “You kind of just sit and wait, man. You really just, honestly, never know what’ll happen. I’ve seen guys traded at halftime of a game before. … I’m sure Shep has been on the phones. And whatever he can come up with in the next 72 [hours], we’ll address it.”