The five-team deal that netted the Wizards Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Holiday looks to have both filled the team’s void at point guard and addressed defensive and perimeter needs.
Dinwiddie, who arrived via sign-and-trade, takes over the point guard role. Injured most of last season, he is just a year removed from averaging 20.6 points in 2019-20. At 6-foot-10, Kuzma, 26, can play both forward positions and averaged 18.7 points in his second season with the Lakers and 15.2 over a four-year career.
Veterans Harrell and Caldwell-Pope very specifically address what the Wizards are looking for, but also fall into a gray area of where they fit within the team. The 6-7 Harrell is a defensive-minded center/forward who was the 2019-20 sixth man of the year after averaging a career-high 18.3 points for the Los Angeles Clippers, but was lost in the shuffle last season after signing with the Lakers as a free agent. He’s now thrown into a young frontcourt mix that includes up-and-comers Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Daniel Gafford.
Caldwell-Pope is a prototypical “three-and-D” player — a wing who can provide defense and be a threat from beyond the arc.
Harrell and Caldwell-Pope met the Washington media Wednesday and both expressed confidence that chemistry on a new roster would not be a problem.
“Honestly, I’ve been traded in this league once before,” Harrell said. “Ever since then I’ve known everybody’s kind of expendable in this league. … I knew that for a long time now, so it’s no surprise to me.
“I feel that I’m healthy … and I get to go into a whole new situation with a group of great guys and a group of young guys that’s willing to work and get better. … It’ll be a learning process for all of us. We have a new coach, new staff, guys that are [assigned] new roles.”
Caldwell-Pope has been a starter much of his career, but earned a championship ring as a reserve with the 2019-20 Lakers. He joins a glut of wings on the Wizards with Kuzma, last year’s first-round pick Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans and his year-old, $80 million deal, and 2021 first-round pick Corey Kispert.
It will be up to new coach Wes Unseld Jr. to manage the rotation, but Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard was clearly in search of specific attributes.
“Each player that we acquired in this trade addresses a need for us in addition to bringing experience, toughness and a winning attitude that makes them ideal fits around Bradley [Beal] and the rest of our returning roster,” Sheppard said in a statement after the trade.
Caldwell-Pope averaged just under 10 points the past two seasons — the lowest marks of his career since his rookie season in Detroit after being the No. 8 overall pick. He did, however, shoot a career-best 41 percent from beyond the arc.
The 28-year-old is thrilled to be playing alongside Bradley Beal — the two have been friends since they were teenagers. Caldwell-Pope said he and Beal have talked nearly every day since the trade, so that relationship is already established, but the goal is to build chemistry with the rest of the group as fast as possible.
“A bunch of young guys that’s hungry that’s going to compete every night,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I just see myself fitting in with that. That’s my type of game, my style of game. Hard work, playing defense, that’s first. And just scoring the ball, shooting the ball.
“I see myself fitting in well. Coming in as a leader off a championship team. Try to bring that type of DNA and that style over to D.C. and try to lead that way.”
There are more questions than answers when it comes to results of the Westbrook trade and how the newly constructed Wizards will eventually come together. Anything less than a playoff berth will be considered a regression, and Caldwell-Pope has heard the critics.
“I’m very hungry, I’m ready,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I feel like this an opportunity to do something in D.C. With the guys that we have, just bringing the caliber of guys that we did bring in, I feel like we still can make noise. At the end of the day, we can push for the playoffs. We still have a play-in tournament.
“I see a lot of potential in our team. We’ve got a lot of guys that want to compete, that want to play, that’s going to play the right way. It’s just going to be fun and great to be a part of.”