Wizards shake up roster with trade for Kristaps Porzingis

Wizards shake up roster with trade for Kristaps Porzingis

The Washington Wizards, as the saying goes, blew it up.

The Wizards roster underwent a dramatic overhaul Thursday during the NBA trade deadline as Washington acquired center Kristaps Porzingis in exchange for guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Davis Bertans, shipped center Montrezl Harrell to the Charlotte Hornets for guard Ish Smith and center Vernon Carey Jr. and dealt guard Aaron Holiday to the Phoenix Suns for cash. 

The trades came just days after the Wizards shut down star Bradley Beal, who underwent season-ending wrist surgery Thursday, amid a disappointing campaign in which Washington (24-29) has lost eight of nine entering Thursday’s action.  After a strong 10-3 start, the Wizards sit outside the playoffs and the league’s play-in tournament. 

It was notable  — albeit expected —that the Wizards chose not to trade Beal, who can be a free agent this summer. These deals were likely made in an attempt to strengthen the roster in order to convince Beal to stay. The Wizards can offer Beal a five-year, $241 million contract if the 28-year-old opts out of his current deal. 

Of the trade, Porzingis’ acquisition may be the most intriguing. It wasn’t that long ago when the 2015 fourth-overall pick was hailed as a “unicorn” for his 7-foot-3 size and his versatile scoring ability. But Porzingis has suffered a litany of injuries and had become an awkward fit in Dallas, where he struggled to play alongside star Luka Doncic upon Porzingis’ trade from the Knicks in 2019.

This season, Porzingis is averaging 19.2 points per game along with 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Injuries, though, remain a problem: The 26-year-old hasn’t played since Jan. 30 with right knee soreness and had missed 22 of the Mavericks’ 55 games with other various ailments.  It was not immediately clear when Porzingis would be eligible to play, or if the Wizards would possibly look to shut him down with Beal also out. 

Still, Porzingis is signed through the 2023-24 season and holds a player option for the last year of his five-year, $158.3 million contract. And if Beal re-signs, then Porzingis would theoretically present a capable co-star alongside the three-time All-Star.  Beyond his offense, Porzingis has become a reliable rim protector on defense. 

Besides Porzingis, Thursday’s moves for the Wizards were about trying to undo the damage of past deals.

For example, by sending Dinwiddie to Dallas, the Wizards moved on from a player it had acquired and signed to a three-year, $54 million contract just six months ago. Dinwiddie was a part of the multi-player package the Wizards received for guard Russell Westbrook. Coming off an ACL tear, Dinwiddie struggled to find a rhythm in Washington  — averaging just 12.6 points per game on 37.6% shooting.

Bertans, meanwhile, had recently fallen out of the Wizards’ rotation. That, obviously, is less than ideal circumstances for a team that signed Bertans to a five-year, $80 million contract in 2018. Bertans, a 3-point specialist, failed to live up to the deal, notably shooting just 31.9% from deep during last year’s playoffs. 

As part of the Porzingis package, the Wizards also reportedly got a second-round pick from the Mavericks. ESPN first reported the trade. 

Elsewhere, the Wizards moved on from Harrell and Holiday — both of whom were also acquired in last summer’s Westbrook trade. Harrell’s contract is set to expire after the season, while Holiday can opt out of his deal.

Harrell started this season off strong, playing a major role off the bench in the Wizards’ 10-3 start. But like the Wizards as a whole, Harrell’s performance started to trail off as the year progressed — scoring 19.5 points per game in October, 14.9 in November and then 11.9 in January.

By trading Harrell to Hornets, Washington got back a young 20-year-old center in Carey and reunited with Ish Smith, the journeyman point guard who was with the Wizards for the past two seasons. Smith signed with the Hornets in August. 

The Wizards got the deals done roughly 30 minutes before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. They were among the number of teams active on what turned out to be a hectic day for the league. 

Outside of Washington, the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers engaged in a blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons. Other players were involved in the deal, though the Harden-Simmons swap headline the trade that figures to shake up the NBA’s landscape. Both Philadelphia and Brooklyn are seen as viable contenders.