Here are three things to consider for the Washington Wizards ahead of Thursday's 3:00 p.m. trading deadline.
1. As Long As The Celtics Don't Land Jimmy Butler...
Washington needs bench support, but the starting five is perhaps the best in the NBA outside of Golden State and Cleveland. Boston sports a deeper roster, but doesn't have as much individual firepower as some of the other East contenders. That changes if the Celtics acquire Butler from the Bulls. Not that stopping All-Star Isaiah Thomas is easy, especially in crunch time, but they Wizards can sic much bigger players on the 5-foot-9 guard. Butler is a robust wing threat. If the defensive focus shifts his way, good luck catching up with Thomas or stopping big man Al Horford inside.
However, if Boston general manager Danny Ainge cannot pry Butler away from Chicago, there just might not be another obvious high-end difference maker. Surprise deals happen. Maybe Blake Griffin becomes available. Perhaps Paul Millsap or Eric Bledsoe. Otherwise, even if Boston adds a piece or two, the Wizards likely still have the better starting lineup if we're not talking about an All-Star level talent. That's not everything, but it's not nothing. ESPN's Zach Lowe considers a Boston deal for Butler "unlikely." I'm not sure why Chicago would deal the 26-year-old standout. Washington should hope they don't.
2. Don't Fear Trader Ernie
As the rumor mill spits out scenarios involving the Chinatown 15, Twitter tosses out joke after joke about how Ernie Grunfeld will surely just mess up any scenario. In doing so they ignore the reality that Washington's team president hasn't botched any recent trade. Here's a look at the last five. Transactions via RealGM.com.
* A 2021 2nd round pick (WAS own) was acquired by the Utah Jazz from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Trey Burke.
*Markieff Morris was acquired by the Washington Wizards from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries, a conditional 2016 1st round pick (WAS own) and a trade exception.
*Jared Dudley was acquired by the Washington Wizards from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for a conditional 2020 2nd round pick (WAS own) and a TPE.
* The draft rights to Kelly Oubre, Jr. was acquired by the Washington Wizards from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for the draft rights to Jerian Grant, a 2016 2nd round pick (WAS own) and a 2019 2nd round pick (WAS own).
* Ramon Sessions and a TPE were acquired by the Washington Wizards from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Andre Miller, cash and a TPE.
None of these are OMG, but they're also not negatives. Morris' impressive last two months combined with the other starters has raised Washington from interesting to contender. Oubre's inconsistent moments do not diminish his considerable potential. Dudley finished among the top 10 in 3-point shooting during his one season in Washington while Sessions turned into a key bench cog and occasional John Wall fill-in during 110 games over two seasons. Burke is the diciest. The Wizards need another guard in part because of his limitations. Wall's minutes are top-10 high in part because they really don't have another point guard. Considering the draft cost -- "a future eighth grader" is a joke a few have made -- and the limited minutes behind Wall and an expiring contract, it's hardly a mess. Burke is shooting 42 percent on 3's, by the way.
3. Small And Big
The fallout from the DeMarcus Cousins trade to New Orleans involves other players on the Kings and Pelicans now available. Sacramento is reportedly looking to move Darren Collison, who would give Washington legit help in the backcourt and perhaps the fastest point guard pairing in the league. The 6-foot-0 Collison is averaging 13.7 points and shooting over 40 percent from deep. Burke and a second round pick works with the salary cap. It certainly works better than a first for Lakers guard Lou Williams.
Like Collison, power forward Terrance Jones is an expiring contract. Not a sincere perimeter, but the 25-year-old would give Washington another athletic 4-man besides Morris. This would squeeze Jason Smith's minutes. For the right cost, he might be worth it.