From Lou Williams to Shabazz Muhammad to the post-All Star action, here are three thoughts on the Washington Wizards ahead of Thursday's 3:00 p.m. trading deadline. For those on the go, the latest Locked on Wizards podcast also focused on the latest news and rumors.
* Buzz with Shabazz? -- ESPN's Marc Stein added a new name to the Wizards rumor mill: Minnesota small forward Shabazz Muhammad.
In 53 games -- all off the bench -- the 6-foot-6 swingman is averaging 9.4 points and 20 minutes while shooting 41.4 percent on 3-pointers. The former UCLA product entered the NBA in 2013, same as Otto Porter and Trey Burke. That means he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. That means he's playing for a contract. He's also an apparent graduate of the Nick Young school of passing (25 assists in 53 games), but the Wizards need bench scoring and he provide some depth behind Bradley Beal. Perhaps a gunner for this particular second unit works?
Having not watched tons of Minnesota this season, I checked in with a couple of league sources. The highlights:
- Good 6th man scorer. ... Improved play of late after a slow start. ... Improved 3-point shooter. ... "Not sure it makes sense. He's restricted and is going to want to get paid." ... "Knows how to score to an extent." ... Not a great athlete. ...Good guy.
One scout noted Muhammad, a true small forward, wants to start. Assuming Porter stays next season, there's no room. Considering their financial situation, Washington probably only views Muhammad as a rental. That means something like Burke to make the money work and a second round pick to the Timberwolves as the real trade chip. Of course, that doesn't help the backcourt. Andrew Nicholson also works financially, but Minnesota would want more than one second rounder. For a rental, that's steep.
As for whether there's any merit, one source said to realize the league realizes Washington needs bench scoring and will therefore get attached to such options. Personally, I don't love this fit, though the player is intriguing.
* Boo, no Lou? -- Just as the Lou Williams hype and hope were building for the Wizards, the Los Angeles Lakers traded the backcourt scorer to the Houston Rockets for a 2017 first round pick and forward Corey Brewer. The rumored cost for Williams seemed set at a first rounder with a veteran making comparable money (around $7 million per) needed to make the finances work. Houston ponied up and now has the two highest reserve scorers (Williams 1st, Eric Gordon 2nd) in the league this season.
Based on current records, the Wizards would pick around 24th in the 2017 NBA Draft with the Rockets about 27th. Not much difference there. Brewer is struggling this season with his shot, but he only has one year left on his contract. Andrew Nicholson, signed by Washington last summer for an average of $6.5 million over four years, has three remaining. If the Wizards were cool with dealing the first, then the Nicholson contract was the best trade fit -- and the likely reason why the Lakers said thanks but nah.
That's fine. Washington needs that first for next season for its own roster and salary cap issues. The relatively inexpensive contract will come in handy for a team that probably gives Porter a fat extension and will come close to kissing the luxury tax. There could be 20 minutes per game available, but perhaps simply replacing Trey Burke's 10-ish gets it done. Considering the other options available (Darren Collison? Bojan Bogdanovic? ) might not cost a first or (in the case of Mario Chalmers, Jarrett Jack or Hollis Thompson) any pick, not moving a round one selection is cool.
* Giddy Up -- The Wizards return to practice Wednesday evening -- yes, evening -- at Verizon Center. They resume game action Friday at Philadelphia. Will they have to change any locker room nameplates before facing the 76ers is the question. Put me down for yes. Put down for thinking they keep their first round pick as well.
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