February 9, 2020, 2:53 am
The Wizards got themselves into the mix at Thursday’s trade deadline, adding Jerome Robinson as part of the Marcus Morris trade to help the Clippers save on their tax bill. That acquisition cost them Isaiah Thomas, and although IT was clearly not going to be part of the future in Washington it did leave a hole in the rotation.
Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard turned right around and acquired Shabazz Napier from the Nuggets for Jordan McRae.
The Wizards swapped one of their reserve shooting guards, in the midst of a career year, in exchange for the expiring contract of Napier, who had just been traded into third-string duties in Denver. Losing McRae may hurt in the short term, but the impending RFA was not a lock to return to Washington as he might’ve played his way out of the Wizards’ comfort zone on his next contract. His departure should open minutes for Troy Brown, who excelled as a starter last season, as well as put a bigger scoring burden on the Wizards’ more long-term options.
Moving McRae means that Washington will have to fill 22.6 minutes per game, as well as his 12.8 points and 1.4 3-pointers. Brown should be a big part of that equation, while fellow deadline acquisition Jerome Robinson may be given time to develop. He has the potential to become a depth scoring option, and with more contractual control and a big age advantage over the 28-year-old McRae, it’s not hard to see why the Wiz would want to give that a shot.
As for Napier, he’s more similar to Ish Smith than Thomas. That gives the Wizards more stability at the cost of some dynamism, though Thomas struggled to ever get into a rhythm as a member of the starting unit. It was apparent that he wouldn’t be an asset for the Wizards now or in the future, and they’ve chosen to replace his minutes with someone who has less inclination to work as a pure scorer.
Napier will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is likely just a seat-filler while the Wizards wait for John Wall to recover. With Smith likely returning as the team’s second unit point guard next year, there’s value in having the rest of the roster play with someone who has a similar profile rather than try to work around a player who would be gone in a matter of months.
The Wizards took themselves out of the spotlight when they signed Bradley Beal to his contract extension, but Sheppard and company were active in trying to improve on the margins. Beal’s deal likely means that the Wizards are going to win soon, and making these subtle changes with more upside than risk is one way to set yourself up for success.