The NBA season is officially coming to an end. The All-Star break is done, and teams are looking to make their final run for the postseason. One team has given me much optimism in terms of how they plan to finish the season. The team I am referring to is the Washington Wizards. Washington made moves before the trade deadline that I am in favor of. I was skeptical about trading big man Montrezl Harrell to the Charlotte Hornets. In exchange for this, Washington received a young “big” in Vernon Carey Jr. and returning point guard Ish Smith.
This Trade Initially Didn’t Seem Equal
This did not seem to be a fair exchange because I was a fan of the defense that Harrell provided. Also, he tends to just have a nose for the ball, always hustling and providing a spark on the court for his teammates when they need it. I have continuously praised Harrell’s ability to get his teammate’s second-chance points by grabbing important boards over taller defenders. His defensive capabilities were a true asset for Washington locking down the paint against smaller guards and intruding bigs. Examining the pieces sent to the Wizards, in exchange, they receive a returning guard with Smith who is capable of keeping the tempo upbeat.
What Should Washington Do with Smith
Smith’s quickness helped Washington keep the pace up when starting guards who ran a quick style of offense got tired. For example, guards such as John Wall and Russell Westbrook, who run up and down the court swiftly, could sit and let Smith do their job while they rest. Since he’s been on the squad, Smith hasn’t been very productive. Versus the Spurs, Ish Smith scored 10 points in his debut with Washington. Then Smith only managed to score five points against the Cavs in Cleveland. His output is moderate but appreciated. Washington should keep Smith in rotation as a solid backup for when starting guards get tired. With this being said, one of the younger guards on Washington’s roster may have the talent and ability to start for the team.
Washington’s Point Guards
Players such as Cassius Winston, who has been out due to injury, have real talent. Once healed, I hope to see the team give him real minutes. Raul Neto is also someone Washington has been trying to start at point guard, but he has been very inconsistent. After scoring 22 against the Spurs in San Antonio he was only able to muster four points against Cleveland. After back-to-back losses, it’s fair to say that Smith isn’t going to single-handedly change the outcome of this team’s projection. I am curious to see if the Wizards will ever use the big man that they acquired from Charlotte, Vernon Carey Jr.
Carey Jr. Would Make a Difference
Carey Jr. is a 6-foot 9-inch Center who is in his sophomore season in the NBA. He played 19 games for Charlotte prior to his arrival in Washington. During his stint in Charlotte, he was placed into games that were already decided. Maybe this is how Washington intends to use the young player. But Carey Jr. can contribute a great deal if Washington gives him the opportunity to play. With the Wizards just having a back-to-back close games, it’s safe to assume they did not feel comfortable placing Carey Jr. in these types of situations. With the way both games turned out needing to take control of the paint, Carey Jr. could’ve easily assisted in getting the win over San Antonio which ended in double overtime 157-153 loss for Washington. He may have even been a factor in the 92-86 loss versus the Cavaliers.
The Trade That Has Me Eager
I can make this claim because as the game progressed, rebounds became essential for either team wanting to win. This is why I favored the style of play that Harrell displayed for the Wizards. Washington, however, has made quite the move replacing Harrell with one of the best trades I can remember in recent history, making the move to trade Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans to the Dallas Mavericks for Kristaps Porzingis and a second-round pick in the draft. With the Wizards’ new addition of Porzingis, the potential for this team rises exponentially. The team currently sits at 11th in the Eastern Conference and is three games behind the team they sent Harrell to, the Charlotte Hornets. Although making a deep run in the playoffs does seem out of reach, with Porzingis’s assistance they could easily make the play-ins.
What Porzingis Provides to the Team
This all depends on whether the team feels comfortable playing him in an effort of making the postseason. In my eyes once Porzingis suits up and hits the court, he will have an immediate impact. With Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant being the inside presence for the team currently, it just isn’t enough. Down the stretch of a game, Bryant and Gafford get gassed or just aren’t on the floor. With a reliable third big man in the rotation, it could help give the two a break. Porzingis isn’t just the average big man – he can extend the floor and knock down threes for his team. This will benefit Kyle Kuzma in a major way, as he has been the opposing team’s main focus on defense this season.
Porzingis Could Help the Wizards with Their Problems in Late Game Situations
With the Wizards coming across situations like the losses to the Spurs and Cavaliers, Kuzma was hounded by the defense. Not having any reliable options, he was forced to put up shots late in those games. Not only would Porzingis be able to stretch the floor in circumstances such as these, but also secure the paint. By this I mean contesting shots at the rim, which he tends to do. Being 7’3″ I must point out his ability to grab boards and prevent second-chance points. These are all assets that Washington could’ve used in their loss to the Spurs in double overtime. These problems haunted them. Their dilemma followed them to Cleveland, as late in the fourth quarter Kyle Kuzma continued to force shots. Not that this is a consistent theme, but the Cavs took advantage of the smaller Wizards defense driving to the basket.
If Not This Season, I Have High Hopes for Next Season
Cavs center Jarrett Allen also had the game-sealing rebound to close out the victory after a poor shot from Kuzma. Porzingis will alleviate these struggles from the team with his talent and capabilities once cleared to play. His status is still day-to-day, and he’s not expected to play the next couple of games, but he will see the floor by the end of the season. I don’t think Washington is looking to make a serious run this year in the playoffs. But next season I will surely be keeping an eye on how the team tips off the year. Especially with the return of all-star Bradley Beal to consider. They may even have a better start than this season when they were 10-3 and number 1 in the East.