With the first round nearly over, a number of teams have found success in the playoffs, sometimes surprisingly, and have exceeded expectations.
One team that did no such thing was the Washington Wizards. After a poor showing in the regular season featuring a lengthy injury to star point guard John Wall, the Wiz found themselves in the 8th position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, forced to do battle with the 1st seeded Toronto Raptors. Although they match up well with Toronto, Washington proved little match for DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and the rest of the Raptors, and Wall wasn’t happy about it.
“I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian [Mahinmi] is older. [Marcin Gortat] is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible.”
As painful as it is to listen to Wall talk down to the rest of the roster, he has a point. Athletic bigs and bench scorers are all things that good teams have, and Washington is one of the few successful franchises that have had much of their success without an above-average starting big man for awhile.
During their playoff series against Toronto, Gortat, Mahimni, Markieff Morris, and Mike Scott posted the following stat lines:
The percentages are solid, especially for permanent fourth and fifth options whenever they are on the floor, but the production certainly wasn’t. The rim protection in particular was poor from the four bigs, and it’s one of the reasons why Washington never stood much of a chance,
So, Wall wants more athletic bigs. There are a number of teams with athletic big men that could be moved in certain deals. One such team is the Denver Nuggets, who have a number of bigs that would surely interest the Wizards.
Mason Plumlee is the obvious first choice in my opinion. On the Nuggets, he’s a backup and fits the team reasonably, but there are certain situations where he just can’t stay on the floor, especially with Nikola Jokic as the primary big man. On the Wizards, he would be a rim running starter who could help facilitate offense with passing from the elbow and on the short roll to the rim, while bringing a degree of rim protection (averaged 1.1 blocks per game in just 19.5 minutes per game, which would lead all Wizards anyway).
Another option is Kenneth Faried, who likely wouldn’t be a starter but would bring the energy and bounce to Wizards lineups. Faried was left out of the rotation this past season in favor of Jokic, Plumlee, Paul Millsap, Trey Lyles, and/or small ball forwards. In Denver’s current configuration, there isn’t much of a place for him to get minutes. With the Wizards, he would have a field day rolling to the rim and recovering offensive rebounds given John Wall’s high-volume, subpar efficiency approach.
Finally, a pricier option is Trey Lyles, who is still just 23 years old but is also athletic. He brings a combination of floor spacing, rebounding, and athleticism that no big on the Wizards really has. Mike Scott is the closest but isn’t quite at Lyles’ current level or ceiling. Lyles would immediately be the best option at power forward for the Wizards while having the size to slide to the center position in small ball.
The Wizards don’t have a ton to offer, but there are a few players that they could offer which would likely interest Denver. The first is Otto Porter. He continues to hold a ton of value, though less now that he’s locked into a large contract (three years, $81.7 million remaining). Porter finished with 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, shooting an absurd 44.1% from three on 4.1 attempts per game. With Wall and Bradley Beal locked into long term contracts at high prices, the only substantial path for improvement surrounding those two is to move Porter. Denver may not have the assets to acquire Porter without giving up Gary Harris, but they should certainly ask the question.
The second player of interest is Kelly Oubre, another young, big wing who could be of interest for a Nuggets team in need of just that. At 6’7, Oubre struggled to find efficiency as the primary scorer off the bench in Washington. He doesn’t have the individual scoring talent of a Will Barton, but he has the size and the capability off ball to match up with many starting small forwards in the NBA, especially as a fifth option. His value is low right now, and given that he’s just 22, he may still have more to show in a role that suits him better.
The final player is Tomas Satoransky, a 6’7 ball handling wing who helped alleviate the burden on Beal when Wall went down. Satoransky was an extremely low volume scorer, but he shot 52.3/46.5/78.1 in 22 minutes a night this year. His 3.9 assists per game would be extremely handy on Denver’s second unit, or he could be a playmaking forward in Denver’s starting unit, helping Murray, Harris, and Jokic get cleaner looks.
In my opinion, this is an option that the Nuggets should definitely explore. They can’t really satisfy Washington’s need for a creator off the bench, unless they can organize a Will Barton sign and trade (which isn’t out of the question). They can most definitely offer an athletic big man, one that may help the Wizards take their team to another level. Denver would likely have to absorb Gortat or Mahimni in any deal for one of the above wing players, but if all the pieces fall into place, both teams may look better coming out of it.
If the Nuggets could acquire any of the above players, who should be the target, relative to perceived price?
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