Despite what many anticipated to be a quiet trade deadline in the NBA, it turned out to be a pretty festive endeavor with multiple well-known players switching teams. Our hometown Washington Wizards held firm against all inquiries for one of the league’s hottest commodities in forward Davis Bertans. But, they made some other moves on the margins that could be prove to be quality in the long-run.
The moves made ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. Eastern trade deadline included two separate deals. The first deal of the day was a straight up trade that sent point guard Shabazz Napier from Denver to DC for shooting guard Jordan McRae. The second move saw a swap of Wizards’ point guard Isaiah Thomas and Clippers shooting guard Jerome Robinson.
Here are the details below:
The Clippers, Knicks and Wizards have agreed to a three-team trade that will land Marcus Morris and Isaiah Thomas with the Clippers, league sources tell ESPN. Jerome Robinson will join the Wizards, Moe Harkless and a 2020 first-round pick to the Knicks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 6, 2020
OFFICIAL: We’ve acquired G Jerome Robinson from the Clippers as part of a three-team deal with the Knicks. We sent G Isaiah Thomas and the draft rights to Issuf Sanon to complete the trade.https://t.co/5Y8rFybwzB— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 7, 2020
For this piece, we’ll mainly focus on the McRae for Napier swap that brought another solid point guard to the Nation’s Capital.
This trade is an understandable move for both sides. It probably won’t move the needle much for either team this season, but ultimately helps each team fill an important need. For the Wiz, Napier fills an obvious need of shoring up the backup point guard spot now that Thomas is no longer on the roster.
What kind of player are the Wizards getting
Napier is currently averaging 9.6 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 40.3-percent overall and 29.6-percent from 3. He has spent his entire season suiting up for the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded twice in a number of days.
The former UConn star was once a heralded prospect coming out of college in 2014. However, he’s been somewhat of a journeyman thus far though his NBA career. He’s now on his sixth team in five seasons.
Napier is a role-player that can add some scoring and facilitating to the Wizards offense. In a 20-25 minute per night role, he should be a solid contributor for the Wizards for the rest of the season.
“Shabazz Napier, we liked. We just moved Isaiah Thomas – we needed a point guard to help in the backcourt with Ish Smith. I think that was a great compliment. He’s a great point guard that can really push the pace. He’s a guy, a hard-nosed guy, that will do all the right things. He’s got a winning pedigree and I think he’ll fit in pretty seamlessly for us. And it gives him a chance to show us if he can a part of our future,” GM Tommy Sheppard said on the acquisition of Shabazz Napier.
This move has added benefits beyond just what Napier brings
The main objective of this trade for the Wizards was to clear up space and playing time for the incoming Jerome Robinson to get real minutes at shooting guard behind Bradley Beal. Robinson hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to put his talent on display in Los Angeles. However, it appears the Wizards value what he can bring to the table and want to evaluate a young prospect they were extremely high on from the 2018 draft.
Another key element of the deal is the cost controlled asset the Wizards will have in Jerome Robinson going forward. Robinson is currently earning roughly $3.5 million this season, scheduled for about $3.7 million next season, and his salary will increase in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 by about $2 mil each season, respectively, if the Wizards pick up his option(s) going forward. For a team with a Super-Max player (John Wall) and a Max player (Bradley Beal), cost controlled young players are essential assets. Especially for a team that is retooling on the fly like the Wizards are.
As far as McRae goes, it’s sad to see him move on. McRae built a reputation for his jovial personality and is beloved in the locker room. He has a strong relationship with Bradley Beal. McRae had his share high point totals this season for the Wizards, averaging a career-high 12.6 points per game in 29 games played.
McRae came to the Wizards in 2018, spending time in both the G-League with the Go-Go and on the Wizards roster. He became a mainstay in the rotation this season. He’s the type of guy you root for in the NBA. He came on a non-guaranteed minimum deal, and earned his spot.
McRae is a bucket-getter and he fills a direct need for the Denver Nuggets, who traded away their backup shooting guard in Malik Beasley just days ago. This deal gives McRae a chance to play 15-20 minutes a night on a team that will contend in the West.
Putting together the roster puzzle pieces
With Robinson now in the Wizard’s long-term plans going forward, it didn’t make much sense to keep McRae on the roster for the rest of the season. Trading him helped them patch up a hole at the backup point guard spot.
While it’s unclear whether Ish Smith is locked into the starting point guard spot or whether Napier will get a shot to compete for it, at the very least Napier can provide the Wizards with competent minutes at the point guard spot going forward.
For a team that claims they’d like to make the playoffs, getting a defensive sieve like Thomas off of the roster is major step in the right direction. How much of an improvement Napier is over Thomas remains to be seen. But, it’s hard to believe that having Thomas’s minutes go elsewhere isn’t an addition by subtraction. With those minutes being soaked up by Napier and others, the Wizards hope this will appease Bradley Beal a bit as the team should be more formidable for a playoff push.
“I think you let things coagulate. Let’s look at the rest of the year. Let this team tell us what to do. We’re not going to say ‘don’t make the playoffs,’ we want to see them win as many games as possible, but more importantly, we want to see them continue to develop and watch everybody’s talent increase. When that talent increases, you get a lot more ideas for the future,” Sheppard said on the development of the roster going forward.
These transactions may not seem major in the moment, but in the NBA, every move matters. Shabazz Napier and Jerome Robinson both have a real opportunity to make their mark on a team looking for players who can move the needle.