The Wizards are sending Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton, and a lottery-protected 2017 first-round pick to Brooklyn in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough.
The Wizards bench, beyond Kelly Oubre Jr., is a disaster on both ends of the floor, and the team’s starters are playing more minutes than any other group in the league. This lack of depth was one of the reasons behind Washington’s rough start to the season. And make no mistake, this has not changed; it’s just been covered up by the exceptional play of the starting unit, which has powered the Wiz to third in the East.
As the trade deadline approached and Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld eyed a serious postseason run, it seemed obvious that Washington would try to move any nonrotational asset to give its second-quarter lineup some punch. The Lakers’ Lou Williams, a confident scorer who could make up for backup point guard Trey Burke’s obvious shortcomings, seemed a clear target. Bogdanovic less so.
This might work out for Washington. The Wizards need frontcourt depth, and Bogdanovic could make the now-unwatchable second unit strong enough to keep games within reach. But he will be a free agent after the season. This should be clear: Trading a first-round pick for Bogdanovic was a Win-Now Move with a branded Grunfeld Twist.
Bogdanovic scored 14.2 points per game for Brooklyn this season, which will go a long way for a Wizards bench that scores the second-fewest points in the league. He also led all scorers at the Olympics! But NBA Bogdanovic is a spotty 3-point shooter and won’t be getting many open looks if he’s regularly paired with Jason Smith and Co. And McCullough has struggled to find minutes for the Nets. This will certainly make the Wizards better in the short term, but if you believe that these are the missing pieces in a Washington title run, you are more optimistic than I am.
There are some clear positives: Nicholson’s contract, a monstrosity that ran through the 2019–20 season for an average of $6.5 million per year, is now off the books, which will give the Wizards some much-needed flexibility. Grunfeld’s draft history outside of the top three is also poor, so the value of the first-rounder, which will likely land in the mid 20s, is questionable.
But Grunfeld is playing with house money. After Mitch Kupchak’s firing Tuesday, Grunfeld became the fourth-longest-tenured head executive in the league, the only one of the four without a ring. If this is the gamble that ends up shooting Washington to the top of the East, great. If not? What does he care? For him, it seems there will always be a next year.
As for the Nets …
This looks like a fine deal. Brooklyn isn’t looking to turn things around quickly, so adopting Nicholson’s contract is a negligible price for a first-rounder.
The Nets gave up nothing of long-term value and got modest, but real, returns. For a team trapped in basketball hell, that doesn’t seem so bad.