JUNKIES: Wizards improve marginally from trade with Nuggets

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The Wizards trading for guards Monte Morris and Will Barton on Wednesday is a move that should make them marginally better, but won't by any means send them skyrocketing up the Eastern Conference standings next season, The Sports Junkies said in reaction to the deal on Thursday morning.

The Wizards sent Ish Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Nuggets in the deal, which reunites Morris and Barton with Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., their assistant coach in Denver for five seasons.

Bradley Beal also made a splash by officially declining his $36.4 million player option, a largely procedural move that will make him a free agent but also eligible to sign a new five-year max deal to return to the Wizards (or to sign elsewhere on a lesser four-year deal).

"Now the big news that was sort of national was that Beal turned down the option or whatever that made him technically a free agent," said Junkies host Eric Bickel. "But that was kind of to be expected, because this was sort of the way he can sign that five-year max deal and get $250 million or whatever it is."

"It was impossible for him not to do it," said Jason Bishop.

"This is not to do the organization a favor," Bickel said. "This is a procedural move so he can get that bag. So, I know some people were tweeting like raised eyebrows, like, 'Oh, Beal opts out,' like that was some sort of thing. This was a procedural move that everyone expected."

"Well, they're certainly not tanking," said John-Paul Flaim. "They're probably gonna be — as Drab described — as a team that's kind of marginally better, stuck in the middle."

The Junkies observed that trade will likely keep the Wizards just competitive enough so that they won't be in the running for the top pick in 2023.

That would take them out of the running for the top prize in next year's draft lottery, 18-year-old French prodigy Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-2 big man who has drawn flattering comparisons to Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"I don't think they're gonna be in that hunt, though, right? They're not gonna be in that top-three hunt," Bickel said. "They have to find that Giannis or whatever with the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th pick. They didn't do it this year."

"No, and you know, [first-round pick] Johnny Davis may turn out to be a guy who becomes an All-Star or whatever. Who knows," said Flaim.

"No, I think he's gonna be a 10-year vet, but he's just gonna be good," said Bickel. "That's my guess."

"Right. And I kind of feel like that's what Monte Morris and Will Barton are," said Flaim. "They do make the team better, but not that much better. Like, they're not gonna jump up the Eastern Conference standings because they brought in Monte Morris to be the starting point guard."

"Right," Bishop agreed. "But like you said, they get a little deeper and they've got a couple guys who can shoot it, right, and then you've got to hope that your draft picks from like the last three years start to get a little bit better, especially Johnny D."

"The interesting thing could be if [Wizards GM Tommy] Sheppard finds some suitors for Rui [Hachimura], Deni [Avdija] or [Corey] Kispert, and they just decide to move on and trade away those guys and somehow can finagle something big," Flaim floated. "But otherwise it almost looks like they're just running it back with a couple of tweaks."

The Wizards went 35-47 (.427) in 2021-22, good for 12th place in the East but not good enough to secure a playoff spot in the team's first season under Wes Unseld Jr.