After a wild, confusing night that saw a three-team trade fall apart, the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns reconnected on a deal Saturday that sent forward Trevor Ariza to Washington in exchange for forward Kelly Oubre Jr. and guard Austin Rivers.
The deal came as an “at-the-finish-line” swap that had involved the Memphis Grizzlies before it dissolved. The original trade had Memphis sending either MarShon Brooks (as the Grizzlies thought) or Dillon Brooks (as the Suns thought) to Phoenix, with some second-round picks also being moved around. But as reports poured in from Memphis, Phoenix and Washington, it was clear that the Suns and Grizzlies were talking two different Brookses and the trade crumbled.
That left the Wizards and Suns to pick up the pieces and put them together without Memphis involved, giving us a much simpler swap.
Wizards get locker-room presence and clean up cap sheet a bit
Washington has been a chemistry experiment gone wrong for a while now. It bubbled last season, but this year it fully exploded into a mess.
John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. all seem to have issues with each other, and it’s reflected in the Wizards’ 11-18 record this season.
Ariza is known for being a good vet and someone who can help a fractured clubhouse while also contributing on the court. After signing a one-year, $15 million deal with Phoenix in the offseason, Ariza hasn’t looked like the same guy he was with the Rockets. He’s shooting under 38 percent from the floor and his signature defense has gone missing.
Many are chalking this up to Ariza’s lack of engagement with the struggling Suns. And there may be something to that. He’s often seemed frustrated with the mistakes of his young teammates and regularly looks disinterested.
Perhaps a change of scenery will help the 33-year-old look more like his former self. With Washington, he’ll be asked to play a similar role to the one he filled in Houston: play defense and shoot open 3-pointers off the playmaking of ball-dominant guards. Easy enough.
What isn’t as easy is being the veteran voice to help get the Wizards back on track. Because they play in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs. There’s enough time for Ariza to help fix things, assuming he’s capable of that monumental task.
Acquiring Ariza for Oubre and Rivers has some trickle-down effect on the rest of Washington’s roster. Ariza will likely eventually slot in at one starting forward spot alongside Porter. This will push Tomas Satoransky back to the bench, where he’ll fill the combo-guard role behind Beal and Wall. This is necessary because that was Rivers’ role, and Washington doesn’t have anyone else resembling a backup guard on the roster. They now have two open roster spots, so expect that to be addressed with a follow-up move.
As for the impact on the cap and tax, it’s fairly negligible. Washington is now down to $5.6 million over the tax line for 2018-19. This trade, combined with the previous deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks, has lessened the Wizards’ tax hit to $8.3 million. That will go back up a bit after they fill their 14th roster spot, but it’s at least a semi-palatable number.
Longer term, the Wizards remain capped out due to big deals for Beal, Porter and Wall, but they did remove having to deal with restricted free agency for Oubre. His role as a young forward will be replaced internally by 2018 draftee Troy Brown Jr. It’s somewhat of a shuffle of the deck chairs, but if it saves this season, it was probably worth it for Washington.
Suns add another young forward and option at point guard
Ariza was done in Phoenix. He didn’t play a couple of nights ago, and as the original trade collapsed, it was announced he would not play again while the Suns looked for a trade. Phoenix finally seemed to be moving toward playing its younger forwards in T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges, which makes the acquisition of Oubre a confusing one.
Sure, Oubre is 10 years younger than Ariza, but he only adds to the morass at the forward spot for the Suns. He’s also a pending restricted free agent. That means Phoenix is bringing him in for a half-season look that could potentially overcomplicate its summer.
The Suns are still in need of a point guard, as the only real options on the roster remain rookie De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo. The plan was to give Devin Booker the primary ball-handler role, a la James Harden in Houston, but injuries this season have put that temporarily on hold.
This is where adding Rivers helps. He’s not a traditional point guard, but he’s capable of handling the role. He’ll either play alongside Booker in some intriguing lineups featuring two guys who can create with the ball, or he’ll come off the bench. Coach Igor Kokoskov now gets a veteran option to help keep things moving in Phoenix, while Melton and Okobo develop at their own pace.
There is also the chance the Suns aren’t done dealing because of their surplus of forwards. It’s possible that Phoenix moves one for a more traditional point guard option. No matter what, it’s important that the Suns don’t add much, if any, long-term money. They lost about $9 million in cap space by adding Oubre’s 2019 cap hold as a restricted free agent. They’re still around $20 million or so under the cap. Phoenix needs to do whatever it can to maintain that flexibility.
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