The Wizards knew they had to fill their gaping hole at point guard, created when they left Spencer Dinwiddie midway through his first season in Washington. But, getting a starting-level PG with the resources he would have — primarily, his $10 million non-taxpayer mid-tier exception — would be pretty tough.
Jalen Brunson was obviously going to get a big bank (man, is he gonna get a big bank) from New York or Detroit; Memphis’ Tyus Jones will likely get a lot more than that, whether it’s the Grizzlies or someone else; the Wizards had no interest in giving Spurs the “Full Jrue” – three (!!!) first-round picks – for Dejounte Murray. And Washington was not at all interested in a meeting with John Wall; even before Wall’s intentions to sign with the Clippers were known, the Wizards were a hard no.
Washington also didn’t kick the tires of the Warriors’ Gary Payton II and other point guards who weren’t yet starters.
So a trade was the only move that made sense, and the Wizards pulled it off on Wednesday, getting Monte Morris, along with veteran swingman Will Barton, for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and longtime veteran point guard Ish Smith.
Washington was linked to Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon early on, as Brogdon was thought to be among Bradley Beal’s most favored candidates. But Brogdon’s injury history and high remaining salary — $67 million over the next three years — have made him far less attractive to the Wizards. While Washington is set to give Beal the full sack in a $248 million supermax deal, and has nearly $70 million owed Kristaps Porzingis (assuming KP opts for the 2023-24 season at 36 million), and wants to re-sign Kyle Kuzma after next season – when he will almost certainly opt out of the final year of his current contract to become an unrestricted free agent – the Wizards had to get a starter on a contract ( relatively) inexpensive.
Enter Morris, who will earn a combined $17.9 million over the next two seasons. He’s a known commodity to Wes Unseld, Jr., who coached him in Denver as the Nuggets’ main assistant. He started 74 games last season while injured Jamal Murray treated his torn ACL. He showed he could play against Nikola Jokić, shooting 42% on catch and shooting 3s. He led all leaders last season in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus at 5.89.
The DRPM attempts to determine how many fewer points a team’s defense allows with a player on the field than when off. Morris wasn’t ranked as high in the Four-Letter Network’s Real Plus-Minus Offensive, ranking just 74th overall out of 91 leaders last season at 1.34 under. But, overall, his defensive spec left him 31st among all NBA players in total RPM, at 4.55, which was ninth overall among leaders.
Other metrics didn’t rate it as well; The Bball Index’s “D-LEBRON” statistic, which measures runs allowed per 100 possessions, ranked him 42nd among point guards who logged over 1,000 minutes last season, at minus-0.63.
But he fits the Wizards schedule with Beal, KP and Kuzma, in age, behavior, salary and play.
Will Barton had run out of steam in Denver, but the Baltimore native will change scenery in Washington. pick last season, played well with starters at times), but Barton, 31, has become credible enough as a 3-point shooter to warrant rotational minutes, replacing KCP.
And, after this deal, Washington still has its NTMLE to use in free agency. It was a very solid deal for the Wizards.
An estimate of their depth/rotation chart for next season:
PG: Monte Morris
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Corey Kispert
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Kristaps Porzingis
PG: TBD (likely filled with part of the $10 million mid-tier exception)
SG: Johnny Davis
SF: Will Barton, Deni Avdija
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Daniel Gafford