The type of move I've talked about the Wizards making in the offseason -- and having to do so out of necessity -- came to fruition less than 24 hours before the NBA Draft when they traded their 52nd pick and sent their $2.3 million trade exception to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier.
Frazier, a 6-1 backup point guard who bounced around the NBA intially after he went undrafted in 2014, has solidified himself as a rotation player. He averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 assists in 65 games last season. He also proved to be a more than competent backup for Jrue Holiday when he was out for personal reasons.
Almost everyone took their eye off the ball hypothesizing about Paul George, a pie-in-the-sky scenario, when it was this kind of move that was the most likely all along.
He's proven and they needed that type of point guard immediately. Trey Burke wasn't the answer as he couldn't run the offense, that's not a problem for Frazier. Brandon Jennings played with better pace but had a tendency to be erratic and was a turnstile on defense. His contract also is salary-cap friendly for a team that doesn't have the room.
Why give up a pick (again)?
Two reasons: The Wizards won 49 games last season and was one win from the conference finals. Despite these issues, they didn't feel a need to perform a major upheavel. Also, they have enough players to develop in Tomas Satoransky, Sheldon Mac, Daniel Ochefu and Chris McCullough. They didn't need more to take up roster spots. A backup point guard, of all the positions, is the most crucial with John Wall logging so many minutes going into his eighth season. If the likes of Monte Morris or Tyler Dorsey were going to fall and come available at No. 52, maybe they'd reconsider their approach. But those guys will be gone so they had to take the sure thing here. A No. 52 pick will take 2-3 years to develop even if he sticks, and the learning curve could be longer if you're taking the team's quarterback of the offense. Even a fourth-year vet like Burke had issues and he was a No. 9 overall pick in 2013. It wasnt until Year 3 that Frazier, who went undrafted out of Penn State, panned out.
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How was the deal made?
The Wizards didn't just give up the second-round pick but they used a $2.3 million trade exception that they picked up from the Brooklyn Nets in the deal that sent Andrew Nicholson out of town and brought in Bojan Bogdanovic and McCullough. Frazier was due $2 million from New Orleans which means the Wizards have to send out a close match to that amount in outgoing salary to make the deal work. A second-round pick counts as $0 under salary cap rules because their contracts aren't guaranteed. How do the Wizards facilitate the match? Using the trade exception, a process they were able to implement a few years ago to bring in Jared Dudley in a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. A trade exception allows a team to acquire a player without giving up anything. Yes, they gave up a pick that the odds say is unlikely to pan out. The Wizards gamble that Frazier will be better than whatever point guard they could've otherwise acquired even if that player sticks in the NBA.
What about predraft workouts?
Every year, I lament about the overanalysis and hype about the process, or any suggestion that a gem was discovered. Teams have scouted players all season, and in some cases for multiple seasons. They've seen them in real-time situations. They already know. There are no epiphanies. Workouts are a getting-to-know-you session that usually includes a sitdown afterwards. If a player makes all 20 of his threes in a workout, he's not going to get drafted because of that. And conversely, if he goes 0-for-20, that wouldn't disqualify him, either. Little can be read into the actual workouts. A few years ago, a fringe player was defending a 3-on-2 fast break and chose to not stop the ball -- priority No. 1 in transition defense -- and instead went to defend his man. That left a lane wide open for a dunk by the ballhandler. It was a bad look and bad decision which spoke to the player's decision-making under pressure. It's those type of things that teams look for and not your college stats or awards or how well you shot the ball in a workout vs. non-NBA competition. It's a far more cerebral process. The Wizards were doing a final look to determine if anyone caught their eye enough to steal at No. 52. It's not that there weren't good players at Verizon Center but just that they believe those players will be long gone by then or can be snapped up for Las Vegas summer league and/or training camp. The evaluation process is never over. It's always ongoing.
Are they done?
Not necessarily. It doesn't mean they'll definitely do something but they're not standing pat. They can buy a pick and get back into the draft. They had the chance to do this last year but passed because they felt they could get the guys they wanted as free agents. They had Mac and Ochefu locked up immediately for Las Vegas summer league. Under the new CBA, teams get a bump from $3.6 million to $5.1 million for these purposes. They amounts of how much teams pay for picks varies. The Wizards don't have the cap room this year like they had a year ago. Only way a seismic move happens is via trade but Wall and Bradley Beal aren't going to be part of it. The sign-and-trade adjusted rules should take Otto Porter off the table, too, as he loses financially by agreeing to any such deal. It's also difficult to see Markieff Morris, who is on a deal that makes it almost impossible for the Wizards to get equity because of salary inflation, being a trade chip. The best players on the team, Wall and Beal, love him. The three were at Verizon Center today working out with some of the younger guys. This draft is much deeper than a year ago and the Wizards will remain active and will have to get higher than 52 to get someone viable. With Frazier in tow, they don't need another point guard with Satoransky already set. They have a good, young, athletic scorer in Mac who is poised to take the next step so they can use a shooter whether he's found in the draft, trade market or free agency that opens July 1.
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