Photo by Reggie Hildred for The Sports Capitol

Sources: Wizards telling NBA teams 1st round pick available with expiring contracts

BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 18, 2018

The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts.

That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.

The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.

The Wizards, who also own the 44th pick, are poised to make their first draft selection in either round since 2015. The first-round selection likely offers the best opportunity for immediate help considering the team currently lacks salary cap space in next month’s free agency.

The asset also provides the Wizards a chance to shed salary and perhaps move below the luxury tax after exceeding that threshold in 2017-18. According to ESPN, Washington enters free agency with $127 million in guaranteed salary — approximately $4 million above the $123 tax line.*

Morris ($8.6), Jason Smith ($5.45), Jodie Meeks ($3.454) and Tomas Satoransky ($3.129) are the other expiring contracts.  

(* Updated — The $127 million in guaranteed salaries noted above includes only current salaries. Per ESPN, the projected tax penalty jumps from $6 million tax to $14.5 million if Washington signs minimum-salary free agents to the remaining three roster spots. Another $9 million in penalties hits if the Wizards use the full tax midlevel exception.)

The 2018 draft class is considered a deep group with talent into the second round. According to league sources, Washington likely cannot drop below the 18-20 range to remain on the same talent level its current selection offers. Previous discussions indicated the Wizards would prefer remaining at 15.

Gortat started all 82 regular-season games for a second consecutive season. The durable big man averaged 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 25 minutes per contest. The minutes were his fewest since arriving in Washington ahead of the 2014-15 season.

One of the NBA’s leaders in screen assists, Gortat remains a helpful player, though his interior style trends away from the modern small-ball era.

Issues between Gortat and Wall bubbled up during the season and following the first-round playoff loss to Toronto when the point guard addressed various roster concerns. “I think it’s just figuring out what pieces can add to our team and what guys can stay and what guys can go that make us – that really want to be here, that really want to win and really want to take that next step,” Wall said.

Many believe Gortat was the subject of this and other critiques, which has turned an icy relationship frigid.

Morris, Washington’s starting power forward, averaged 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 73 games following offseason abdominal surgery.

Smith went from a key frontcourt reserve with a perimeter-shooting punch during the 2016-17 season to a misfiring 2017-18 campaign. The 7-footer fell out of the rotation last season — and opted into his player option during the offseason.

Meeks reportedly opted into his player option earlier this month. The shooting guard has 19 games remaining on his original 25-game suspension for violation of the NBA’s drug policy.

Satoransky’s salary and skill set makes him the most attractive of the potential trade pieces for other teams, though trading him would be less about the salary cap and more about asset gathering. The versatile 26-year-old solidified the backup point guard role behind Wall, though coach Scott Brooks often preferred using the 6-foot-7 Satoransky throughout the lineup.

What Washington can take back in salary depends on the total money involved. Using Gortat’s salary as an example, if a trade moves Washington under the luxury tax, it can take back his salary plus $5 million. If over, the Wizards can take back 125% of his salary plus 100,000.

Center Ian Mahinmi’s remaining contract — two-years, $32 million — remains the most onerous on the roster and likely unmovable without significant asset burden.

Washington signed Mahinmi in 2016 during the same offseason it inked Andrew Nicholson to a four-year, $26 million. Nicholson fell out of favor almost immediately and was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets at the February trading deadline along with a 2017 first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic. 

Though Bogdanovic supplied the Wizards with needed production in the postseason, he left in free agency following the season. Washington certainly could seek players who are not on expiring contracts this time. 

Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.

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