Wizards make fringe acquisitions at the NBA trade deadline

NBA: Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls

Unsurprisingly, the Washington Wizards made a small trade around the edges of their team ahead of the NBA’s 2021 trade deadline. In a three-team trade with Chicago and Boston, the Wizards acquired Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison. The Bulls got Troy Brown Jr. as well as Daniel Theis and Javonte Green from Boston, while the Celtics got Moe Wagner and Luke Kornet. Chicago also received $1.3 million from Boston and $250k from Washington.

Troy Brown Jr. leaves D.C. after less than three seasons since being the 15th overall draft pick in 2018. The 21-year old played saw little meaningful playing time this season, falling out of Scott Brooks’ rotation where he was not used effectively. Maybe Brown will have better luck with a change of scenery and new coaching in Chicago. Despite being the most vocal defender out of the Wizards’ three-man center rotation, Moe Wagner was not in the organization’s long-term plans when his fourth-year option was not picked up on his rookie contract. Ted Leonsis will be happy with the over one million dollar cap savings this season.

Daniel Gafford, 22, is a 2019 second-round pick of the Bulls and would not be in Chicago’s playoff push rotation now featuring Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis. The former Arkansas Razorback has averaged just 5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game over 74 contests in now his second NBA season. Gafford does average 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes and immediately is the Wizards’ best rim protector in several years. The 6-10 big man with a 7-2 wingspan has scored in double-figures four times this season and naturally, two of them came against Washington. Once clearing protocols and in basketball shape, the Wizards should start him at center to begin the evaluation process. After this season, Gafford is under contract for next season at a non-guaranteed $1.8 million and has a $1.9 million team option in 2022-23.

Chandler Hutchison, 24, was selected just seven picks after Brown in the 2018 draft at 22nd overall and similarly has not seen consistent playing time through the first three years of his NBA career. This season he has appeared on just seven games and has been away from the Bulls for personal reasons since February 5. Washington will not be a team to pressure a player to return before they are ready, able, or willing, but they have a legitimate interest in his two-way ability and 7-1 wingspan. Hutchison enters next season as a contract year making $4 million.

Since taking over for Ernie Grunfeld late in the 2018-19 season, Tommy Sheppard has made moves along the edges to try and improve the Wizards. In 2019, he saved some money by trading Markieff Morris for Wesley Johnson. In 2020, Jerome Robinson and Shabazz Napier were acquired with Isaiah Thomas and Jordan McRae departing. Presently, Washington had no ability to make a big win-now move nor should they have. The Wizards were unwilling to trade Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, or first-round picks so there were limited assets even available to be shopped.

With just 30 games remaining and sitting in 13th place in the Eastern Conference at 15-27, 3.5 games back of the 10-seed for a chance at the play-in tournament, the Wizards’ continued playoff aspirations are dwindling. Maybe Gafford and/or Hutchison provides a decent spark or even makes an impact defensively, but it does not move the needle much for Washington’s current standing looking down the barrel of a third consecutive lottery pick.

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