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Deadline trades don’t change familiar dilemma for Wizards

February 11, 2022 GMT
Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas, right, dives for the ball held by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. The Wizards won 113-112. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas, right, dives for the ball held by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. The Wizards won 113-112. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas, right, dives for the ball held by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. The Wizards won 113-112. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas, right, dives for the ball held by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. The Wizards won 113-112. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas, right, dives for the ball held by Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. The Wizards won 113-112. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Washington Wizards approached the trade deadline in a familiar position — on the fringe of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference — and whether they make the postseason or not, they’ll have to do it without star Bradley Beal.

General manager Tommy Sheppard turned over a quarter of his roster at the trade deadline anyway, a series of moves that’s more of a reshuffle than a rebuild.

Bringing in Kristaps Porzingis and shedding pricey veterans Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans wasn’t about this year, Sheppard said Friday, and it’s not really about loading up for next season, either. It’s what he considers a small step toward building a championship-caliber team.

“There’s a lot of (potential) trades, we would have been very successful for the rest of this season, but it would have cost us in the future,” Sheppard said. “We have an opportunity this summer with some of the things we did today to make a lot more moves. I thought that was far better than to gas up our record for the rest of this season.”

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The 7-foot-3 Porzingis is an intriguing addition because of his size and skill set. He has a big contract — the Wizards will owe him nearly $70 million over the next two seasons — but the franchise saved money overall with Thursday’s deals, Sheppard said. Dinwiddie and Bertans went to Dallas, and Washington also sent Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte for Ish Smith and Vernon Carey Jr. Aaron Holiday was dealt to Phoenix for cash.

Beal, who had surgery Thursday to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist, is due to become a free agent when his max deal expires after next season. The Wizards haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since Beal’s backcourt partnership with John Wall dissolved, but Sheppard’s belief in Beal is steadfast.

“I believe Bradley is going to be here moving forward. I’m not going to waver from that. I don’t know how many times I can touch base on this subject,” the GM said. “If he feels otherwise, I’m sure he’ll let me know.”

Another thing that hasn’t changed for the Wizards: A point guard to pair with Beal tops Sheppard’s offseason wish list. Russell Westbrook lasted one season and Dinwiddie departed after a 53-game stint that revealed obvious chemistry issues with his teammates.

By dealing away veterans, Sheppard showed he’s committed to young players Deni Avdija, Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert. But his moves aren’t likely to energize a downtrodden fan base or quiet critics who say the Wizards should trade Beal and start over.

Sheppard points to the Suns, who spent several years out of playoff contention before they brought in Chris Paul to join Devin Booker and vaulted atop the Western Conference.

“Where was Devin Booker in the playoffs before last year? So, one player can come in and change the franchise,” Sheppard said. “Everybody has their own path. Everybody has to run their own race.”

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