The Latvian Laser could bring the Wiz a 1st rounder

The NBA trade deadline is February 6th and the Washington Wizards have one very obvious piece of trade bait: Dāvis Bertāns.

Six-foot-ten forwards with a sharpshooter’s aim tend to get noticed in today’s NBA. Putting your back to the basket just isn’t cool anymore. Officials call games more restrictively than ever, in terms of hand-checking and interior contact.

All that adds up to value for the Wizards. Bertāns can lace it from distance, and at 208 cm tall (that’s for all you metric system fans out there), his jumper is not realistically block-able.

The pièce de résistance for the Wizards is that Bertāns will be a free agent at year’s end. He’ll probably command somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million per year on the open market, and there’s certainly no guarantee he’ll re-up with the Wizards.

This will naturally remind all DC sports fans of the Bryce Harper situation a few years ago. You could see the writing on the wall – Harper was not likely to stay in Washington at his asking price – and so it made sense to trade him before the deadline.

(Why didn’t the Nationals do that? Did they cling to the silly notion that a miracle deal could be worked out? Did they fear retribution from the fan base – or from the All-Powerful Boras Creature? Who knows.)

It all worked out swimmingly for the Nats, but the Wizards are a loooooooong way from contending for an NBA title. NBC Sports recently posted a good breakdown on:

  • what the Wizards could reasonably expect in a trade
  • how likely it is to happen.

The short answers to both questions is:

  • a first-rounder
  • not as likely as it seemingly should be

A first round draft pick, and no bites? If the word loooooooong were to be doubled in length, it still would not accurately not reflect the distance between the Wizards and a championship. Yes, Dāvis Bertāns is normally the kind of young yet veteran player that a fledgling team can build around, but why would he stay with the Wizards when he’ll have multiple suitors at season’s end?

The Wizards need to become an attractive team to players like Bertāns; otherwise, they’ll never be able to keep them when they draft them. While he has publicly stated that he’d be happy to remain with the Wizards, Bertāns could reasonably be accused of simply saying the right thing for now. Such words are soon forgotten when money from contending teams is on offer.

That attractiveness, that organizational appeal, starts with winning. A #1 pick next year has a much better chance of creating long-term success than keeping a nifty utility player does. That’s a contending team’s luxury, ‘Zards.

A gift horse just landed in your mouth, Ted. Don’t screw this up.