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20. Washington Wizards (15)
The Wizards as we know them are finished. John Wall could miss most or all of next season following surgery to repair his Achilles tear, and Otto Porter Jr. is a member of the Bulls now. All Washington got for him was 2019-20 cap relief (Parker) and a restricted free agent (Portis).
The deal was a reversal on owner Ted Leonsis’ assertion the Wizards wouldn’t trade Wall, Bradley Beal or Porter, but more importantly, it was a concession that this season and the Wizards as previously composed were lost. The way forward will stink, and Wall’s overwhelming amount of dead salary (at least as far as next year’s concerned, but probably longer) complicates any rebuilding effort.
But at least the Wiz, who also sent Morris and a second-rounder to New Orleans to squeak under the luxury tax, are embracing realty.
19. Miami Heat (19)
Miami lost three straight before Hassan Whiteside’s 28-point, 11-rebound night led to a 118-108 road win in Portland on Tuesday.
“We heard his voice tonight talking to us on both ends of the floor, talking to us in the huddle. He was engaged,” Dwyane Wade told reporters. “His presence was known and when he plays that way, when he is that active, we are a good team.”
If the moody, inconsistently engaged center dials in like this more often, the Heat’s chances of retaining their playoff spot get a whole lot better—even with Ryan Anderson, who’s done nothing this year, replacing Johnson and Ellington.
18. LA Clippers (14)
The Clippers hauled in Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, Philly’s protected 2020 first-rounder and Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder (jackpot!) for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.
Harris had been L.A.’s most productive player this season, one of seven guys in the whole league with a scoring average above 20 points per game and an effective field-goal percentage of at least 56 percent, even if his on-off impact paled in comparison to Lou Williams’.
Removing Harris from the rotation makes it far less likely the Clips will stick in the playoff picture, which has the added benefit of helping them retain their own lottery-protected 2019 first-rounder, which Boston would get in the now less likely event L.A. finishes in the West’s top eight.
L.A. took a few steps back but is now poised to leap forward with loads of picks, reasonably priced talent and cap space.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (16)
The Wolves were one of the few teams that didn’t get in on the deadline action, so I guess that means we have to talk about how they’ve lost five of their last six and look a whole lot less likely than the improved Kings and Lakers to overtake the Clips for that final playoff spot in the West.
Oh well. At least Karl-Anthony Towns is now fourth on Minnesota’s all-time list for made threes. So what if we had to get obscure to find a bright spot for the Wolves?
16. Los Angeles Lakers (21)
The Lakers didn’t land Anthony Davis, but they got LeBron James back, and deals that returned Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala improved the team’s perimeter shooting. Will that matter if morale crumbles and the specter of a Davis trade this summer continues to distract the team’s entire young core, like it did in a 42-point loss to Indiana this week?
Sure, the vibes are better after Rajon Rondo’s game-winner against the Celtics on Thursday, but what of Luke Walton’s increasingly toasty seat?
What if Carmelo Anthony comes aboard after being waived and undoes the marginal good L.A. did at the deadline?
Only Klutch Sports and LeBron James can say.
Lastly, the Muscala trade feels like a dramatic undervaluation of Ivica Zubac’s potential. Dude was averaging 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes as a 21-year-old. Score that one for the Clippers.