Taking a chance on P.J. Washington
It may seem as though NBA free agency has ended. Nobody is signing with any teams right now, and rosters are filling up. Once glance at available players, though, shows a wealth of talent looking for a contract.
One such player is Charlotte’s restricted free agent P.J. Washington. After having an improved season due to Miles Bridges’ absence, Washington has yet to sign a new deal with the Hornets or anybody else. At this rate, accepting the Hornets’ $8.49 million qualifying offer for this season, freeing him up to be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
At 24 years old, Washington fits in with Cleveland’s timeline and has already gained his foundation as a worthy power forward in the NBA. He is a steady shooter and solid defender, making him an ideal partner in crime for EV4.
Here’s the deal:
This trade may at first look like a robbery for the Hornets. They get two young prospects in Allen and Okoro while also finally getting off of Gordon Hayward’s $31.5 million contract.
The value for the Cavaliers goes beyond the initial impact. Hayward, when healthy, is another valuable rotation forward in their lineup. Although he has a long history of injury, his deal expires next summer, freeing up some increasingly useful cap space for Cleveland with both Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley eventually needing contract extensions.
Alongside taking on Hayward’s salary, the Cavaliers receive two picks, one in the second round and one in the first. With LaMelo Ball, Brandon Miller, and Jarrett Allen, the Hornets would have one of their best trios in recent history. The pick would likely be outside of the top five, but the protection gives Charlotte a slight safety net should things fall apart.
Secondly, though Isaac Okoro is steadily improving as an overall NBA talent, he is not the archetype of wing the Cavaliers needed him to be. It’s time to move on from Okoro, and P.J. Washington as a starting four next to Mobley is the perfect move.
In the 2022-23 season, Washington shot 5.9 3-point attempts per game, connecting on 34.8 percent of them. With 15.7 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks each night, Washington is developing into a prototypical two-way forward.
Though his defense is not at the same dominance of Allen, a frontcourt of Washington and Mobley would maintain Cleveland’s defensive power and evolve their offensive capabilities.
Since Washington will be on a new contract this season, trading for him will not be possible until a few months into the regular season. If Charlotte is not looking to retain Washington for the long haul, essentially swapping him and two picks for both Allen and Okoro is a no-brainer for the Hornets.
Both players would instantly raise Charlotte’s defense drastically from last season’s dismal 114.7, the league’s 20th-best defense per NBA.com stats tracking.
Finally, the Cavaliers orchestrate a deal to bring a forward with proven Playoff accolades in a major three-team deal that makes Cleveland an instant contender.