Wizards trade Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Monte Morris


Wizards trade Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Monte Morris

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When Wes Unseld Jr. returned to Denver in December for the first time since becoming Washington Wizards head coach, Monte Morris was there to greet him.

The Nuggets point guard was one of a handful of players to walk to Washington’s touchline before the game to hug Denver’s former top assistant. Morris approached Unseld with a big grin and an outstretched hand before hugging him and making him laugh.

The pair may have more good times ahead on the sidelines.

In the team’s first big move of the offseason, the Wizards agreed to trade Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith for Morris and veteran winger Will Barton, according to two people who were aware of the transaction. The move won’t become official until July 6, when the league finalizes salary cap and luxury tax figures for the 2022-23 season.

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The deal comes the day before free agency begins and ticks off one of the Wizards’ top two priorities of the summer: finding a reliable solution at point guard.

The other priority is re-signing franchise cornerstone Bradley Beal to a long-term deal.

Beal has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to exercise his $36.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season or opt out as expected. If he declines his option, Beal can re-sign with the Wizards for a maximum five-year contract worth about $250 million or join another team, either through free agency or a sign-and-trade deal.

Staying with the Wizards makes financial sense for the guard, who turned 29 on Tuesday. The largest contract another team could offer Beal is worth around $185 million over four years.

Should Beal return, he’ll find a solid point guard ticking many of Washington’s boxes. the athlete first reported the trade.

Bradley Beal rehabilitating his wrist and a local basketball court

Morris, 27, isn’t the missing piece to take on a hypothetical ‘big three’ featuring Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.

But he has three qualities that make him an excellent candidate for the Wizards: he’s an able defender; he’s more concerned with keeping the team organized and dishing out assists than scoring; and he’s owed just over $18.9 million over the next two seasons. For a team that could soon be tied to a massive contract for Beal and owes Porzingis nearly $70 million over the next two years, that’s a friendly salary.

The Washington front office also appreciates Morris’ leadership qualities and appreciates his path to the pros. The guard signed a two-way contract with Denver in 2017 and worked his way up to 74 games last year while Jamal Murray rehabilitated an ACL injury.

Morris averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists per game last season. And while he’s not considered a first-goal guard, he can put the ball in the hoop — his 58.3 percent true throw was eighth for any point guard last season, tied with Dallas’ Jalen Brunson.

As a bonus, he and Washington forward Kyle Kuzma have ties dating back to elementary school.

Barton, a 31-year-old wing who could fit in well behind Beal on the depth chart, hails from Baltimore and also has experience with Unseld from their time together in Denver. He averaged 14.7 points in more than 30 minutes per game last season, shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 36.5 percent from three-point range.

Members of the Wizards Front Office like his versatility. Barton can create his own scoring chances or set up others, coming off the bench or starting as needed.

Washington has yet to find depth behind Morris as point guard with Raul Neto and Tomas Satoransky both free. The team hosted two potential prospects over the weekend in a three-day mini-camp in Kris Dunn, the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and Pierria Henry, an American-born guard who has become a EuroLeague standout in recent years.

Veteran point guard Smith, meanwhile, joins his 13th team, an NBA record.

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