News of this deal broke just hours after a three-team deal with Memphis fell through due to communication errors regarding the players involved.
This move is just the latest in a series of decisions that shows Washington believe the current core are a serious contender in the East, despite sitting at 12-20 two months into the season. Phoenix also get younger, and retain their financial flexibility moving forward. It also means LeBron James and the Lakers must set their sights elsewhere, after interest in acquiring the services of the talented Ariza.
The Wizards lack youth across their roster, and the loss of Oubre Jr only accentuates this concern. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are all locked in to contracts until at least the summer of 2021, with the trio taking up around $92m in cap space every year after this season. Wall and Porter both have 15% trade kickers on their contracts, so are a very difficult proposition for any team to take on, if the Wizards were to ever move on from their current core.
As such, general manager Ernie Grunfield has to try and build decent depth around this trio with virtually no cap space. The team have prioritised short-term deals for the rest of their squad, with only Ian Mahinmi and rookie Troy Brown having contracts beyond next July. Ariza adds to this trend and gives the Wizards a low-risk opportunity to see how he fits with the core of the roster.
A starting five consisting of Wall, Beal, Porter, Ariza and Dwight Howard is among the best in the Conference and gives a wonderful mix of scoring, length and defensive versatility. It is probably the best starting five that Scott Brooks has had in Washington, but depth will be a large concern, especially with the losses of Oubre Jr and Rivers.
Meanwhile, the Suns wave goodbye to Ariza, an expensive, but short-term, offseason deal that never looked like an obvious fit for the rebuilding franchise. He had struggled to get minutes, with the Suns instead opting to prioritise opportunities for T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges. The three are all locked into inexpensive, long-term, deals and are clearly a part of the Suns’ future.
Oubre Jr and Rivers both fit much more naturally into their current age-group within the organisation, and are on expiring deals. This gives Phoenix a chance to see both before making a decision on re-signing them, and also keeps their financial flexibility for next summer, should they be able to persuade any big-name free agents into a move to the desert. Although not a historical big-name in the free-agency circuit, Phoenix is an emerging market in the US; and the young core, highlighted by Devin Booker and #1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton, is an attractive destination to players looking to build a dynasty for years to come.
Both sides seem to benefit from this deal, with both having the opportunity to re-sign their acquisitions if the deals work out; whilst also maintaining the ability to cut them loose after this season, and create more cap space. Washington will likely want to re-sign him due to their limited cap space, meanwhile Phoenix will likely only sign them on if they impress in the desert. A win-win for both teams, and the second biggest in-season trade of the NBA season so far.