Wizards trade Deni Avdija to Trail Blazers, draft Alex Sarr with No. 2 pick

When it came time for the Washington Wizards to make the second overall selection in Wednesday’s NBA draft, they went with the expected pick and selected 19-year-old Frenchman Alex Sarr, the versatile, 7-foot-7 man with the highest development skills. ceiling in this year’s class of prospects.

But the Wizards had already made it clear they weren’t going to sit back and settle for a routine night. Shortly before the draft started, they agreed to trade Deni Avdija to the Portland Trail Blazers for veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon, the 14th pick in Wednesday’s draft and a first-round pick in the 2029 draft, according to two people with knowledge of the transaction. .

ESPN was first to report the trade, which is in line with the Wizards’ big goals as they enter their second year of rebuilding: trying to accumulate trade capital and aiming to acquire high lottery picks in the upcoming drafts. There is a lot of talent in the 2024 draft class, but none are as tantalizing as Cooper Flagg, next year’s No. 1 pick who will transfer to Duke next season.

Meanwhile, Sarr — the second Frenchman selected in Wednesday’s draft after Atlanta first selected Zaccharie Risacher, and the second straight Frenchman the Wizards have selected after Bilal Coulibaly — is an excellent fit. A fluid big man with an all-around game, a talented shot-blocker with the ability to shoot from the perimeter and a maturity that comes from playing in Australia’s National Basketball League. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17.2 minutes per game for Perth, which had the NBL’s second-best record.

Most importantly, his versatility and immense potential means the Wizards will have options down the stretch. Develop him into a star, and Sarr can shine in Washington long-term. Or he could help Washington acquire a championship-caliber superstar far in the future.

Sarr’s impending arrival is one thing that could ease the pain of Avdija’s departure for fans. The other is that Washington flipped the 23-year-old for two first-round picks.

The Israeli native came as close to a breakout season as he could while playing for the second-worst team in the NBA, and he has been beloved by Wizards fans since the organization drafted him ninth overall in 2020.

He averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 50.6 percent from the field as the Wizards finished with a 15-67 record. And though he was only 23, his earnestness and sense of humor made him a linchpin in the locker room.

In Brogdon, the Wizards will face a 31-year-old guard who is entering the final year of a contract that owes him $22.5 million. A former standout at Virginia who was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft, Brogdon averaged 15.7 points and shot 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc in 28.7 minutes in 39 games for the Trail Blazers.