The Washington Wizards have found their point guard.
The Wizards agreed Wednesday to trade guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for guards Monte Morris and Will Barton, people familiar with the matter confirmed. The trade gives Washington a solid veteran Morris, who started 74 games for Denver last season in place of the injured Jamal Murray.
Morris and Barton reunited with coach Wes Unseld Jr., who spent six seasons as an assistant in Denver before landing in Washington. The two formed Denver’s starting backcourt.
The Wizards have been openly looking for a veteran point guard following the February deadline trade for Spencer Dinwiddie. Washington’s front office cut ties with Dinwiddie just months after he signed him to a three-year, $54 million deal, as it turned out that his partnership with the Wizards was a match for star Bradley. Bill was embarrassed together.
When asked what the team was looking for in their next point guard, Unseld found many of Morris’s traits — in retrospect.
“I don’t think you need any old-school point guard, but you do need someone who understands the flow of the game and who can not only make your offense well organized,” Unseld said. “Get the guys ready and put them in the right position. Kind of feels like who has the game, who needs to shoot, who has the matchup advantage? All those details, I don’t know, those are not things you can definitely teach.”
Morris showed that feeling in Denver. The 27-year-old has been in the top five in assist-to-turnover ratio over the past four seasons and rarely turns the ball over while feeding his teammates. Last season, Morris averaged a career-high 4.4 assists per game, but only had one turnover. He also enjoyed a career year where he averaged 12.6 points and 29.6 minutes per game.
The former 2017 second-rounder from Iowa State has seen an uptick in minutes since Murray missed a full year with a torn ACL. But the 6-foot-2 guard excelled in this situation, showing the Nuggets that he can be a capable starter, not just off the bench. Throughout the season, he made several big shots, including a game-winning 3-pointer at Golden State.
As for Barton, the Wizards get a crafty wing with the ability to create his own shot. With the Nuggets battered by injuries, Barton became the team’s third-leading scorer last season, behind MVP center Nikola Jokic. The 31-year-old, who grew up in Baltimore, is averaging 14.7 points per game.
Whether Barton will come off the bench or start for Washington remains to be seen. The former 2012 second-rounder is primarily a Denver starter, playing both shooting guard and small forward. Barton spent more than seven seasons with the Nuggets after starting his career in Portland.
Barton has a history of injuries — he underwent hip surgery in 2018 — but played 71 games in 2021-22.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets acquired a wing guard they’ve reportedly long sought in Caldwell-Pope. With Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back from injury, the Nuggets are trying to upgrade their defense to take advantage of their championship window as Denver is expected to compete next season.
Caldwell-Pope only played one season for the Wizards. After being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers, he averaged 13.2 points on 39 percent shooting in 77 games.
Smith gives Denver depth at point guard. As a journeyman, the Nuggets will be Smith’s 13th team — an NBA record as long as the 33-year-old actually shows up to their game.
The deal comes as the Wizards prepare to offer Beal a five-year, $250.9 million deal to re-sign with Washington.