LA Clippers v Washington Wizards
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 8: Jerome Robinson #1 of the LA Clippers looks on during the game against the Washington Wizards on December 8, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards trade for Robinson, Napier on deadline day

On Thursday, the Wizards made a pair of trade deadline deals, adding guards Jerome Robinson and Shabazz Napier in separate transactions. Robinson came by way of the Clippers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and the draft rights to Issuf Sanon as part of a three-team trade that included the Knicks. Napier was acquired from the Nuggets in exchange for Jordan McRae.

Robinson played in 42 of the Clippers’ 51 games this season, but struggled to find consistent minutes as a young player among one of the league’s most experienced, elite wing rotations. Robinson was graded as one of the most versatile scorers in the 2018 and caught the eye of the Wizards’ front office throughout the pre-draft process.

“He’s a player we were attracted to at Boston College,” Sheppard said. “He’s a 3-point threat, but he’s also somebody that can put it on the deck. He’s versatile – plays both positions. It’s a small fact, I don’t know if you guys knew this or not, but he actually played for John Wall’s AAU team growing up. He’s from Raleigh – there’s a good connection there. He’s athletic. He’s a hard-nosed kid. I think he’s going to help us a lot – adding depth to our team, athleticism for sure.”

On November 16 against the Hawks – Robinson’s one game this season playing over 25 minutes – he scored a season-high 21 points on 8-13 (.615) and 5-7 (.714) from 3-point range in the Clippers’ 49-point win.

With the acquisition of Robinson, the Wizards’ roster now features three players selected in the first round of the 2018 draft: Robinson (13th overall), Troy Brown Jr. (15th overall) and Moritz Wagner (25th overall).

“That draft was interesting,” Sheppard said. “We really liked Jerome [Robinson] a lot, we liked Troy Brown [Jr.] a lot and we liked (Moritz) Wagner a lot – and we ended up with all three of them. As a matter of fact, we also have Isaac Bonga from that draft. 2018 was good for us. We plan on developing Jerome [Robinson] on a very similar track to the other players we received in the last year. We said from day one, this year is about player development. Let’s watch these guys get better and we’re seeing it.”

Napier played for five teams in six seasons before joining the Wizards – and had been dealt from Minnesota to Denver Wednesday night, one day before joining Washington. Despite all the recent movement, Napier is in the midst of the best statistical season of his career, averaging 9.6 points in 23.8 minutes per game. His 5.2 assists per game are double his previous career high set last season in Brooklyn.

Shortly after taking over the starting job in mid-December, Napier went on a four-game run in which he averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds – and led the Timberwolves to a 3-1 record. Napier begins his Wizards career having registered seven-plus assists in seven of his last 10 games.

“He’s a great point guard that can really push the pace,” Sheppard said. “He’s a guy, a hard-nosed guy, that will do all the right things. He’s got a winning pedigree and I think he’ll fit in pretty seamlessly for us.”

With the new additions also come the departures – Washington loses McRae, who averaged 12.8 points per game in 29 appearances this season and Thomas, who started 37 games for the Wizards, averaging 12.2 points and 3.7 assists per game.

“One of the hardest days of any NBA calendar is the trade deadline, because you’re not just trading the player, you’re trading their family, you’re trading all their friends, you’re trading all these memories that we had together here,” Sheppard said. “It’s difficult. Isaiah [Thomas] was a pro’s pro from day one when we brought him in. Every one of our young players, every one of our rookies had to see his love for the game and his work ethic – and he brought it every day. There’s no questioning his passion for the game, his brilliant basketball mind.”

“I can’t say enough about Jordan [McRae],” Sheppard said. “What a great pro. What a great story for our Go-Go and our staff bringing him up from a two-way to becoming a roster player to becoming a rotation player. It speaks to his talent and his abilities, but also the development program here. Man, we’re going to miss him.”

The Wizards now enter the final 33 games of the season younger and more versatile than they were Thursday morning. Though some names around the locker room have changed, Sheppard says the team’s approach hasn’t – developing young players and preparing the roster to excel in the future remains the primary focus.

“Let’s look at the rest of the year,” Sheppard said. “Let this team tell us what to do. We’re not going to say ‘don’t make the playoffs,’ we want to see them win as many games as possible, but more importantly, we want to see them continue to develop and watch everybody’s talent increase. When that talent increases, you get a lot more ideas for the future…I think the most important thing for this roster the rest of this year is to continue to come together. This is a no-drama group. There are nights where things don’t happen your way, the scoreboard is in a different direction than what you want it to be, but young players playing is a good thing.”

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