The state of the NBA is anything but normal right now. Even the postseason structure is muddier than usual, but the Washington Wizards are – in a way – part of it. They’re one of 22 soon-to-be “bubble teams” that will participate in the shortened restart of the regular season, and they’ll have a chance to compete for a top eight seed in the Eastern Conference. One player who won’t be participating in that battle, however, is sharp-shooter Davis Bertans.
On the surface, that’s bad news for the Wizards because it hurts their playoff chances. After all, he’s the team’s No. 2 scorer and only true threat aside from Bradley Beal that opposing defenses feel much of a need to respect.
On the other hand, what has the mantra been for the Wizards all season? Perhaps this is an opportunity to step back and remember the bigger picture.
As a refresher, here’s a reminder of Washington’s most recent two-deep depth chart – or 10-man rotation; however you’d prefer to frame it – excluding Bertans.
- Point Guard: Shabazz Napier, Ish Smith
- Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal, Gary Payton II
- Small Forward: Jerome Robinson, Troy Brown Jr.
- Power Forward: Rui Hachimura, Isaac Bonga
- Center: Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner
Back in March – when the regular season was paused – and shortly prior to that, veteran Ian Mahinmi wasn’t seeing on-court time, rookies Admiral Schofield and Anzejs Pasecniks fell outside of Scott Brooks’ rotation – and in the G League as frequently as the NBA – and two-way contract players Garrison Mathews and Johnathan Williams were seldom called upon by the Wizards. If all goes according to plan, that will no longer be true.
Well, unless the Wizards don’t stick to their core 17 players.
The challenge the Wizards will be faced with – even if fielding the most competitive roster is no longer the chief concern – is finding the right type of player to replace Bertans. There ultimately isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it does seem like a great opportunity to take a chance on someone from outside the existing roster that the organization was somewhat noncommittal on previously.
They’ll be allowed to carry 17 players, which could mean the two-way duo plus one free agent, but they could also leave one or both of Mathews and Williams behind. It’s doubtful – particularly in Mathews’ case, but it’s an available option.
With that, here are some candidates:
This draws a lot of fanfare for obvious reasons. “Boogie” has been a star in the league, he was college teammates with John Wall at Kentucky, and the two have been linked ever since – the rumors of them rejoining forces have seemingly never stopped.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though. Even aside from the fact that Cousins has had multiple serious injuries in his recent past, his best days are behind him. He’d be a 30-year-old free agent at the end of the season, and the cost of keeping him would be… complicated.
There’s minimal upside for Cousins to play for any team that isn’t a championship contender, the Wizards would be wrong if they paid him top dollar to force him to stay, and there would be no return on the investment in him if he left – only lost time that could’ve been used to develop a younger player.
So please, no more Boogie Cousins rumors!
Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, and Nick Young
This trio of guards could provide veteran presences, but that’s all they would provide. Even if they played up to their former abilities – which would be doubtful – the same issue the team would have with Cousins would exist with them. They’re big names, but they’re not worth the price of admission from the Wizards’ perspective.
He’s big, but probably too big. The last thing the Wizards need is an old center – even one with Gasol’s resume and wisdom. Let’s keep it moving!
The move makes sense. He’s an emotional leader and defensive menace, but it feels like he’d only sign with a legitimate playoff team. Next!
It’s still not perfect because of his lack of youth, but Shumpert seems slightly more appealing. He wouldn’t provide a ton offensively, but he is a player that could help instill a defensive mentality. That end of the court has been where he’s added value for the bulk of his career, and he can guard multiple positions – something some of Washington’s existing young players could stand to improve at.
He can shoot, can’t he? He made 41.1 percent of his three-pointers in the first four seasons of his career, all with the Portland Trailblazers. That number dropped to 37.8 percent in Brooklyn the following two seasons and all the way down to 30.3 percent over 37 games in 2019-20. Maybe that’s a fluke, or maybe he was a product of Damian Lillard.
Crabbe is still only 28 years old, and the Wizards could use a backup shooting guard. If he gets his shot right over a small sample size of games, he’d likely be cheap to re-sign. It’s not a massive position of need, but his role as a scorer is, and he could become a leader off the bench.
This is one of the toughest evaluations out there. He’s a bulky 6-foot-6 small forward that has a solid shooting form and can defend. It’s somewhat odd that he hasn’t found a place where he can crack a rotation, but he looks like the physical prototype. He’s also someone the Wizards have carried in the offseason recently, so a relationship clearly exists. But could they find a better fit?
Point guard isn’t really a position of need, but there is an interesting case for bringing Robinson back. The organization was high on him, and so was I.
Robinson went on to have a seven-game stretch in which he scored at least 15 points each night, averaging 19.4 per game. If he can continue to play with that type of aggression, he has a chance to cement himself on an NBA roster. So why not with the team that originally fell in love with him?
This one probably makes the most sense, although it isn’t flashy. The organization signed Bell to a G League contract late in the season – so late that he never had a chance to suit up in a game. Nonetheless, they know he’s medically cleared, he can defend at a high level, and at only 25 years old, there’s a chance that he could become one of their top centers going forward.
In a similar vein, there is a case for Hudson. He’s a true wing player (6-foot-6) that isn’t bashful (13.3 points per game for the Go-Go of the G League this season) and can knock down three-pointers fairly regularly (37.3 percent success rate). He doesn’t have any NBA experience like Bell does, but he does have skills that NBA teams covet – including shooting ability, which is primarily what the team is losing without Bertans.
He’s already 27 years old, but he was the Go-Go’s most productive player throughout the season. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward averaged 19.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game this season. He also has 32 games of NBA experience. He might provide less upside than other players, but he outperformed Admiral Schofield in the G League while making 36.5 percent of his three-point attempts, so Jones might be an upgrade as a “small ball four”.
Regardless of what route the Wizards take, on-court minutes will likely be heavily-distributed between Beal and young players. There appears to be a genuine understanding that the team can’t contend for a title, so the best course of action is to build up the players who factor into the future – whether that leads the team to victories or not. The postseason would simply be a bonus.
The veteran signing period begins today (Tuesday) at noon ET and will continue until June 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The Wizards will likely be very active on the free agent and/or G League market. Bertans’ loss was unexpected, but it’s also somewhat of an audition period for other potential role players, and it’s the perfect way to test out a new player who the team might’ve pursued this offseason.