The Washington Wizards got off to a slow start this season, going just 2-8 over their first 10 games before securing a surprising win over the Phoenix Suns last night, and were dealt even more bad news when word got out that the team’s starting center, Thomas Bryant, had suffered an ACL tear and would miss the rest of the campaign.
It was a brutal blow for both Bryant and Washington, as the fourth-year big man was playing great basketball before going down, averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 64.8 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three.
Now, the Wizards were left without one of their most promising young players and a hole at the 5-spot.
It was reported that Washington applied for the Disabled Player Exception (worth $4.2 million) following the injury to Bryant, which they could use on any position, but more than likely will go to a big man to replace the Indiana product.
The Wizards currently have one player in Anzejs Pasecniks whose contract doesn’t become fully guaranteed until Feb. 2, making him a prime candidate to get waived if Washington finds a big man (or another free agent) they like on the market.
Below, we break down six frontcourt free agents who the Wizards could look at to replace the injured Bryant.
Considering it’s a shock Dewayne Dedmon is even available right now, Washington would be wise to give him a long look if they do choose to sign a big man to replace Bryant.
Dedmon’s game, predicated around blocking shots on one end and shooting threes on the other, fits nicely with what most modern bigs are asked to do – and is even similar to the role Bryant had with the Wizards before going down.
What’s more, the 31-year-old center is just one season removed from his best career campaign, a 2018-19 league year that saw him average 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks over 64 games with the Atlanta Hawks.
If he were able to replicate something approaching that stat line with Washington, which is certainly possible considering they’re the team that leads the league in pace (106.0) and has a ton of possessions to go around nightly, he could be a great pickup.
12-year NBA veteran Ersan Ilyasova could be another interesting option for Washington, as the floor-spacing big man has loads of experience and can knock down open threes, a luxury that could give Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal more room to operate.
Ilyasova is far from a star, but he understands his role and plays it well, even defensively, where his propensity for drawing charges could come in handy for a Wizards team struggling on that end of the floor.
Ilyasova has spent the last two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he averaged 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 36.4 percent from the floor.
A bruising big man with surprising touch from the perimeter, Kyle O’Quinn could be another interesting option for Washington.
O’Quinn has never been one to post huge numbers, with career averages of 5.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, but when he does see action, he most often makes a positive impact, as evidenced by the 30-year-old having a positive swing net rating for his career.
O’Quinn sets tough screens, fights for rebounds and can knock down short midrange jumpers. He wouldn’t light the world on fire as a Wizard, but he could be a serviceable backup for them – one that wouldn’t be very expensive to sign.
If the Wizards prefer to go with a swingman type who can also play small-ball center in certain situations, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be another good option.
Hollis-Jefferson won’t provide much scoring or outside shooting, but Washington already has plenty of guys who can fill up the stat sheet. What they lack is on the defensive end, which is where the former Arizona Wildcat does the bulk of his work.
Hollis-Jefferson can defend multiple positions, provides toughness on the wing, jumps passing lanes and can even do some rim-protecting, all skills that could come in handy for a Wizards team that has the fourth worst defensive rating in the league (114.4) at the moment.
Wizards fans weren’t exactly sad to see Ian Mahinmi go this past offseason when his overpriced contract finally expired, but a reunion (at a much cheaper price) may not be the worst idea.
Mahinmi already has the familiarity with Scott Brooks’ system down pat, and he did post respectable averages of 7.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 2019-20, so it’s not like he was completely ineffective last season.
Those solid marks and the history between the two sides after four seasons together make this potential marriage perfectly plausible.
Another solid albeit unspectacular option for Washington could be John Henson, an eight-year NBA veteran who specializes in one thing: blocking shots.
The Wizards do a great job of limiting opponent shot attempts near the paint, giving up fewer than 20 such field-goal attempts nightly, the best mark in the league. However, when foes do manage to sneak in there, Washington is flat-out bad at deterring those attempts. Opponents are shooting 66.1 percent from within five feet of the bucket against the Wizards, the fifth-highest mark in the league.
That shows how badly the Wizards could use a paint-protector down low, which is where a player like Henson could come into the picture.
To this point, Henson has averaged 1.4 blocks per game for his career in under 20 minutes nightly. Additionally, per 36 minutes, Henson is swatting away 2.6 shots per contest; the guy is an expert shot-blocker and could carve out a solid role off the bench for Washington focusing on doing just that.