The Wizards start off with a solid and potentially formidable interior tandem with Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. For now when it comes to big men, that's it, that's the list.
As Washington looks to fill out the rest of its roster, two, three or four players with the ability to play the four or five will come on board. It's who's becomes that third big, or rather the first one off the bench, that's most interesting.
The pairing of Gortat and Nene helped lead the Wizards to consecutive playoff berths. However, that power-packed combo became too old school late in the second of those seasons and were eventually split up. Kris Humphries began 2015-16 as the starting power forward, but that proved too much of a stretch. Jared Dudley took over and provided a modern look with his 3-point touch, but Washington often lost the battle of the boards with that undersized look.
The acquisition of Morris before the NBA trade deadline finally gave the Wizards an athletic presence at power forward who can battle inside. Though hardly a quinessential stretch-4, the 6-foot-10 forward is capable enough from beyond the arc to make defenses keep tabs, That also means he can play without crowding the paint for Gortat while giving the Wizards a rebounding presence.
This third big man, should have similar qualities. Not in that he must mirror Morris' game, though another athletic type works for team likely looking to run when possible.
If nothing else, have the abilty to play different roles. Most of all, have the ability to play with Gortat and Morris.
Toronto center Bismack Biyombo became a playoff sensation during the Eastern Conference finals for his energetic rebounding and dogged rim protection. His free agent price tag went through the roof.
Whether the Wizards can afford the cost or not, he's not the answer. Biyombo can play. He can't just play away from the basket, whch means he can't play with Gortat. All that means spending big bucks on two centers whose individual minutes won't be maxed and whose talents are undercut if paired with other isn't the ideal plan.
That's not the case with say Ersan Ilyasova, who is expected to become a free agent when Orlando declines its team option for the purposes of maximizing cap space. The 6-foot-10 forward would provide John Wall with a floor spacer (career 37% 3-pointers) and Gortat with a viable tag-team option. Ilyasova can score and rebound. He's not a shot blocking threat, but he's tough. So is Morris, who can slide to a stretch-5 role with Ilyasova on the court.
Ilyasova isn't a top tier free agent. Neither is Mirza Teletovic, but they can fill (most of) the holes without an insane cost, though nobody is quite sure what that really means heading into a wild off-season. Washington must add nine players total assuming it retains restricted free agent Bradley Beal.
The Wizards still need a true center behind Gortat. Maybe that's Nene, though getting a younger option behind the veteran Gortat works best. Maybe that's a raw big man still learning the ropes. Perhaps someone from the incoming draft class.
Washington will add a few giants capable of playing the four or five or both. Finding a talented option capable of playing with Morris and Gortat is key, especially if big bucks are involved.