In the Greater Washington area, finding a viable NBA stretch-4 option has been as elusive as no rush hour traffic on the Beltway or a deep postseason run by one of the four major sports franchises. Don't look now but it's possible the Wizards have a solution.
By solution we mean a player capable of:
- Knocking down open 3-pointers off feeds from a driving and dishing John Wall
- Rebounding with gusto
- Defending opposing big men inside or perimeter threats outside.
In recent seasons the likes of Jared Dudley, Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden provided some of these elements, but were liabilities elsewhere.
Based on his preseason and training camp work, Andrew Nicholson might be that solution.
He's intriguing out there," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Nicholson with an intonation that infers he truly believes what he's saying and not just using words to form a sentence. "He has a unique game."
Brooks spoke shortly after Nicholson scored 11 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and sank 3 of 5 from beyond the arc last Thursday in a preseason romp over Philadelphia. When presented with the concept of the free agent addition filling this big man need, Wall nodded as he simply answered, "Him."
Two nights later, the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder led Washington with 19 points against Sacramento. Nicholson, who backs up Markieff Morris, hit 7 of 13 shots including 2 of 4 3-pointers.
"[He's] been a great pickup," Brooks continued. "First of all, he's a great teammate. Guys really enjoy watching him play. He has a low post game. He's a man of 1,000 moves. Has big hands. He has good touch with either hand around the basket. He's unique in the fact that most 3-point shooters can't score down low and most low post scorers can't shoot 3's. He can do a little bit of both."
That versatility is the key. Dudley was among the top 3-point shooters in the NBA last season, but the Wizards were a mess on the boards with the undersized option. The Morris acquisition fueled a rebounding surge. He can also defend bigs and has the foot quickness needed to roam the perimeter, but isn't a knockdown shooter.
Nicholson made a career-high 36 percent of his 3's last season with Orlando. If Morris (32.3% career) has a similar surge, look out.
"It's something I tell our guys. You've got to put your time in every day. You can't just expect to make shots in the game. You have to work on your game," Brooks said. "That's a part of a lot of the guys' game, the 3-point shot. It helps our spacing. It just helps everything about our game offensively."
Then again, it's not just sinking 3-pointers for the power forward options, which include veteran Jason Smith.
"Those guys bringing are bringing the physicality, " Wall said. "Knowing how to rebound, to knockdown shots, but also make the right plays."
If Nicholson can keep up this multi-faceted game, it won't be a stretch suggesting the Wizards will have made the right play by signing the man with a 1,000 moves.