With the NBA season approaching, Chase Hughes and Andrew Gillis dissect the biggest questions for the Wizards entering the 2021-22 season.
Today’s question: How does the addition of Thomas Bryant impact the frontcourt?
CH: Getting Thomas Bryant should help the Wizards’ offense quite a bit, assuming he returns to form after his ACL injury. Before he got hurt, Bryant was putting together a considerable sample size as one of the most efficient scoring centers in the NBA.
He led the NBA in two-point percentage two years ago and set a Wizards franchise record for field goal percentage. Bryant has also become a reliable 40% shooter from long range and his absence was felt when he got injured last season, as the Wizards struggled to space the floor.
Bryant is now going to have to navigate more depth at his position than he has in the past, as the Wizards also have Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell. Gafford is the best rim protector of the three and new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. favors defense. Harrell presents a fairly high ceiling offensively as a guy who averaged 18.6 points just two years ago. Bryant also brings plenty to the offensive end, of course. What will be interesting to see is how he defends when he has more help around him, as he was in the paint for some terrible defenses the past few years but certainly that wasn’t all his fault.
AG: It doesn’t take much imagination to assume the 2021 edition of Thomas Bryant was set to be the best of his career. He averaged 14.3 points (a career-high) and was seeing a career-high 27.1 minutes per game through the first 10 games of the season. Then, obviously, he tore his ACL and was on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
Now, he’s coming back to a position that is far stronger than where he left it earlier this year. The Wizards have acquired Gafford and Harrell — and the former was an excellent defensive presence in his short time in Washington last season.
The interesting thing for me is how Unseld handles the lineup, much in the same way I thought it’d be interesting how he handles the depth on the Wizards’ wing. With three viable centers, including Bryant and Harrell’s offensive ability and Gafford’s rim-protecting and athletic style of play, I would expect there’s a lot of mixing and matching going on until they can settle into a rotation that makes sense.
They’ve got options to play with at the center position, options that present higher upsides than Alex Len and Robin Lopez did a year ago. It’s just a matter of how Bryant can mesh with his new teammates, and how that knee holds up early on. Because if he’s ready, the Wizards have another offensive force in the frontcourt.