The Washington Wizards entered this offseason with an obvious need for rim protection, having last season ranked dead-last in defensive rating. They were 28th out of 30 teams in dunks allowed, layups allowed and opponent field goal percentage within five feet of the rim. There just hasn't been much resistance at all once opposing players get into the paint.
The Wizards were on the board at the No. 9 in Wednesday's draft with several options that could have helped. They instead went with Deni Avdija, who has the potential to do many things, but blocking shots is not expected to be one of them. Then, in free agency, they lasered in on re-signing forward Davis Bertans.
That left them with the mid-level exception, which they spent most of to acquire Robin Lopez. He's long been a scrappy and tough defender at the rim, though in bench player minutes and he's now 32.
Lopez should help as a likely upgrade over Ian Mahinmi, but it is fair to wonder: is that it? If this was all the Wizards did to fix what is arguably their most glaring and prohibitive problem, that would be surprising. Their ceiling is only going to be so high unless their defense is at least somewhat decent and all along it just seemed logical they would be aggressive in trying to find a substantial upgrade.
Lopez is likely to be a defensive anchor for their bench, but they have not given their starting lineup any help on that end of the floor, at least not yet. That makes it seem relatively likely another move is coming and, given their dwindling free agent resources, it would have to come in a trade.
Maybe it's a rim protector to start at the five, or maybe it's a defensive-minded wing to start at the three. That is also something they could use.
General manager Tommy Sheppard set out to improve the Wizards' defense and so far hasn't done much to help that cause. But it's still early and he has some time to both sign other players and explore the trade market.
Lopez may end up being the sole answer they can provide. And within the context of the Wizards' roster, he should stand out as one of the team's best players. Signing him was a step in the right direction, if a small step.
It just isn't nearly what most were expecting.