Wizards

Wizards

The 2018-19 season for the Washington Wizards will be remembered overall for disappointment, for the injuries, particularly to John Wall, and possibly for changes made to the organization this summer in the fallout of them falling short of their playoff expectations.

Ultimately, few positives will come from this campaign in comparison to the negatives. One of the biggest bright spots has undoubtedly been the emergence of Thomas Bryant. Yes, this season will long be known for more consequential things, but we could look back on 2018-19 as the year the Wizards found a true diamond in the rough.

Bryant continued his breakout season on Wednesday with 18 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in the Wizards' 124-121 win over the Phoenix Suns. He hit two big buckets in the final minute; a three with 28 seconds left and an and-one shot in the lane with 2.8 seconds to go.

At 21, he became the youngest player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history to grab 19 boards in one game. He edged Chris Webber, who was 29 days older in 1994 when he accomplished the feat.

Putting up a game like Bryant did at his age simply is not common. The recent players who have had at least 18 points and 19 rebounds at 21 or younger are all among the best young big men in the league. The last six to do so are John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis.

Bryant hasn't done enough to put his name in that conversation, but he has proven to be the Wizards' most promising big man prospect in quite some time. He is big, athletic and can run the floor. He has shooting range and a nice touch around the rim. And, as he showed against the Suns, he can rebound.

 

There is also of course his trademark enthusiasm. He plays like the biggest kid in the NBA, constantly fired up while rarely crossing lines with referees.

Bryant played in only his 81st NBA game on Wednesday. The sample size remains small, but already he has shown a good deal of potential and consistent improvement.

Though Bryant has his shortcomings on defense, he is getting better. He averaged only 0.7 blocks per game in his first 40 games this season but over his last 26 games has averaged 1.2. In this 26-game stretch, his per-36 numbers are remarkable: 18.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

Of the 14 players in the Wizards' NBA roster, eight are set to hit free agency this summer and Bryant is one of them. He is due to be a restricted free agent, just like Bobby Portis, Tomas Satoransky and others.

Bryant has come out of nowhere as a player the Wizards plucked off waivers last summer from the Los Angeles Lakers. Given all the potential he has shown this season, it would be a shame if they couldn't keep him beyond this year.

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