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: Which Wizard makes a big leap forward in 2021-22?
CH: There are a few different directions one could go with this question, as the Wizards have an intriguing group of young players plus some veterans who still present upside. But I’ll go with Daniel Gafford, whom we only really saw a brief glimpse of last season after he came over at the trade deadline. Gafford really seems to get it in terms of how he can make an impact in the short-term and also maximize his potential in the long-term.
Gafford is very athletic and talented, but also has the intangibles to get the most out of his natural abilities. He’s got a high motor on both ends of the floor, the drive to improve his game and thinks through the details of what he needs to work on. Those in the organization rave about his coachability and fit personality-wise.
Gafford just checks off every box and we saw him improve seemingly week-to-week down the stretch of last season. He’s got a high ceiling and everything it should take to find out exactly how high that ceiling is.
AG: I quite like Chase’s answer in Gafford, but I’m going to say Rui Hachimura here.
Hachimura averaged 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game last season, his second in the NBA. And while it’s easy to point at the pandemic as an excuse, it’s got some legs when you’re talking about Hachimura.
He’s played just 105 games (all starts) in his two-year NBA career, which is just about a season and a quarter. For rookies in every other year except the last two (excluding injury of course), we’d be talking about a guy in just his second season in the league.
Now, he’s got some playoff games under his belt — including an outstanding Game 4 against the 76ers, where his energy shined through noticeably. That experience for Hachimura on such a new team is invaluable and I expect to pay dividends.
The Wizards used him last year to guard other team’s top scorers and on a more defensively sound team this year, the rising tide should lift all boats. He improved his 3-point shooting percentage and his effective field goal percentage from his rookie season, and if he can continue to grow as a scorer like the Wizards need him to, I like his trajectory moving forward.