The Secret to Thomas Bryant’s Recent Success

Washington Wizards, Thomas Bryant (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards, Thomas Bryant (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The young Washington Wizards center is performing at a high level as of late, largely because of one specific reason.

Thomas Bryant is exceeding expectations. When the Washington Wizards signed him in the offseason, he was fighting for a spot as the team’s fourth center. Now, it’s hard to justify ever taking him out of the starting lineup.

Just this week in London, he hit the game-winning shot against the New York Knicks. Okay, fine, it was goaltended, but still. The team (and none other than Bradley Beal, who passed it to him) trusted Bryant in the final seconds of the game to put the ball in his hands and make the right, aggressive play. Bryant executed and, yet again, proved his coaches and teammates right.

The reason Bryant has capitalized on his time in the starting lineup is simply his efficiency. Efficiency isn’t just the product of skill, but having the basketball IQ to recognize your role and maximizing it. Bryant is taking smart shots within the system and knocking them down at an impressive rate.

In each of the last 17 games dating back to December 16, Bryant has shot better than 50 percent from the floor To put it in perspective, former starting Wizards center Marcin Gortat never had a streak that long, maxing out at 12 games.

Overall, Bryant is shooting 68 percent from the field across those 17 games, including 63 percent on three-pointers. Even though he’s just seven of 11 from behind the arc, so not at a very high rate, it illustrates that Bryant doesn’t extend himself beyond what is the right play and within his capabilities. He’s not going to hoist an unnecessary, inefficient three-pointer; he’s going to shoot one that he can most likely make.

It’s no surprise that over this span that Bryant is averaging 12.6 points per game, well above his overall season average. That a waiver-wire pickup in his second season is doing so is beyond what fans and the organization could have hoped for from him. The team didn’t expect to have to rely on Bryant this much, but he’s given them reason to believe he can handle it over the past month.

No game has stood out more than Bryant’s historic performance against the Phoenix Suns in December. He went 14 for 14 from the field on the way to 31 points, becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to shoot perfectly with at least that many attempts. To trail only Wilt Chamberlain in that department is quite the feat. The Wizards won in triple overtime, and Bryant was a major reason why.

The Wizards are 9-8 over these last 17 games where Bryant is shooting better than 50 percent. While not a spectacular record, Bryant’s play has allowed the team to hang around in the playoff mix, which is more than what most any fourth-string center could provide.

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If Bryant keeps up this play, his days as a replacement big man will be something of the past, and the Wizards will benefit from it.