Free Agency: Thomas Bryant Must Be Top Priority for Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

After putting up record-breaking numbers in his first year with the Washington Wizards, Thomas Bryant is set to hit free agency this summer. The Wizards need to do everything they can to keep him in Washington.

If Thomas Bryant‘s time as a member of the Washington Wizards is already over, he certainly made the most of it while it lasted.

In his first and only season as a Wizard, Bryant set single-season franchise records in field goal percentage, two-point percentage, effective field goal percentage, and offensive rating. His true shooting percentage of .674 is second to only Tim Legler‘s 0.688 from 1995-96.

As free agency approaches, the Wizards will have a number of roster decisions to make. What to do with Thomas Bryant, who will be a restricted free agent, should be an easy call. Re-sign him.

At just 21 year of age, Bryant already shows signs of being a very good—if not great—modern center. Once regarded as probably the most important position on the court, the plodding, back-to-the-basket rim protector is a dinosaur in today’s league. Instead, centers wander far outside the paint with an arsenal that includes moves beyond the low block.

While Bryant has some learning to do on the defensive end, his offensive abilities are there. Throughout the season he showcased a perfect blend of bruising low-post dunks and spot-up threes. Bryant led the Wizards with 117 total dunks on the season. He also shot 33.3% from three. Certainly a different approach than the hammering offensive styles previously utilized by Marcin Gortat during his five years in Washington.

Bryant is the first center in NBA history to attempt at least one three-pointer per game plus shoot at least 68% from two and 33% from three for the season (minimum 10 games).

Bryant does have some legitimate deficiencies, however. His rebounding is suspect, at best. Given the seemingly endless supply of energy that Bryant has each game, plus his 6-11 frame, you’d think rebounding would come a little more naturally. But it doesn’t. An unimpressive 6.3 rebounds per game left a lot to be desired last season. As a whole, the Wizards finished the season as the NBA’s fourth-worst rebounding team.

Defense isn’t exactly a forte for Bryant, either. Some of that may simply be inexperience and youth. Bryant’s much younger and has far fewer games under his belt than most of the other starting centers he faced last season. And it showed.

After only 15 games with the Los  Angeles Lakers in 2017-18, last season was Bryant’s first full season in the NBA. There’s still a lot of maturing for him to do. Right now, he’s far from a finished product. There’s loads of potential. The only question is will he reach it? And will he reach it with the Wizards?

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There will certainly be a market out there for Bryant. However, he won’t be the only center available. DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, DeAndre Jordan, Jonas Valanciunas, and more could all be out there as either restricted or unrestricted free agents. Any offer that Bryant does receive, the Wizards should be able to match.

But the Wizards’ salary cap is in well-documented shambles. If another team really wanted to outbid them for Bryant, they probably could.

The Wizards, though, have been looking for their “athletic big man” for awhile now. Just ask John Wall. If they’ve finally found him, they need to keep him for more than one season.