There’s a hole in the middle: 4 center solutions for the Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Rui Hachimura

Hopefully, Wagner’s sprain is nothing serious and he’s back in action within a week. Bryant can return later this month or early January if things go well with his foot.

So maybe the Wizards don’t need to panic and bring a fresh new face to the team. Maybe they need to buckle down and ride it out with what they’ve got. So far, they’ve leaned on an unlikely source when desperate for a center. To his credit, Rui Hachimura has handled his shift to the five quite well.

We first saw Hachimura flirting with the center position against the Clippers in a 150-125 loss. The Wizards were without Wagner for that game and we now know that Bryant wasn’t 100 percent, either. Despite the rout, Hachimura held his own and finished with 30 points and nine rebounds.

The very next game, Hachimura was starting at center against the Orlando Magic while Wagner, Bryant, and Ian Mahinmi sat.

Luckily, the Magic were without a star center of their own. Nikola Vucevic is currently rehabbing a sprained ankle and missed this matchup after dominating the Wizards for 30 points and 17 rebounds earlier this season. Things could have been a lot different for Rui had Vucevic been available.

Even without Vucevic, though, the Magic have an extremely long frontcourt. The All-Star wasn’t available but Mo Bamba, Khem Birch, and Jonathan Isaac all were. They all have wingspans of at least 7’0. But Rui was unbothered and held his own on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Next. Rui Hachimura sticks with what he's been doing all year in career-high 30 point game. dark

He might be undersized at the center position, but Hachimura’s athleticism creates some interesting mismatches.  As a screener, Hachimura was often a mismatch rolling to the basket, but also felt comfortable pulling up in the midrange. In his first start as a center, Hachimura recorded the team’s top single-game +/- for the night.

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/1202021389227528192?s=20

In two games, Rui has been serviceable as a small-ball center. He’ll only get better with more reps, but hopefully, he won’t be needed there for much longer.