In a year in which he was expected to take a big leap, Thomas Bryant has some wondering if he can really be the long-term answer at center for the Washington Wizards.
After a promising sophomore season, many people looked at Thomas Bryant‘s quality year as a bright spot in an otherwise very disappointing 2018-2019 season for the Washington Wizards.
Bryant finished the 2019 season averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 Rebounds on 61.6 percent field goal shooting via Basketball Reference. When free agency began this past summer, retaining Bryant was a high priority for the Wizards.
Going into this past offseason, many people in the Wizards organization looked at Bryant’s promise after his first year in Washington and thought they may have found a foundational piece to add to this young Wizards team.
Bryant ended up signing a very affordable three-year, $24 million dollar deal to stay in Washington. Upon signing this deal many suspected he would take another leap going into this season and solidify his role as the up and coming center the Wizards could count on. After a promising first year in Washington, many thought the Wizards may have found a foundational piece.
However, this far into his second season with the Wizards, Bryant has yet to take that step so many expected him to. And while Byant has been solid for the Wizards this season, his lack of progression begs one big question.
Is Thomas Bryant the long term answer at center?
Bryant’s Second Season ins Washington has Been Slump(ish)
Bryant is still just 22 years old and only in his third NBA season. But Bryant only logged 15 NBA games his rookie season and more than halfway through this year, he only has 122 NBA games to his name; roughly a season and a half of basketball.
So there is still some hope that he can develop as much as the Wizards would like him to. This season his per-game averages up to 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds on 60 percent shooting.
These numbers would suggest a slight improvement but not the type of improvement you want. Bryant’s numbers are up because he now has a bigger role and more opportunities.
His shot selection, at times, has been spotty, and he has been settling for a lot of jumpers. Last season, Bryant made his mark by being one of the franchise’s most efficient scorers and he did almost all of his damage around the rim. Not anymore, it seems.
The even bigger issue with Bryant right now is his play on the defensive end. So far this season, Bryant looks lost on that end and seems to lack a lot of awareness when it comes to rotational dilemmas and help defense.
He often gets feasted on when switching on the pick and roll and provides almost zero rim protection. And at 6’10, 248 lbs, Bryant is a bit undersized. It’s not uncommon to see him struggling to establish position or just getting thrown around down low.
Now, I know all that may sound a little harsh. I know that Bryant works harder than most guys and brings a lot of emotion to a team that, in the past, has not had a lot of it. He is an easy guy to fall in love with and is far from a scrub
However, I am just not sure that he is the right guy to be the Wizards’ center of the future.
What About the Future?
With a team looking to get back into the playoff mix next season, the Wizards need as many reinforcements as possible. Instead of being the starting big man, I believe that Bryant would be great off the bench for the Wizards. But before they give up on Bryant, they need to check the market for a starter.
I understand that injuries also play a part as Bryant has only played in 35 games and is still on a minutes restriction. However, the biggest questions about Bryant when he entered the league are still unanswered and do not look like they will find positive results at the moment.
He overperformed his way into a job after coming to the Wizards with slim expectations, however, that overperformance leads to what now might be looked at as a regression.
If the Wizards opt to continue with Bryant at center and Rui Hachimura at power forward, their defensive problems aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Thomas Bryant does have a place on this team and still has time to prove it with his affordable contract. He can be another high-energy guy who can bring some scoring and a little rebounding to the second unit.
But as far as a starting center, that solution is not as clear for the Wizards. With Mortiz Wagner’s recent string of poor play, the Wizards really might have to rethink what the plan is at the center position.
If Not Bryant, Then Who?
Tristan Thompson will be available this summer and could be a good fit. Or maybe the Wizards get some lottery luck and James Wiseman is available when they pick in the 2020 draft. Other names like Montrezl Harrell, Andre Drummond, and Willie Cauley-Stein will also be available in free agency. The Wizards will have options if they want to look elsewhere.
So what doe the Wizards do with Bryant? He is still young and still trying to find his footing after returning from injury. But the regression has been the best start to the first year of his three-year deal.
TB is a solid player and can provide a lot. We saw that last season. But we also saw his limitations as a defender and as a rebounder. And those limitations are still there. I am not sure if the front office put too much stock in him last season/ this summer but I can tell you this:
I am just not sure that Thomas Bryant is the answer at center for the Wizards moving forward.
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