The Washington Wizards have two young centers on their squad. But, who is better? Are either a longterm answer?
The Washington Wizards have a center battle. It’s the weakest position on the roster despite having two young big men that have each progressed throughout the season. But do either of them deserve the starting spot? Let’s break down the center battle that could define this offseason.
Currently, the Wizards have Thomas Bryant, Moritz Wagner, Ian Mahinmi, and Anzejs Pasecniks, who can all play the center position. However, Mahinmi is 33, and his contract expires once this season is over. He won’t be back. Scott Brooks usually plays Pasecniks as a third center. So the real discussion is Wagner or Bryant.
Is Thomas Bryant the answer for the center position for the Washington Wizards? A year ago, after signing a three-year deal with the team, it looked like he was. Now, it’s not so clear.
With two bubble games left, Bryant is averaging 13.0 points and 7.1 rebounds in the 2019-2020 season. Those are pretty solid numbers for a third-year player, and both are improvements upon his marks last season. But is he what the Wizards need at center?
Bryant is best at the pick and roll. And with Bradley Beal running the show, Bryant has thrived as Beal’s PnR partner. In the bubble, we’ve seen that it doesn’t need to be Beal handling the ball for Bryant to be effective as a screener and roller.
Now, Troy Brown Jr is the one orchestrating, but the results have been the same. Easy buckets for Bryant.
Byrant has developed that part of his game amazingly, and he will no doubt be doing it with Wall and Beal this upcoming season.
Bryant’s shooting ability, specifically his three-point shot, has been impressive. Bryant is shooting 39.3 percent from behind the arc this season and has made a point of adding the three to his game.
This season, Bryant is attempting 1.9 three-pointers per game. Last year, he averaged just 1.4 attempts. Bryant has confidence in his jumper. He doesn’t hesitate. He fires away.
Beal and Bryant have been a great duo. Bryant’s ability to play the pick and roll, along with his shooting ability, should make him a nice compliment alongside John Wall next season, too.
Moritz Wagner has shown tremendous growth in his basketball career, as well. Averaging 8.8 points and nearly 5.0 rebounds per game in the 2019-2020 season isn’t bad for a sophomore in the league. The numbers aren’t eye-popping at all, but he makes some impactful plays on the court if you follow him throughout the game.
While Bryant makes his mark almost exclusively on the offensive end, Moe has developed his defense. He doesn’t have the most blocks per game (0.4) or steals (0.6), either, but he’s a pesky irritant that always seems to fluster and disrupt opponents.
And he’s extraordinary at drawing charges. Wagner is currently tied as the NBA’s league leader in charges drawn per game.
The biggest attribute of Wagner is his hustle and toughness. Players with fewer minutes, they tend to try harder because they need to earn their minutes. Don’t get it wrong, both Bryant and Wagner have amazing hustle, but Wagner will do anything to make an impact – including sacrifice his body – and you can tell.
Wagner started half of the games this season (not including the bubble games), and his contract doesn’t expire until 2022. He’s only 23, so he, like Bryant, isn’t a finished product. But he’ll need to do more for the Wizards than just draw charges.
So, who’s better?
With discussions on whether the Wizards will pick center James Wiseman in the first round, it’s not certain if either Wagner or Bryant start or even be with the team next season. But Wiseman is far from guaranteed.
For me, Thomas has shown he is better overall with his stats and his extra year in Washington. Bryant also fits better around John Wall and Bradley Beal. We’ve seen him be successful in the pick and roll with Beal. There’s no reason to believe he can’t do that with Wall. And his ability to space the floor as a shooter opens things up for Wall and Beal to operate.
Don’t count out Wagner, though. The hustle and hard work will always win. And it won’t cost the Wizards much to keep him around. Even if the Wizards stick with Bryant, Wagner is a serviceable (and cheap) backup. He certainly plays hard.
It is great to have such depth in the center position. But one of these tow needs to separate themselves as a starter, or they’ll soon be replaced.
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