Washington Wizards: 4 Players with something to prove this preseason

Washington Wizards. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The NBA preseason is here. It’s the last chance for the Washington Wizards to figure things out before the regular season starts. Here’s who needs to step up.

Preseason basketball? In December? Yes, that’s right. The Washington Wizards will play their first of three preseason games on December 13 when they visit the Brooklyn Nets. They follow that matchup with two games vs. the Detroit Pistons on December 17 and 19. Then, we head right into the 72-game sprint that is the 2020-21 season. Folks, the NBA is back.

As the Wizards enter their preseason slate, they already have most of their starting lineup figured out. Russell Westbrook will hold down the point guard position, Bradley Beal will start at shooting guard, and Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will man the frontcourt at power forward and center, respectively. That only leaves the starting small forward position up for grabs.

However, even though only one starting spot is undecided, there are plenty of Wizards entering the preseason with something to prove. Here are four Washington Wizards who need to show us something this preseason.

Thomas Bryant

As the Washington Wizards entered free agency, many expected them to shop for a center who could challenge Thomas Bryant. The Wizards had other plans, though, and brought in Robin Lopez. Lopez is a 12-year vet, and you don’t last that long by bringing nothing to the table, but Lopez won’t challenge Thomas Bryant for the starting spot. According to coach Scott Brooks, Bryant “earned the right” to be the team’s starting center.

Is he right, though? Bryant was good last season, but not great. Last season, Bryant averaged the most minutes per game of his career, 24.9. As a result, his average points per game increased slightly, up from 10.5 to 13.2 points, but he dipped in many other areas. In a larger role in his second season with the Wizards, Bryant’s true shooting percentage, total rebounding percentage, and block percentage decreased while his turnover percentage jumped.

Bryant was dealing with a right foot injury, which may have been the reason for his uninspiring play during most of the regular season. Once he was healthy in the bubble, though, Bryant showed out. During the final stretch of the season in Orlando, Bryant averaged 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game while holding opponents to 45.4 percent shooting and posting a true shooting percentage of 62. Was the bubble a fluke? Or the real Thomas Bryant? We’ll see soon enough.