No. 2 – Thomas Bryant
Thomas Bryant is entering the 2020-2021 season as the starting center for the Wizards. Washington picked Bryant up off waivers in 2018 after the Los Angeles Lakers released him. He’s on the second year of the three-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Wizards in the summer of 2019. His overall growth as a player since joining the team has been tremendous. Last season he averaged career-highs across the board with 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 46 total games played with 36 starts. Washington showed a lot of confidence in Bryant this offseason by making it clear to potential free agents that Bryant would be their starting five. Although many expected the Wizards to make a big frontcourt addition this offseason, they ended up signing 12-year veteran Robin Lopez, to a one-year deal for $7.3 million to be his backup.
The Wizards are betting on Thomas Bryant’s continued improvement. They’re also hoping Russell Westbrook will enhance Bryant’s strengths as he did with Steven Adams in Oklahoma City. Steven Adams played some of his best basketball alongside the former MVP. In their last season together (2018-2019), Adams averaged 13.9 points and 9.5 rebounds on 10.1 shot attempts per game. His numbers dropped last year playing with Chris Paul, who most people consider more of a true point guard than Westbrook. With CP3, Adams averaged 10.9 points and 9.3 rebounds on only 7.6 attempts per game. Russ’s natural talent to play above the rim at a high speed creates more scoring opportunities for big men around the basket.
Thomas Bryant will be the new recipient of Russ’s drop-off passes when he gets caught in the air between defenders. Last season, Bryant finished 78.5 percent of his field-goal attempts within 0-3 feet of the basket. This number will likely increase this year because Westbrook draws a lot more attention when he drives than any point guard that Bryant has ever played with, leaving Bryant with easy cleanup buckets around the rim.
Points inside the paint will be key, but it’s Bryant’s ability to stretch the floor that will make this pairing successful. Bryant averaged 2.0 three-point attempts each game last year and connected on 40.7 percent of them. Like Bertans, he’ll be able to feast off the drive and kick opportunities produced by Russell Westbrook.