After signing a big contract this offseason, Davis Bertans has had a slow start to the season. The Washington Wizards need him to get back on track ASAP.
One of the hottest topics in the world of Washington Wizards basketball last season was what the Wiz planned on doing with sharpshooter Davis Bertans.
Last season was a career year for Davis as he shot a blistering 42 percent from three and made a name for himself as one of the best shooters in the league. Only he, Damian Lillard, and Duncan Robinson shot over 40 percent from three with at least eight attempts per game last season.
After deciding not to trade Bertans at the deadline, the Wizards had to decide how much he was worth this past offseason. They decided it was worth shelling out $80 million over five years to keep him around.
Although the price tag was not cheap, bringing Bertans back wasn’t an unpopular move. Considering the cap situation, re-signing Bertans was a winning move. But only if they got the same Bertans they got last season.
However, unfortunately for everyone involved, Bertans isn’t the same. He is shooting just 34 percent from the field and 33 percent from three, and it’s putting the Wizards in a tricky situation.
Davis Bertans and his conditioning…
It has been well documented that Davis Bertans came into camp in poor shape. Due to COVID-19, Bertans had trouble working out in his home country of Lativa and then had visa issues when trying to return to the US. Between not having enough people to participate in full basketball workouts over in Latvia and showing up late to training camp, it was an uphill battle for Bertans. This is not necessarily on Davis, though, as the Wizards expected this coming into camp.
The other issue that hit Bertans and his conditioning was that he himself got COVID-19. He was one of the six players from the Wizards who tested positive and had to miss almost a month of action. That layoff also delayed his return to top shape.
Given all the factors at play, many of them out of Bertans’ control, it’s no surprise he’s not in the best shape of his life. However, he needs to find a way to get it together. The Wizards have already played more than 20 games this season. They can’t continue to wait for things to get better.
Davis Bertans and his contract…
In most cases, when a player is so obviously out of shape, I would endorse a minutes reduction. Let them get back in shape on the practice floor instead of jeopardizing the team in games.
The issue for the Wizards and Davis Bertans stems from the fact that they owe him $80 million over the next five years. Certain owners *cough cough* do not like the idea of that much money sitting on the bench. In shape or not, Bertans is technically on the active roster. The thought process seems to be, ‘If we’re paying him $16 million a season, he better be on the court.’
A similar thought process was used in 2017 when Ian Mahinmi signed his large contract (four years, $64 million). Mahinmi worked his way back from an injury but played a lot of minutes and flat out didn’t look right when declared healthy. It’s hard having that much money just sitting on your bench, I guess, even if playing time means more losing.
Davis Bertans and the Washington Wizards playoff hopes…
Terrible start or not, it seems that the Wizards are hellbent on competing for the 8th seed (again). Coaching staffs and Front Offices will almost always defer to vets in situations of desperation, and that’s exactly what is going on here (again).
If the Wizards were tanking, they could play the long game with Bertans and let him get back into shape, start knocking down shots again, and then potentially even look to trade him.
But between wanting to win now and feeling like they need to play Bertans because of his large contract, Bertans will see the floor, and he will see the floor a lot. Even if that means taking minutes from some of the young prospects as he works his way into shape. That was the case when Bertans was a starter (for the first time since December 21, 2019) over Deni Avdija in the Wizards’ 105-101 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Regardless of the Wizards’ plan, whether they decide to blow it up or double down, they need Bertans to get right. Hopefully, he can either help the Wizards turn things around or, at the very least, play well enough to build some trade value. Because Bertans was signed as a free agent last offseason, he is not trade-eligible until March 2.
These are the type of dangerous games you have to play when you do not really have a plan moving forward, and the desperation of competing for the playoffs gets in your way. If the Wizards want to reach their ceiling, they’ll need the best version of Bertans they can get. But to get that, they’re suffering through some out-of-shape losses in the meantime.
Hopefully, both Bertans and the Wizards can get on the right track, because frankly, they do not really have a choice.