Between the groans when the Washington Wizards signed Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith a few weeks ago to bolster their front court depth, there was one signing that drew a collective, "Oh, that was smart. I like that." from Wizards fans.
It was July 3 when The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Andrew Nicholson would be joining the Wizards on a four-year deal worth $26 million. That's an average of $6.5 a year for the four-year NBA veteran.
Truly blessed and honored to be part of the wizards organization! Thank you for this opportunity can't wait to be in uniform!— Andrew Nicholson (@nicholaf44) July 3, 2016
Nicholson seemed happy to join the Wizards, and Wizards fans appeared happy to have him aboard.
The 6-foot-9 St. Bonaventure grad is a versatile player who can play the four or the five and has improved his three-point shooting and rebounding, posting career-high numbers in those areas last season for the Orlando Magic.
Nicholson had a career-high this past season in three-point shooting percentage and total rebounds per game. How has Nicholson's role with the Magic changed from 2012 to 2016?
ZO: Throughout his time in Orlando, Nicholson's role was one that was pretty puzzling. After putting together a solid rookie season, Nicholson began working on expanding his game to the three-point line and things fell apart. He began camping out in the corners, and didn't take advantage of his silky smooth post game enough, which ultimately caused him to see a decline in minutes his third year.
His struggles on the defensive end didn't help him, but he showed an ability to impact the game offensively, which the team needed so desperately. This past season with Scott Skiles, he began working his way back into the rotation some, showing improvement on the defensive end, and finding a balance between shooting from range, and working in the post. But, with the other players the Magic had up front, it took away his opportunities and he saw inconsistent minutes -- some of this was also Skiles trying, and trying to find units that consistently worked well together.
So, in short, it went from solid role player who can score in many ways, to someone trying to fit into todays NBA, to a guy who scored in many ways, efficiently, and improved defensively, but never got the consistent time he needed.
Do you think that hiring Frank Vogel as a head coach impacted Orlando's decision to not offer him a qualifying offer?
ZO: No, I don't think the Vogel hiring had any effect on it. Aaron Gordon's emergence as the best power forward on the team last year, and then the acquisition of Serge Ibaka on draft night were the biggest reasons they didn't extend the qualifying offer. Plus, with the splash they wanted to make this summer, renouncing Andrew was something they needed to do to have the cap space necessary.
What did Magic fans love about Nicholson?
ZO: I think the biggest thing was his offensive game. He was so refined coming out of college on the block, and really showed that four-year guys can still be good at the next level. Add in his ability to step out and hit the 15-18 foot jumper and you had a really nice offensive player.
What did they hate?
ZO: I'm not sure if people hate him for it or not, but his struggles defensively and on the boards. He had a tendency to end up out of position at times, and would get beat too easily. He isn't the strongest player either, so he would get bullied some as well. Pairing him with a guy like Ian Mahinmi should work out well for the Wizards, though.
What's something most NBA fans don't know about Nicholson?
ZO: This might be a more known thing, but Nicholson graduated St. Bonaventure with a degree in physics. The guy is really, really smart and uses that to his advantage in knowing angles, heights and trajectories for his shot release.
Was playing with Elfrid Payton good for Nicholson?
ZO: Andrew didn't play with Elfrid a lot, but when he did, I think it might've some. Eflrid had some inconsistencies getting the ball into the post in good position, which hurt Nicholson's scoring chances at times, but they were able to push the pace some and find Andrew open looks there, and in the half-court with dribble penetration. I think having a more refined, top-level point guard in John Wall is going to help him a ton.
There is this Orlando Sentinel story where Jacque Vaughn calls Nicholson "YMCA." That seems like a bad nickname. Do people actually call him that?
ZO: Not to my knowledge, but you should. He really is like a player who should be playing in the old guys league at the local YMCA. He moves slow, but is crafty and does a lot, like some of the guys who play in those pickup games... Just a heck of a lot better.
Zach made a good point about Nicholson playing with Wall. Washington's point guard has a bit of a history making the players around him better. A quick dive into Basketball Reference will show several players who three-point percentages ballooned while they were catching passes from Wall.
Take Jared Dudley, for example. He hadn't shot more that 40 percent from behind the arc since the 2010-11 season. Before coming to Washington - in his two seasons combined with the Bucks and Clippers - Dudley shot around 37 percent. With the Wizards, he shot 42.0 percent, a high he hadn't hit since the 2009-10 season.
Garrett Temple, Gary Neal, Trevor Ariza, Drew Gooden - the list goes on.
If Nicholson shot 36 percent playing with Payton, Brandon Jennings, Shabazz Napier and CJ Watson, imagine what he'll shoot with Wall. Add in Nicholson's sometimes savvy skills in the post and the Wizards might have themselves a solid offensive contributor off the bench.
We won't really know if Nicholson was a good signing or not until he steps on the court. But on its face, with the price and the years, it seems like a good deal for the Wizards. Nicholson fills a need, as he is a versatile big man who can score inside and out. He averaged 3.7 more points per-36 minutes than Mahinmi did last season.
For whatever it's worth, the Warriors expressed interest in Nicholson before he signed with the Wizards.
The 26-year-old Nicholson is smart, an improving shooter, a decent rebounder and someone who should provide solid depth for the Wizards at the power forward position behind Markieff Morris. He might be a rich man's YMCA player, but if he can hit a few three-pointers and grab a few rebounds, it should help the Wizards win more than a few games.