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December Mailbag Answers: Improving the Wizards’ future this season and the draft and Mystics questions

We answer your questions in regard to the Washington Mystics and Wizards for December 2019.

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards
Let’s get to your questions!
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Thank you for your questions in the December 2019 mailbag. The answers to selected questions are below. If we weren’t able to get to you this month, there’s always January 2020!

What should the Wizards draft strategy be like? (Comment byRook6980)

Ben Mehic: Have you seen this roster? With all due respect to the players on the team, the Wizards can’t afford to be picky during the draft. Take the best player available, figure out the fit later.

If that happens to be a shooting guard -- so be it. Successful teams have one thing in common: they have productive players. The Wizards need more of those, regardless of position.

Washington’s “biggest need” is probably at the wing. Troy Brown has the potential to fill that need, but he hasn’t proved himself to be indispensable yet. But no matter what, the Wizards should take the best player available, no matter what position he’s slotted in.

Do you think any of the front office/coach acquisitions that the Wizards obtained administratively (like Dean Oliver) have helped the team? (Comment by jayscott)

Yanir Rubinstein: First, let’s not overlook the main FO acquisition: Tommy Sheppard. I wrote last summer that Hachimura was a good pick, and indeed he is now in the discussion for the All-Rookie team.

He is also a valuable marketing asset as the Wizards become “Japan’s team”, so altogether this has been a very good move and credit is due to Sheppard.

It’s hard to say whether a particular front office person has influenced a particular side of the team’s game: e.g., in my interview with Assistant GM Larry Harris of the Golden State Warriors he specifically said things are “teamwork” in the FO level. But I certainly believe Dean Oliver has had a positive effect on the efficiency of players like IT and Bertans.

What is our biggest problem on the defensive end? Isaiah Thomas hasn’t played so we can’t blame him. Do we even have one player that is a positive defender? (Comment by AlwaysPositiveWizardsFan)

BM: The biggest problem is quite troublesome -- the Wizards don’t have plus defenders. Right now, it looks like Troy Brown is getting the toughest perimeter assignments. That’s not ideal because he’s getting the first real NBA minutes of his career this season.

Bradley Beal expends too much energy on the offensive side of the floor to be asked to be a lock-down defender. And the big men aren’t anchors, either. You answered your own question -- the team doesn’t have plus defenders on the roster.

You can preach effort and hustle all you want, but if the players are outmatched, they’re outmatched. There’s no pep talk that can change that.

What should the Mystics do in order to prepare for the end of older players’ careers like Kristi Toliver and Latoya Sanders? Do you think they’ll prefer to draft and develop or trade/FA signing to stay constantly competitive? (Florian Madarusz via Twitter)

Albert Lee: The Mystics can lean toward younger players to fill in holes from their older veterans right now. Natasha Cloud figures to be the full-time starting point guard (once again) sooner rather than later with Toliver entering the twilight of her career. Ariel Atkins also figures to have a larger role along with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.

In the frontcourt, Myisha Hines-Allen had some bright moments in the 2019 WNBA season and should figure to get more minutes behind Sanders next season. Tianna Hawkins should also have a bigger role as well.

For now, I’m assuming that Emma Meesseman isn’t returning to Washington next season, given how Europeans generally are in Olympic seasons. Belgium’s likely in the Olympics, which hurts the Mystics’ chances of getting her back. The next WNBA CBA is something we can hedge on for Meesseman to be the franchise player sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely there will be much change with the way the W regards European players.

Is Rui Hachimura better suited for SF or PF? (multiple commenters)

Matt Silich: To me, this is a no-brainer. Hachimura is best suited to be a power forward in the long term. We have seen him play small forward (29 percent per Basketball Reference), power forward (69 percent) and center (2 percent) this year, and I think the distribution Scott Brooks has used thus far is about right.

Hachimura has neither the long-range shooting (21 percent from 3) nor the agility to hang with modern small forwards. At the 4, he is better positioned to set screens and become a mismatch threat in the post, where he could have some real value down the line. Hachimura will also likely be less taxed defensively, especially if the Wizards can find a strong defensive wing with whom he can pair.

To go one step further on this, I would love to see the Wizards take some inspiration from how Atlanta is using Jabari Parker right now as they plot a course for Hachimura’s career. Screen-and-roll, punish mismatches, hit the occasional shot, become a secondary playmaker -- these are all ways that Rui can become his best self.

Are there moves the Mystics could do to counter the Stewie/Bird SEA return or Stanley departure? (@TheSkyShowCHI on Twitter)

AL: I think the Mystics need to just continue improving the development of their younger players like Ariel Atkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Kiara Leslie, the latter of whom was unable to play last season.

And sorry to play a broken record, but getting an in-prime Emma Meesseman back and making her a true central part of their team is going to be essential to their championship hopes in 2020. Since the WNBA’s players have been lukewarm about international players’ desires to this point, I’m not confident that that’s going to happen.

What is happening at the C spot going forward? Which centers should stay, and which one would hold greater trade value for the rest of the season? (Comment by his_airness)

Alan Jenkins: The Wizards are in a good position at the center spot. If Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner can return to the court soon and stay healthy, Washington may have found their center rotation for years to come courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers - not to mention, both are on very economically friendly deals.

Bryant hasn’t taken as big of a step forward as most people hoped for coming into the season but has still proven to be a solid starter. Meanwhile, Wagner caught everyone by surprise much like Bryant did last year with his terrific play thus far off the bench in the backup center spot.

I don’t think too many teams will be calling about either of these guys at the deadline but assuming they’re both healthy, Bryant will likely garner more phone calls. There’s also light at the tunnel as Ian Mahinmi’s deal comes off the books at the end of this year.

Any news on the recovery of last year’s first round pick for the Mystics and how she will fit in the rotation? With the Olympic year upcoming, how will that impact WNBA schedule and availability of our players like Emma Meesseman? (Alianté Keels via Twitter)

AL: I haven’t seen much with Kiara Leslie, but I assume she’ll be a third wing in the rotation next season.

With the Olympics next season, we’ll first have to see if Meesseman and Kim Mestdagh can lead Belgium to Tokyo in Feburary, which we will cover by the way. Assuming Belgium makes the Olympics, we can safely assume that neither will play for Washington in the 2020 season until the post-Olympic part.

Who are the top ten picks in the 2019 NBA draft? The Wizards are getting a top 10 pick so...who are the top 10 players? (Comment by jayscott)

Albert Lee: According to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated and Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation, this draft class looks thin. Admittedly, I haven’t watched too much college basketball just yet, but here’s SI’s Draft Board in the meantime. In weak classes, the rankings could be a bit more fluid than last year when Zion Williamson was the runaway top prospect. So let’s see how the current college basketball season plays out for the moment.