Scott Brooks said on Monday he’s going to stick with Bobby Portis as the starter at center, in spite of Thomas Bryant’s impressive performance off the bench in Saturday’s loss to the Pacers.
If this is strictly a basketball decision, it’s not a great one. Bryant has had his ups and downs as a second-year player, but he’s been more productive than Portis as a scorer, rebounder, and defender this season. Portis has his moments where he’s useful in certain matchups, but on the whole, Bryant has been the better option.
But as the Wizards shift out of win-now mode and start assessing the future, it’s important to get a full picture of what you have. Washington already has plenty of data on Thomas Bryant. They don’t have a lot with Portis, and up until Saturday, most of it came with Washington’s hodge-podge collection of reserves that was thrown together after their dealings at the trade deadline. The only way Washington is going to get a sense of how Portis fits is to see how he works alongside Bradley Beal.
The early results have been respectable. They’ve outscored opponents by 3 points in their 127 minutes together. That might not sound like much, but keep in mind they’ve been outscored by 19 in the 161 minutes they have not been on the floor together, and that Beal and Bryant have been a -17 in the 109 minutes they’ve played together since the Porter trade.
Those numbers will surely fluctuate more over the final weeks of the season, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be about picking a winner. In today’s NBA, there are very few centers that work in all situations. Teams have to take a platoon approach to cover all their bases. Portis is essentially a younger, less foul prone version of what they had with Markieff Morris as their switchy stretch five, and Bryant can be the new Gortat who set hard screens, scores effectively around the rim, and hangs with league’s bruisers in the paint. If Washington can figure out how to deploy both players in the right situations, it will put the debate over who should start to rest, even if it means changing the answer as needed.