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October Mailbag Answers: NBA free agency, Wizards player workouts, the Mystics trajectory and more

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Here are our answers to the October 2020 mailbag.

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers
John Wall has been working out and looking to regain his All-Star form. Can other Wizards players look to make similar improvements too?
Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you for your questions to the October 2020 mailbag. We will hold our next mailbag in mid-November. The answers are below!


What is the status of Garrison Mathews? (janitorwithajumpshot, comments)

Kevin Broom: No one has confirmed a reason for Mathews not participating in the bubble. Rumors of COVID-19 infection are just that — rumors. There’s some chatter about the Wizards front office being unhappy with him opting out, which I could argue is either plausible or implausible depending on my mood. Regardless, the Wizards should re-sign him and bring him back next season, whenever that is.

How difficult will it be for the Mystics to bring back their free agents? (Florian Madarasz, email)

Ian Decker: As all championship teams learn, the salary cap is not your friend.

Players in need of re-signing include: Tina Charles, Tianna Hawkins, Emma Meesseman and Aerial Powers. Charles is expected to re-sign, and things are hopeful for both Hawkins and Powers. The question mark is Meesseman.

With a tight salary cap, Thibault will have to get creative. Assuming Meesseman is back in 2021, and hopefully she will be, the Mystics should be among the title contenders. With Tina Charles (31), Natasha Cloud (28 years old), Elena Delle Donne (31) and LaToya Sanders (34) all returning, the Mystics gain proven veterans. In all likelihood, someone will have to take less than a maximum salary.

Who are the future all-stars in this draft? I don’t see many. (ThelastFry, comments)

Matt Modderno: I don’t see many obvious, no-brainer future All-Stars. Although, I would expect several surprise prospects to end up being All-Star caliber players. In fact, if a lot of the second rounders ended up more successful than many of the first rounders it wouldn’t surprise me. There are just so many “ifs” here that are hard to account for. If RJ Hampton becomes a good shooter, he could be an All-Star.

If LaMelo Ball plays any defense and shoots at a reasonable level, he could be an All-Star. If Anthony Edwards works on shot selection and brings consistent effort, he could be an All-Star. If Patrick Williams shows a killer instinct and the skills to be a primary offensive option, he could be an All-Star. If Jaden McDaniels studies the Jonathan Isaac work plan and stays healthy, he could be an All-Star. The draft is always about projection but that seems even tougher this year than normal. Missing out on the NCAA tournament probably plays into that a lot.

Kevin: This year’s draft is like any other — if the top five players were missing. While none of the prospects jump out as future All-Stars, someone will break through. My guess is that the prospects with the best chances of making an All-Star game are LaMelo Ball, Onyeka Okongwu and Tyrese Haliburton, who rate at the top in my stat-based draft analysis. I wouldn’t be shocked if a skilled offensive player like Obi Toppin made it a time or two as well.

Yanir Rubinstein: There will be a few, for sure. I’d bet on one of Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija, Theo Maledon, and Leandro Bolmaro. Let’s meet for that beer in a decade. The big question for next year is, will John Wall be an All-Star again?

What are the odds we pursue someone like Demarcus Cousins in free agency? (ALAddison93, comments)

Ben Mehic: At this point, I’m convinced we’ll have a #DMCtoDC story every season until DeMarcus Cousins retires — and even then, a story might somehow surface.

Cousins has suffered the worst injuries in the sport — a torn achilles, torn ACL and a torn quad. Any comparison to Dwight Howard is unfair. Howard was — and is — one of the most athletic big men to ever touch a basketball. Cousins was quite the opposite. Washington already has a massive question mark on their roster in John Wall and can’t afford to use another roster spot on someone with a completely uncertain future.

Signing Cousins would be similar to signing Isaiah Thomas, and look how that worked out. So, the odds — I’d say they’re slim.

Yanir: At a non-guaranteed minimum contract? Sure. At a guaranteed contract? Not negligible, actually! I’d say it would be a good marketing move, which is right up Sheppard’s alley.

Who among the Wizards players is making the most impressive effort to improve their game during this long break, besides John Wall and Bradley Beal? (germiller, comments)

Matt: I expect a much improved Thomas Bryant next year. He’s working out with Rico Hines again this summer and Hines really puts players through the paces. If you’re not familiar with Hines, he’s worth a google search.

I interviewed him several years ago and was really impressed by the level of work he got guys to put in. Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook have all made appearances in his summer pick-up games. But Hines got his real start helping hone the games of people Baron Davis and Trevor Ariza. A lot of gritty players have come through those runs and hopefully that rubs off on Bryant.

Yanir: Troy Brown. He needs to do well if this team wants to have a playoff berth. And besides, he needs to start working towards his next contract.

Will Rui Hachimura play small forward next season? (GreatWallofWizards)

Matt: Personally, I hope he doesn’t unless he’s made miraculous improvements on the defensive side. John Wall, despite averaging a lot of steals, was a largely indifferent defender even before the Achilles injury. The same mostly goes for Bradley Beal. They were at their best when they had a lockdown wing defender like a Trevor Ariza to complement them. I think Hachimura can play some small forward but for the Wizards to be successful in the postseason I don’t think they can bank on Hachimura being their crunch-time small forward.

Kevin: According to Basketball-Reference, Hachimura played about 22% of his minutes at SF last season. I’d expect him to start at PF, but that he’ll get minutes at SF throughout the year.

Has the Mystics’ championship window closed because they are older (and probably not as talented) as the Seattle Storm? (multiple emails)

Ian: It hasn’t closed in the least, and Albert is a bit pessimistic with the outlook. Seattle is in a precarious situation right now, having to decide between committing to their stars or maintaining the integrity of its depth. Make no mistake, Seattle will rightfully be title contenders next year, but sleeping on the Mystics would be foolish. It will be a big offseason for Coach/GM Mike Thibault, who has several big-name free agents to re-sign which I mentioned in a previous question. If they are mostly re-signed, the Mystics will be in good shape to contend.

Albert: I answered this in a previous post, more or less. I think the Mystics have one or two more years to make a serious run with their current core players, if they mostly return which Ian wrote in more detail above.

The Mystics will not be in complete rebuild mode in 2022, but you can expect to see Atkins and Hines-Allen to play much bigger roles while some familiar veterans including Meesseman, Charles, Sanders and Tianna Hawkins move on with their professional careers due to salary cap constraints.

Why will Jalen Smith will be the best player in this draft class? (sheedali)

Matt: I don’t think Smith will be the best but many evaluators see him as one of the safest. This draft has more players with major question marks than most drafts and much of their success will be dependent on the situation they’re drafted into. Smith seems like he has a high likelihood of success regardless of situation because almost every team could benefit from someone of his archetype (3-and-D power forward).

Smith would be useful to raise the floor of a rebuilding team and he would provide depth to bolster the rotation of a contending team. Being viewed as a relatively safe pick in a draft filled with uncertainty is probably the main reason why he has been gaining steam over the last few months.