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Mailbag Answers Part 2: Going more in-depth on DeMarcus Cousins and whether Rui Hachimura can be a small forward

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I received more mailbag answers right as our initial answers came out. So here are some more detailed responses we received.

Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Lakers
DeMarcus Cousins seems to be the most sought after player for Wizards fans after area native Kevin Durant.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Hi all,

This is a continuation of our mailbag answers from last Friday, Oct. 16. I’m going to post the original questions from last Friday again and we also had some additional comments from our writers.

Hope you enjoy!

-Albert


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

Kevin Broom: Cousins is talented, but he’s suffered several major injuries. More importantly, Tommy Sheppard is trying to change the team’s culture and Cousins hasn’t made a reputation for maturity. I could see the Wizards talking with him, but I think they’d need convincing that he’s healthy, that he’ll accept a role and that he’s matured.

John Heiser: Kevin, I think health, his ability to start and finish a season, has finally over taken maturity. He wasn’t an issue in Golden State. He joined the Lakers to title chase and stuck around the team even after the injury.

What role would he expect in DC? That’s the unanswered question for me. It’s one thing to volunteer to take a step back for a Warriors team with rings. Be their Mo Speights 2.0 all the way to the Finals. Same for a Lakers team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Would he accept coming off the bench here and a minutes limit to preserve him for a full season?

With Tommy Sheppard preaching winning now we should at least get answers to those before writing the possibility off (as I have done every time the subject has come up until now). I just don’t think his body will hold up.

Alan Jenkins: Do we have to do this every offseason?

Albert: Yes Alan. DeMarcus Cousins, along with Kevin Durant are the co-MVPs of the “All-We Wish they were Wizards team.”

And for what it’s worth, we wrote at least THREE pieces on him this calendar year. Back in February, soon after Cousins was released by the Lakers, I explicitly wrote that the Wizards should NOT target him. This was also written before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the NBA season.

But in June, once it became clear that the Wizards would be part of the Orlando bubble, Matt Modderno wrote that Cousins should be a target anyway.

Even though he ultimately didn’t sign with any team for the bubble, I get why Cousins could have made sense for pre-playoff bubble play. It would have been a low-risk, high-reward move, especially if the Wizards decided to “make one last serious push” for the playoffs. That didn’t happen once Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans decided not to take part. And even if Cousins played for the Wizards in the bubble, I find it hard to see him re-signing with Washington next season anyway.

I think I’ve made it clear over the years that I was never in for Cousins playing for the Wizards. The stars never aligned just right for it to happen. And finally, if the Wizards did draft him anyway in 2010, it’s not like the Wizards’ trajectory would have been much better with him on the team.

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

Matt Modderno: 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.

Marcus Atkinson: Does anybody remember a few years ago when the Wizards tried to play Jared Dudley and Kris Humphries as the “stretch four”? Yeah and we saw how that turned out.

Listen, I know there are some who think Rui is a SF and that he can play that position, but just like we found out with the whole stretch four experiment a few years ago, you cannot force players in positions they are not capable of playing. Rui’s natural position at this point in the NBA is a power forward. He does not have the lateral quickness, the defensive awareness, nor the shooting range to be a viable option at SF.

It’s possible that he can be played there in spurts, and I would only recommend that if the match up warrants it, but I cannot imagine him playing SF much, especially if the team drafts a SF in the draft. There are better options at that position. Rui’s strengths are better suited at power forward and it seems based on how he has been used his rookie year, the team understands this.

Albert: I also agree that there’s no need to put a square peg into a round hole. Hachimura has been compared to Antawn Jamison who was a tweener forward and also played many years for the Wizards. But even Jamison wasn’t used that often at the three. So while Hachimura may get some minutes at small forward in large lineups, he will either have to improve his perimeter defense or his three point shooting to play more at that position in the long term.