The Washington Wizards are likely going to be in the market for a defensively-competent, veteran center. Someone that can clean up the boards and protect the rim. He also needs to be someone that they can sign to a reasonable, team-friendly contract. And being close to John Wall and Brad Beal’s age and timetable would be an added bonus.
On the latest episode of Bleav in Wizards, Larry Hughes and I went through each of the major candidates. We also did a deep-dive on Hassan Whiteside (15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3 blocks), one of the few guys that ticks a lot of the major boxes for the Wizards.
Yes, there are some potential red-flags with Whiteside but he led the league in blocks and has previously led the league in rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds he grabbed while on the court). The Wizards desperately need both of those things.
Toward the end of his run in Miami, Whiteside appeared to loaf on defense at times. But this past year in Portland the effort seemed more consistent. Perhaps Damian Lillard had a positive impact on him because it looked and sounded like he bought into what they were trying to do. Lillard routinely praised Whiteside’s effort on and off the court this year and I don’t see Lillard as the type to blow unwarranted smoke.
I was sitting courtside when the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Wizards in Washington this year and it was clear some of the Wizards were hesitant to drive on him. Just the theoretical notion of a deterrent under the basket would help the Wizards.
This is the point in the conversation where someone throws out a stat that we all only halfway understand to say how much better defensively Portland was with Jusuf Nurkic than Whiteside. Well, yeah, Nurkic is a better player at this point in their respective careers. But the Wizards can’t afford a Nurkic-type. And to be fair, most of the guys on the floor for the Blazers were subpar defenders this year and Whiteside helped keep them afloat while Nurkic was injured.
I’m not saying he’s prime Dikembe Mutombo but he would at least make opponents think twice about waltzing to the rim against the Wizards like they did last season. Whiteside doesn’t foul a ton, he’d be the best lob threat Wall has ever had, and he might be available for the mid-level exception.
For all these reasons, Whiteside seems to be a polarizing option for fans. Some are intrigued by the rebounding and blocked shots. Others are concerned about locker room rumblings from his time in Miami. To better understand him as a person and player, we had Whiteside’s prep school coach, Chris Chaney, on the show.
Chaney knows how Whiteside can contribute to winning because he was part of a 30+ win team for Chaney. Chaney’s coaching resume is unimpeachable. His understanding of the game and ability to motivate his players helped him become the youngest coach at any level to win 800 games, win several prep national championships, and win several national coach of the year awards. In other words, the guy knows basketball and he thinks the fit makes a lot of sense for both the Wizards and Whiteside.
If you’re on the fence about what Whiteside could bring to the Wizards, I would encourage you to listen to the whole interview before making up your mind. You’ll also hear a more thorough assessment of the other options likely on the Wizards’ radar. But here’s a short summary of the other guys who might also be in the mix.
Andre Drummond (18 points, 15 rebounds, 1.6 blocks)
This is the name I see most frequently from fans. I think a lot of the same concerns people have about Whiteside’s ability to impact winning could be said of Drummond, but I get the overall appeal. However, he’s poised to make close to $30 million next season. Odds are he opts into his contract to stay in Cleveland.
Montrezl Harrell (19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block)
Harrell’s play in the bubble probably lowered his market value a bit but at only 26-years-old someone will still throw money at him. Undersized at 6-7, he’s probably not the defensive presence the Wizards are looking for anyway.
Serge Ibaka (15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block)
Ibaka’s game makes sense for the Wizards on paper. He blocks shots, is more switchable than most centers, and he hits close to 40% of his threes. He would also provide a championship mindset to the team.
The issue is going to be the contract. If he signs a short deal, it’ll likely be outside the Wizards’ price range. To lure him to Washington, the Wizards might have to offer an extra year. That would commit them to him well into his twilight years. How many more high-level years does he have left?
Tristan Thompson (12 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block)
Thompson isn’t a prototypical shot-blocker but his activity and positioning would still be a defensive upgrade for the Wizards. He has the lateral quickness to guard in space better than most of the names on this list. He also has a championship pedigree and the Wizards could use a veteran with a history of winning. If the price is right, Hughes and I both think Thompson would be a solid complement next to Thomas Bryant. He’s not someone I would overpay to lure to Washington, however.
Aron Baynes (11.5 points, 6 rebounds, .5 blocks)
Baynes is a solid defender who can also stretch the floor. He seems like less of a slam-dunk (pun intended) starting center at this point in his career and more of a situational option. At 33, he’s slowing down and his shooting tapered off the second half of last season (finished at 35% from three). But those things might make him an affordable change-of-pace addition to the center rotation.
Derrick Favors (9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block)
Favors is more of a throwback big. He doesn’t really stretch the floor and he isn’t exactly switchable. But he’s a solid veteran who would raise the Wizards floor defensively. The price will likely be right too. Expect to hear his name at least tied to Washington.
Who do you think is the most realistic option for the Wizards? Who on this list would you most like to see in a Wizards uniform next year? Let us know in the comments!