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November mailbag answers: Onyeka Okongwu, Wizards coaching staff changes and valuing the players

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Let’s get this mailbag out of the way, which is in a tight squeeze before the draft.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
No, Scott Brooks isn’t on the immediate hot seat. But perhaps there could be some changes to the assistants.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you all for your questions in this month’s mailbag. Admittedly, the answers I have here could be VERY different in a matter of hours when the NBA Draft happens this evening.

Selected questions are below. Thanks again and we’ll have another mailbag in mid-December, before the regular season starts!


Could Onyeka Okongwu play next to Thomas Bryant in some lineups? That is the key to his value. (DCrez, comments)

I think so. Bryant has emerged to become a solid scoring center since his individual offensive rating has been at or close to 130 in each of the last two seasons. That said, his defense hasn’t been good to say the least. Okongwu has a lot of work to do to improve his offense, but he is the type of defense-first post player whom Washington needs to mask at least some of Bryant’s weaknesses there.

Last offseason, there were a lot of trades made by the front office in spite of limited cap space flexibility. Do you see Tommy Sheppard being as active this offseason? (gavalon55, comments)

I don’t see the Wizards making too many moves that alter the balance of the team too much at the top. The reserves however, could see some changes. I can see them trading their first round draft pick tonight to get Okongwu. Washington will find it difficult to get Russell Westbrook though he played for Scott Brooks with the Thunder, unless Westbrook specifically wants to play for the Wizards of course.

Should the Wizards get Deni Avdija at No. 9 if he’s available? (Monroemania1966, comments)

They should consider him. That’s even considering that Kevin Broom, Diamond Holton and I decided to pick Tyrese Haliburton instead despite the Maccabi Tel Aviv forward being available to us in a mock draft.

Also, as Ben Mehic noted, there are no true “bad” options for the Wiards this year given their draft position.

What value do you think the Wizards could get back if they move Davis Bertans in a sign and trade? (Jimmy, email)

I’m not the biggest trade machine fanatic, but John Heiser did examine a deal where Washington did just that earlier this week were they would acquire Jerami Grant from the Nuggets for Bertans in a three team deal that also includes the Pistons. Washington does lose one of the best shooters in the NBA, but they will get a strong defender with playoff experience.

If you were GM how would you manage the assets of this team with the expectation that you keep Bradley Beal at all costs? (Perm)

If I’m trying to keep Beal and label him as untouchable, then everyone else, including John Wall is expendable at the right price, though it’s really difficult to see how such a deal can happen until we see him play a few games. Still, there are some players who are higher priorities.

For young players like Rui Hachimura and the No. 9 pick for this year, I would hold onto them barring a situation where a superstar requests to come to Washington. Bryant, even with his defensive shortcomings, is serviceable given his scoring ability, so he should remain for this season, barring a deal for a better defender at his position.

And regarding Davis Bertans, he must get an extension for two years. A one-year extension could just encourage Bertans to just go stat hunting for his next contract, all during a year where the Wizards are trying to see if the Beal and Wall backcourt can work out, one last time.

In reality, I do think the Wizards should listen to offers for Beal because his value is probably not going to be any higher than it is right now. It’s more likely than not that the Wizards will have to do a massive rebuild, something Beal would probably not want to be part of.

Do you see the Wizards helping facilitate trades or taking on salary for assets like they did last year? Or does John Wall’s return change the Wizards’ mindset? (Jimmy, email)

I think Wall’s return and Beal’s desire to play on a winning team in the short term make the Wizards a team that is more reluctant to take on salary with players who aren’t going to do much anyway. As I said in the last question, I think the Wizards are going to do a long term rebuild sooner rather than later, so they probably will be more open to such deals if or when they trade Beal.

What are the chances we get an upgrade on the (assistant) coaching staff, especially on defense? (Passing Time2, comments)

I’m not sure how much of a change can be done when Scott Brooks is on the last year of his contract this season. There haven’t been any major changes to the staff, though I see that Kristi Toliver isn’t listed.

Monumental Basketball, the umbrella organization that oversees the Wizards’, Mystics’ and Go-Go’s shared services however, did make additions with their Athlete Care & Performance group in an announcement yesterday.

They include Dr. Michael Ashton and Dr. Michael Davis, both of whom who worked for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooks’ previous team before heading to Washington. Adam Petway is the third addition, where he will be the Director of Athletic Performance.