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April mailbag answers Part 1: Staying put with Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura’s future and 2020 NBA Draft strategy

Here is the first part of our mailbag answers

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards
Davis Bertans is still with the Washington Wizards after the trade deadline. With next year’s salary cap likely going down, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back ... if he wants a big day.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you all for submitting your questions for April’s mailbag. After compiling everyone’s answers, this post would have ended up being quite long so I’m dividing this into multiple parts. The first part of our answers to selected questions are below:

Was it INSANE to not trade Davis Bertans at the deadline? (jmpalomo)

Yanir Rubinstein: Totally. I think I wrote about this in a previous mailbag. Not much more I can add at this point except this.

Next season, the salary cap will go down due to the pandemic and last October’s Chinese conflict it will be even harder then I originally thought to retain him and add meaningful pieces around him, John Wall, and Bradley Beal.

Do you think the Wizards intend to develop Rui Hachimura into a small forward? Is he capable of that and is that a good path for his game? (athlete’sfeat)

Alan Jenkins: Tommy Sheppard can be excited about Hachimura’s potential but I’m not buying much stock in that quote. In order for Rui to thrive as a 3, he’ll need to greatly improve his shooting as well as his perimeter defense, not to mention, playmaking with the ball in his hands.

Sure, it’s possible that Hachimura can make that jump. But I think his skill set is best suited where he’s playing - as a power forward and sometimes as a small-ball center. It would be a very welcomed surprise if Rui turns out to be a player anywhere in the neighborhood of Kawhi Leonard but Hachimura is showing that he’s capable of being a rotational power forward, and time will tell if he can be more. But I think the power forward spot is where he’s best suited playing.

How important is prioritising defence in the draft and free agency? Would you make any drastic moves to improve defensively? (BulletofAus)

Marcus Atkinson: This offseason is going to be huge for determining where the Wizards will be defensively for years to come. Consider this, the Wizards signed assistant coach Michael Longabardi in late July of last year after much of their roster was already in place. They haven’t had the opportunity to build a roster that reflects his philosophies.

This offseason will be huge because the Wizards will have a high draft pick, which is something that they haven’t had in years (albeit in what is considered a weak draft). Fortunately for the Wizards this year’s draft is littered with some centers with defensive potential (i.e. James Wiseman, Daniel Oturu, Onyeka Okongwu) that could become anchors for the defense. To top it off, you have a young roster with players like Hachimura, Issac Bonga, and Troy Brown Jr, who will continue to grow in that area. But adding more players around them in free agency, especially ones that buy in to Longabardi’s style should help.

Outside of those things, I don’t think there isn’t anything drastic you can do. There are some players that I believe are redundant on the roster that they probably should consider moving.

I think Moritz Wagner is a good low post defender, but I am not sure I would trust him if he is switched on to a guard on the perimeter. The same with Thomas Bryant (his low post defense isn’t that great either), so at some point you have to find players on the roster who compliment each other better on both sides of the court. I can also say the same for at other positions on the team.

Overall much of this roster was strong on the offensive side, taking a few of those players off the roster and adding better defenders, even if their offensive games aren’t that great, should help improve the defense. All of those things with a healthy John Wall should help bring this team back to at least a respectable level on defense.

Yanir: Marcus, these are great points, but, how do you explain Beal was actually, statistically one of the team’s worst defenders (and so was Wall in his injured seasons)? I understand Longabardi had to live with Isaiah Thomas, but if his defensive philosophy was being heard by Brooks, why did they even start IT and give him so many minutes even when it was clear he isn’t contributing on D?

The real answer is: yes, in free agency one should go out and get Kenny Atkinson, who has proven success on defense. Of course, that won’t happen since Brooks and Sheppard have the same agent.

I keep reading that the era of the dominant PG has ended. Much the way teams no longer rely on dominant centers. Supposedly replaced by big multi-role players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic. Agree? (Samson 151)

Matt Silich: This is an interesting question because I’m not certain that the era of the dominant point guard ever began. We’ve seen plenty of incredible guards in the league recently to be sure, but how many teams have actually won the title when their point guard was their best player? The 2015 Warriors are really the only example since 2000 that is a 100% lock. Beyond that, only the other Warriors teams and the 2004 Pistons are even candidates for consideration.

In reality, big, versatile players have ruled the NBA since the early 2000s, as you noted. Go back through recent champions and try to find one whose best player wasn’t either a big guard or a small forward: The only teams that don’t check this box since 2005 are the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs (outside of 2014).

What does this all mean for the Wizards? Well, it’s certainly worth considering that for as many good memories as we have of Wall and Beal, those two are unlikely to ever elevate Washington to title contention without a bigger ball-handling wing in the fold. I think most of us already knew that — and Washington can still be plenty good with these two running things — but the reality is more stark when you lay it out like that.

The second part of our mailbag answers will come out on Saturday!