Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, NBA teams will be allowed to bring 17 players with them to Orlando to complete the season. Players on two-way contracts will be included in that total.
Let’s assume that Garrison Mathews and Johnathan Williams, who are two-way contracts for the Wizards, will be included. Assuming John Wall is inactive as has been repeatedly reported, that should leave the Wizards with one open roster spot (although math has never been my strong suit).
Larry Hughes and I discussed what to do with this final roster spot in our most recent episode of the Bleav in Wizards podcast. We both feel that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the team to add an older veteran who likely wouldn’t factor into their plans beyond this year. That would eliminate higher-profile names like Pau Gasol, Jamal Crawford, JR Smith, and Joe Johnson.
Our rationale was that it makes a lot more sense to use this as a chance to audition players for next season. That would limit them to current free agents with untapped upside that were either recent NBA cuts or played overseas prior to the pandemic.
The Wizards have also not been shy about exploring G League options so there are some names on the Capital City Go-Go that they should definitely consider. Larry felt it would be a real advantage to have someone familiar with the organization and their system filling that last spot.
DeMarcus Cousins is the marquee name of this bunch and has to be someone that Tommy Sheppard and his staff at least discuss. He and John Wall have said on multiple occasions that they would like to eventually play together. By all accounts, Cousins has been a good citizen and teammate in places where he has respected the players around him. That would surely be the case with Wall.
With the reasonable expectation that he isn’t a distraction, you limit much of the potential risk factor in signing Cousins. Sure, there’s no guarantee he will make his way back from injury but now seems like a good opportunity to see what he looks like in a limited sample size. Worst-case scenario, if he doesn’t fit it in or isn’t mostly recovered, then it was only an 8-game tryout.
The reward here is much higher than any potential risk. Cousins was an All-NBA caliber player when he was at his best. Even if he’s only 70-percent of the player he used to be, that might still be enough to make a difference at a position of need for the Wizards.
If the Wizards opt to add a big-man that isn’t Cousins, Jordan Bell seems to make a good deal of sense. He’s got size and could bring some athleticism to the Wizards’ frontcourt. I’m higher on Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner than most but neither of them are passing it off the backboard to themselves for dunks.
Just prior to the suspension of play, the Wizards added Bell to their G League roster. Clearly, that’s a sign that they like him enough to at least merit consideration. The fact that Bell won an NBA Championship with the Warriors and has seen what a successful organization looks like can’t hurt either.
If the Wizards don’t try to add a center, adding another wing would be a good call. Dekker was a first-round pick and has played for the Wizards already. He’s a good athlete, has a good feel for the game, could defend multiple positions, and provide another athlete in transition.
The only thing holding Dekker back in his previous NBA stints has been his inconsistency from the three-point line. We had Dekker on an earlier episode of Bleav in Wizards and he felt like being moved around so much early in his career prevented him from being comfortable. I think we as fans often underrate the importance of giving a prospect enough time to settle in and carve out their role.
Being in a city long enough to earn the confidence of the coaching staff goes a long way and Dekker kept finding himself in yearly trades. For instance, he spoke about how he was always worried that Doc Rivers would bench him if he missed a shot in Los Angeles. He also understood perimeter shooting is the main factor standing in the way of him and a long, productive NBA career. Accordingly, he seemed to be hard at work to remedy the problem. This might be a good opportunity for the Wizards to buy low.
He’s smart, he’s gritty, he likes to defend, and he’s a good athlete on the wing. These were all factors that led to the Wizards having Anderson at training camp this past season. Unfortunately, for Anderson, the Wizards were looking to give most of the wing minutes to their young options to help fast-forward their development.
Similar to Dekker, Anderson just hasn’t been able to shoot the ball well enough from the perimeter to find a long-term home in the NBA. Anderson averaged about 21 points and 7 rebounds in the G League this year and managed to shoot a decent 35 percent from three-point range.
He isn’t going to change the balance of power in the Eastern Conference but he could give them the small forward version of Gary Payton II down the stretch. At only 26-years-old, he’s still young enough to expect some modest improvement, especially on the offensive end.
Jalen Jones was one of the most effective players on the Capital City Go-Go this season. He averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds while shooting almost 37 percent from three. When I asked Go-Go coach Ryan Richman about him earlier in the year, he liked the versatility Jones brings to the table. He could put the ball on the floor or post-up and teams had to respect him as a catch-and-shoot option. He also guarded multiple positions for the Go-Go.
Richman praised Jones’ professionalism and his ability to impact the game even when plays weren’t being called for him. A lot of players can put up big numbers in the G League but need the ball a lot to do so. Being able to help the team without dominating the ball would help Jones more seamlessly transition into the Wizards’ rotation. The fact that he has been with the organization all season and knows how the team operates should help as well.
There are some questions marks with Jones that have prevented him from having anything more than a few cups of coffee in the NBA. Probably the biggest factor has been his outside shooting. In his two previous G League seasons, he shot the ball in the 25-28 percent range from three. If the team believes this year’s percentage is more reflective of his actual shooting ability than this may be the 27-year-olds last best chance to show he belongs on the NBA stage.
As a Junior at Florida, Jalen Hudson looked like he was well on his way to a promising NBA career. He ultimately chose to go back for his senior season to improve his draft stock. This ended up being a bad decision, like a “nothing good happens after 2 A.M.” type of bad decision. That next season, he dropped from almost 16 points down to 9 and his three-point percentage went from 40 down to 28.
Hudson’s year for the Go-Go seemed to indicate that his senior season was more of the fluke than his junior year. In only 24 minutes per game, he averaged over 13 points and 3.5 rebounds. He did so while shooting a solid 37 percent from three on almost 4 attempts per game.
Hudson is a dynamic athlete so there’s still hope that he can eventually channel that on the defensive end of the floor. If so, he could be a really good buy-low option for the Wizards as a 3-and-D wing.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list but points to the spectrum of options the Wizards could explore. Who would you like to see them add?