As laid out in part one, this year’s Washington Wizards team reminds me of the mid-2000’s teams. It’s only been a few games but they already seem like they’re going to be a fun watch, regardless of final record. Similarly, this core may never contend for a championship but I’m not going to complain about seeing a competitive group full of mostly likable characters.
Certain player comparisons immediately came to mind, but the forwards were a bit tougher overall. Possibly because there are so many of them this year (this might be the only time I ever complain about having depth on the wing). There might be more natural parallels out there so, as always, please feel free to point them out in the comments.
Deni Avdija: Antonio Daniels
This one might look like a stretch on the surface (and probably is) but let me explain my thinking here. Daniels was big for his position at the time (a 6’5 point guard), a physical defender, a non-threat as a shooter, and a competent ball-mover who was better as a secondary (or even tertiary) creator.
That’s basically how I see Avdija. I think he’s better suited coming off the bench as a point forward to help setup other teammates. But his long-term potential will also be limited by his inability to put pressure on opposing defenses.
Davis Bertans: Nick Young
A big shooter with the irrational confidence to pull the trigger from anywhere inside half-court who does almost nothing in any other facet of the game. Seems like a fit to me.
In Washington, Young averaged 11.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1 assist, and shot 38% from three. With the Wizards, Bertans is averaging 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and shoots 40.9% from three. Last season, Bertans was running around screens and jacking up deep threes without having his feet set and I got serious Young vibes. Both guys are deadly when squared up and have their feet set. Both guys are responsible for making me throw my cell phone across the living room while watching them play.
Anthony Gill: Darius Songaila
Former Washington Post reporter Ivan Carter once quoted Eddie Jordan as saying Songaila really knew the game but “couldn’t jump over a phone book.” He was a limited player who brought leadership and professionalism to a team that needed both.
That’s basically what the Wizards get from Gill, a player who takes younger guys under his wing and shows them how to work. We heard multiple times this offseason that Corey Kispert was joining Gill for his extra workouts because Gill is always putting in additional time on the court.
Rui Hachimura: N/A
Hachimura has a little bit of Antawn Jamison’s stretch-four ability. He has some of Jared Jeffries ability to guard both forward spots. And I can’t help but wonder if his production is inflated due to the team’s insistence on starting him and inability to provide much competition at his position, similar to Andray Blatche.
I like Hachimura, I really do. But I still can’t say with much confidence I really understand how good he actually is or what his ideal role might be. I think that’s largely why I was unable to find a reasonable comparison for him from this timeframe.
Corey Kispert: Jarvis Hayes
Please don’t yell at me for this one. I’m not saying I expect Kispert to max out as a Jarvis Hayes-level player. But they have a similar physical profile and Kispert’s impact this year is likely in the neighborhood of what Hayes contributed during his time in Washington.
In four seasons with the Wizards, Hayes averaged 8.9, 3.4 rebounds, and shot 34% from three. Hopefully, Kispert is closer to a 40% three-point shooter but I doubt he gets the 25 minutes per game Hayes did.
Kyle Kuzma: Caron Butler
This one might be wishful thinking but I do think there are some potential parallels. Both came from a Lakers team where they were not able to show off their full offensive arsenal because they were playing next to an all-time great player. Butler was 25 and in his fourth season when he came to Washington, Kuzma is 26 and in his fifth season.
Both were averaging around 15 points at the time of their trade and slowly expanded their offensive arsenal over time. Both need(ed) to work on their ballhandling to help unlock their full offensive repertoire. Kuzma and Butler could guard both forward positions and project confidence in their abilities. Fingers crossed that Kuzma can inherit some of the same toughness.
Isaiah Todd: Andray Blatche
A raw, young project with the ability to shoot and dribble at 6’10 who was drafted in the second round. Sound familiar?
In his best NBA season, Blatche averaged 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and .8 blocks. If Todd ever goes on to contribute like that for the Wizards, it would be a massive win for Tommy Sheppard.
Let’s hope their skillset, stage of development, and physical profile are their only similarities though. Blatche had all of the physical tools but could never seem to get out of his own way. Todd already seems to have it more together than Blatche ever did and seems eager to learn how to be a professional from his veteran teammates.