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Comparing current Wizards centers to their mid-2000’s-era predecessors

This year’s Wizards team has the potential to be one of the most fun groups since the Gilbert Arenas-era and several players share similarities to past players.

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards
Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood catching their breath against the Celtics in 2009
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

In this series we've run over the past week, I’ve been making a case for who each current Wizards reminds me of from the mid-2000’s Wizards. There have been a few instances where I’ve drawn a blank but I feel like for the most part, I’ve at least been able to make a defensible comparison. This may seem like a total cop out but I’m drawing a total blank when it comes to the current center rotation.

Center has long been a weak spot for this franchise and that limits the quality options that come to mind, especially in the timeframe we are talking about for this article. I wouldn’t describe the current batch of centers as world-beaters but they are a diverse group with fairly specialized skillsets.

Thomas Bryant is a pick-and-pop threat, Daniel Gafford is the athletic rim-protector, and Montrezl Harrell is the tireless workhorse. I really struggled to find guys from the Gilbert Arenas-era who met those descriptions, which led to some shaky comparisons below. As with the previous installments, please let me know who you think would be a better fit.

Thomas Bryant: Kwame Brown Peter John Ramos Calvin Booth James Lang Antawn Jamison

I thought long and hard about trying to make a case for how Oleksiy Pecherov was just ahead of his time and would have been much more productive in this era but I was laughing too hard to type. I know Jamison wasn’t a center and I fully realize he’s a way better player than Bryant but I do see some parallels.

Orlando Magic v Washington Wizards
Pecherov shooting a jumpshot against the Magic
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

For much of his career, Jamison took some grief for being soft, too much of a finesse player, and not playing much defense. Those are largely the same complaints levied against Bryant. Jamison routinely beat bigger defenders down the court to score near the rim and used his shooting ability (35.9% from three in Washington) to space the floor. Those are largely the same positive attributes that Bryant (36.2% from three) brings to the table.

Daniel Gafford: Brendan Haywood

Maybe you could say a bouncier Etan Thomas, a more disciplined JaVale McGee, or even Michael Ruffin with some semblance of basketball talent. But truth is, the Wizards have not had an impact rim-protector like Gafford in a long, long time. Maybe ever. The closest option was Haywood who did a serviceable job banging with the Hall of Fame-caliber centers in his era.

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
Etan Thomas and Michael Ruffin go for the same rebound

In Washington, Haywood averaged 7.7 points, 6.3 points, and 1.5 blocks. As a Wizard, Gafford is averaging 10 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. I think Gafford has considerably more upside than Haywood ever did but their general role on the team and statistics are fairly close. Like I said above, this is far from a perfect comparison.

Montrezl Harrell: Trevor Booker on steroids

Similar to Gafford, the Wizards have not had many players like Harrell. He is undersized (they’ve had plenty of those) and just beats his opponent with sheer willpower. In the mid-2000’s, there really wasn’t anyone who mirrored Harrell’s relentless. Trevor Booker is the only player who comes to mind who relied as much on effort to contribute. He didn’t arrive in Washington until 2010 so this is kind of cheating. But it was either him or trying to make a case for Dominic McGuire.

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers
Trevor Booker grabbing a rebound against the Trail Blazers
Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images