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December mailbag Part 2: Which late-pick rookies are doing better than Kispert and should we Deni Avdija play more point guard?

Here are more of your questions for this month’s mailbag.

Washington Wizards v New York Knicks
Some of you believe Deni Avdija should play more point guard.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Here is the second part of our December mailbag. Since tomorrow is Christmas Day, I may not be able to get a post in tomorrow since... even the site manager deserves a break!

But in the meantime, here are some more of your questions. And if you missed the first part, that’s below!

Which rookie players drafted after Kispert are playing significantly better than him so far this season? Who, in hindsight, should the Wizards have drafted? (Wizards4Ever)

Albert: Before we get to the answers, I get this is “bad timing” considering the fact that Kispert scored a career-high 20 points in the Wizards’ win against the Knicks last night. All of the answers were done before yesterday and I don’t think one game by Kispert changes their answers significantly.

Ben Becker: Alperen Sengun, Alperen Sengun and ... did I forget? Alperen Sengun!

The Turkish bag man drafted one spot after Kispert is already drawing comparisons to league MVP Nikola Jokic. But you didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to know that Sengun was a great prospect. Every serious draft analyst who scouted overseas (a) saw that Sengun had a fantastic skillset (b) knew that Sengun, as a teenager, was the most productive prospect in Europe since Luka Doncic. Sengun wasn’t some Giannis-like mystery seen only on grainy footage in high school gyms. He was dominating full-grown men in the second-best league on the planet. Sengun is already producing:

Not only is he showing the offensive acumen that keen observers expected, but he’s also a much more stout defender at this stage than even the best projections could have hoped for. Kispert may turn out to be a fine player, but Sengun is already showing the potential to be a true star — a franchise centerpiece that the Wizards passed on.

So you may be asking that if this was so obvious why did the Wizards pass on Sengun?

The answer, I believe, is that the Wizards committed the cardinal sin of drafting for “need” at the expense of the better player. Heading into the draft the Wizards had the then newly-acquired Montrezl Harrell, Daniel Gafford (pre-contract extension), and Thomas Bryant rehabbing an ACL injury — with Harrell and Bryant both entering the final season of their contracts. So while in the short term the Wizards had three roster spots allocated to centers, none presented a reason not to drafft Sengun. In fact, Harrell likely could have been moved for draft considerations or for a roster-balancing guard that the Wizards still desperately need.

The irony in all of this is that Kispert, who is three years older than Sengun, was ostensibly picked because he was deemed the more NBA-ready prospect. But despite his reputation as a “shooter,” Kispert is shooting just 26 percent from three (Sengun is at 30 percent while being better in basically every other statistical category). Sengun is already a better player than Kispert and the gap — and Wizards fans’ pain — is likely to only grow over time.

Matt Modderno: Besides Sengun, here are a few rookies drafted below Kispert who have been impressive the last several weeks:

Herb Jones is averaging 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.2 stocks (steals + blocks) for the season but has been almost doubling that production the last week or so. And he’s doing that while playing high-level perimeter defense.

Houston’s Josh Christopher is finally getting minutes and has scored in double figures in six of his last eight games. He’s a high-end athlete and has been really efficient over that stretch.

With all of Brooklyn’s coronavirus issues, Kessler Edwards and David Duke have been pretty impressive filling in. Both look like long-term rotation players who could even make an impact come playoff time if called upon.

Coincidentally, these were all guys I called out during my predraft articles. What are the odds of that?

John Morrow: Aside from Sengun, whom Ben covered nicely, I’m not seeing a glaring miss. The second half of the 2021 draft was particularly weak. The troubling thing about Kispert is clearly that he is missing 3s, AKA his specialty and the main reason for him being selected one pick outside of the lottery. If (hopefully, when) that improves I think he’ll be good enough in other aspects to be a borderline starter and a rotation player. BUT, the shooting looks awful both by eye and stat test.

Relatedly, the move down for Isaiah Todd might look wise in a couple of years. The answer to this question applies to that pick too. But it’s still very early to judge this.

Why has 31 yr old NBA veteran and former Georgetown Hoyas Greg Monroe has been on the GoGo’s roster this season and not gotten a call-up? Seems like the Wizards could’ve used him a couple of times this season when Gafford and Trez were banged up. Bryant’s been rehabbing so Washington should have no problem putting him or IR or at least PUP and open up a spot for Monroe. (Ron Agnir)

John Heiser: The NBA doesn’t have IR or PUP like the NFL. So trying to put Thomas Bryant on either of them would be a tough sell at the league office. Monroe is trying to work his way back into the Association via the G League. He’s nothing more than an emergency call-up option for the Wizards. He cannot be called up without a free roster spot which requires waiving a player under contract or trading two and only bringing one back, or a COVID exception. If Gafford or Trez enter the protocols then it wouldn’t surprise me to see Monroe get some run with the big club. Otherwise, his main benefit is practicing against Isaiah Todd.

Modderno: It’s good to have Monroe there to help mentor the younger players on the Go-Go. He’s a well-respected veteran who can help them learn the ropes. Additionally, he knows he’s not there to compete with them for minutes or call-ups. That might not be the case for a younger player brought in to fill that roster spot. It also makes it easier to evaluate your young players if they’re around other competent players and not just running around out there.

The Wizards are lacking a true point guard who loves to share the ball and make the other players involved. Deni Avdija has shown the ability to run a basic set offense on a few occasions as a point guard. So why not let him play in this position more often instead of wasting these minutes with Raul Neto and Aaron Holiday who are no more than undersized SGs? (GuyWiz)

Heiser: Yes, let’s expand Deni’s role but let’s pump the brakes on making him a full-time point guard. Avdija is finally coming out of his shell but he’s still not there yet. He’s way too upright with his dribble to initiate the offense consistently. Do you remember the treatment Satoransky received when he started getting real PG minutes? Opponents were hounding him up and down the floor, and he is a PG through and through.

I like how we’ve asked more of Avdija because he has the vision and skill to make solid passes. There’s more to playing PG than that. He’d also be at a disadvantage defensively as his main issue right now is handling quick direct bursts to the basket. Just because I’m against him playing PG without other ball handlers out there, doesn’t mean I want the ball in his hands less. He should be getting more PnR opportunities in the halfcourt.

Yanir: I think these are valid legit points. Deni did go to his left in Euroleague and has stopped completely in the NBA: it’s partly on the Wizards to develop the weak parts of his game. True that Deni was injured so they didn’t have a whole offseason to do that work. But going into his 3rd year this should definitely be a point of emphasis.

Morrow: Avdija has shown improvement in a few areas this year. To say he can play the point would be a stretch. As seen with former Wizards Troy Brown Jr. and Tomas Satoransky, just being competent handling the ball and making good passes every once so often isn’t enough. The PG ideally can create with the ball in their hands. I’m not sure that Avdija has flashed that ability. I like him in the role that he is currently in and could see him starting in it next season or even at some point this year.

How much should we expect Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant to help the sputtering offense? And why is it taking so freaking long for them to come back? (TomKozelko22)

Heiser: A lot! Bryant has shot very well in the past, so well that he could be our best 3pt shooter by percentage after he returns. Every NBA team is looking for a stretch 5. Suffice to say the coaches can’t wait to get theirs back in action. Rui was shooting well to end last season too. He’d certainly help the offense as he feels comfortable in the mid-range or finishing. Kuz doesn’t do much mid-range besides fadeaways that aren’t good shots. Bertans, for as good as he is, seems a bit awkward taking non-threes sometimes. It’s an area NBA defenses give up while trying to take away the rim and the 3 so having Rui stepping into shots would help there.

Albert: I already gave the standpoint that Bryant’s agent, Todd Ramasar said regarding timetables to bring players back yesterday. Their health and well-being as people come first before the money, etc. So I’d imagine it’s the same thing with Rui.