It was quite the start to the season for the Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans. Fresh off his newly signed, 5 year, $80 million contract in the off-season, the expectations were high for the fifth year sharp shooter. Unfortunately for Bertans, a series of events led to a disappointing early start to the season.
One decision that stood out, even before the season, was Bertans’ choice not to join the Wizards in the Orlando Bubble last summer. This combined with the pandemic-driven shut down of Latvia, led to nearly 9 months of Bertans being void of significant basketball activity. The lack of activity, by his own admission, led to Bertans coming to training camp physically unprepared for the season and it would take time before he started to look like the Latvian Laser of old. This situation became the backdrop of the story of Bertans’ season.
Ask many experts on what’s the key to being an effective shooter and many will say your legs play a big role. For Bertans that theory was on display early in the season. He went through January, which was the first full month of the season, only shooting 32.7 percent from three.
Clearly his shooting was hampered by his conditioning. Questions were asked of how to solve this issue, should the Wizards sit Bertans or should he just play through it?
Fortunately for the Wizards, Bertans would pick it up for the rest of the season and shoot 42.6 percent from 3 the rest of the regular season.
Bertans’ value to the Wizards is largely represented by his volume 3 point attempts. Of the 478 shot attempts he made this season, 428 were 3 point attempts – a whopping 90 percent. This is what you would come to expect from a player that is a 3 point specialist, unfortunately this also exposes limitations to his game.
When Bertans is shooting well, his value on the court is evident, but when he’s not, there isn’t much else on the court that he does particularly well. In Game 2 of the playoff series against the Sixers, Bertans played 24 minutes and posted 0 point, 2 rebounds, 0 blocks, 0 steals and 6 fouls. This is the type of game that happened during the season when his shot was not falling, and so for better or worse, the Wizards can only hope that his shot is falling to make up for other parts of his game.
Overall Bertans statistically had a season that is in line with his career averages, but his slow start over after receiving a huge pay day became the source of conversation when looking back at what Bertans was able to accomplish in this season.
The slow start to Bertans’ season exposed a number of issues for the Wizards. The Wizards lack 3-point shooting, but Bertans also has struggled to make an impact on the game when his shot is not falling. Both of these issues put the Wizards in a difficult position - continue to press forward with Bertans or look to use his contract to address other pressing issues.
With Bertans having another 4 years and $65 million left on his contract, perhaps the Wizards may attempt to package his contract along with young players on the roster and/or a draft pick to add another piece next to Westbrook and Beal. For the Wizards to get a player on a larger deal that can help the team immediately, Bertans is perhaps the biggest trade chip on the roster that would allow them add next to their star studded backcourt.
If that’s the route the Wizards go with, it would be a disappointing end as a Wizards for a player that GM Tommy Sheppard prioritized last off-season to bring back. If the Wizards decide to keep Bertans, not only will he have to shoot consistently better throughout the season, but with his price tag, he will have to find more ways to contribute to justify his cost.