Our 2020-21 Washington Wizards player evaluation series continues with Issac Bonga.
In his first season with the Wizards in 2019-20, Bonga had a better-than-expected season in my opinion. Yes, he averaged 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds while playing just 19 minutes a game, but he was also starting the majority of his games (49 in 66 appearances). I certainly didn’t expect to see him be a long-term starter, but I thought he could keep a similar level of production, even if someone llike Deni Avdija was drafted later that fall.
Fast forward a year, and Bonga’s numbers have dropped. He only averaged 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in the regular season while averaging 11 minutes per game in just 40 appearances (8 starts). So ... what happened?
Admittedly, there weren’t many strengths for Bonga. But his best stretch of play was in the first three games of the season where he averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds per game while shooting 80 percent from the field (8-of-10 attempts). From there, the law of averages won out and then some.
And then there’s his defense, at least from an on/off standpoint. The Wizards scored 8.7 points more per 100 possessions when Bonga was on the floor, which is the 96th percentile of all forwards in the NBA, according to Cleaning the Glass.
When a player shoots under 40 percent from the field, under 30 percent from three as a wing player and even shoots just 62.5 percent from the free throw line, that’s a warning sign that that player’s a liability on the court. And unfortunately, those were Bonga’s actual percentages. The shot chart he had last season was nothing to write home about:
Issac Bonga's shot chart in the regular season.— Albert Lee (@aleeinthedmv) July 2, 2021
After his early season stretch, Bonga was just not good at all. If his defense helped him stay on the floor in 2019-20, there were other players whom Washington decided to focus on more for such responsibilities, most notably Deni Avdija, their first round pick from last year. After all, Avdija’s draft position will allow him a bit longer of a leash to grow. Needless to say, Bonga’s PPA rating was a 4, the lowest of any Wizards player. According to our own Kevin Broom, a score of 45 is replacement-worthy. Yikes!
What’s next for Bonga?
Bonga is currently on the Germany men’s national basketball team in Split, Croatia for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He scored 13 points in an 82-76 win over Mexico. If Germany wins the tournament in Split, they will make the Olympic games, giving the Wizards a third player in Tokyo along with Rui Hachimura for the home team (Japan) and Bradley Beal (USA).
As for his future in D.C., Bonga is an unrestricted free agent. I don’t anticipate seeing him back in Washington next season. But it’s possible that he signs a non-guaranteed minimum or training camp contract with a team that is likely on a rebuilding track.