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August Mailbag Part 2: Are we too down on Davis Bertans, Deni Avdija’s future, more

Here is the second part of our August mailbag questions.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards
Is Davis Bertans now an underrated player considering how low many fans are on him at the moment?
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Here is the second part of our mailbag questions. We’ll have a third and final part tomorrow. The first part can be found in the link below.

Posters seem down on Davis Bertans and would like to move him, even though that would be selling low at this point. He got off to an awful start (maybe COVID-19 related with lack of gym time). He got better as the season progressed. When he got good playing time (20 to 29 minutes), he hit 41.6 percent of his threes all season, per Basketball-Reference splits. Plus, he can play stretch 4. Is he underrated at this point? (EDDC)

John Morrow: I’m not so sure I’d call him underrated, but underappreciated at this point. We all know how capable he is as a shooter. I would think we’ll see more of a 2019-2020 type season from him because there will be slightly less ball dominance and (hopefully) some more movement sets that allow him to shoot on the move. He’s underutilized just posting up in the corner. The challenge now is, he’s a one-way player at a spot where there are a few two-way types in Kuzma, Rui, and Caldwell Pope. I see him providing value, but closing games? There are better options.

Ben Mehic: I think, in the right situation, Bertans could be underrated. There were times last season when he was unplayable - when he went scoreless, couldn’t find the basket, and contributed nothing defensively. Those issues pop up wth shooters, but they’re easier to deal with when you have other options. The problem was, the Wizards didn’t have those options. They had Isaac Bonga, Anthony Gill, or whomever else Scott Brooks was begrudgingly giving a chance.

Now if Bertans struggles, they can avoid some of those other painful concessions (like defense) by lessening his minutes for Kuzma, Deni, Rui, or any of the other capable options. That’s the beauty of having depth: it hides some of a player’s deficiencies and makes them appreciated again. Bertans is an elite shooter - and the Wizards, like the other 29 teams, need those.

What is Shepard’s aversion to long, athletic players that can defend and can the Wizards really compete without them? (DCrez)

Morrow: Is there an aversion? Isaiah Todd seems to have been prioritized and he matches that description. I think that Hachimura has a longer wingspan and Avdija seems fairly athletic. Not many players in their first couple of years are good defenders. Hachimura took strides on defense last year, and I expect Avdija will this year too not having to guard the #1 option as often.

Will Emma Meeseman play for Mystics this season? Unlike NBA, it’s not easy to figure out salary and cap implications. Is she a free agent yet? - EDDC

Albert: The question was answered yesterday, so she isn’t returning.

The bigger question now is whether Meesseman ever returns to the WNBA, at least while in her prime. Washington is cap-tied for 2022 ($922,000+ in committed salaries already for a $1.379 million hard cap), so it will be difficult for Washington to re-sign her, even if she wanted to play a full season in 2022. So if Meesseman signs with another team next year, that would be a double-whammy, where the Mystics “lose her for nothing.” She is an unrestricted free agent.

What type of offense will Wes Unseld, Jr. set up for this team? (CrazyPanda)

Morrow: Unseld has said he’ll fit the system to the players. He’s had experience in Princeton, motion-based, and pick-and-roll heavy offenses. I would think that we’ll see more structure than we did with Brooks. Hopefully, that means a little more ball movement and efficiency in the halfcourt. I like what he said about Beal being off-ball a little more.

What do you think the Wizards’ opening day rotation will be? (MaybeNextYearWiz)

Morrow: Minutes will be tough to come by for Avdija and Neto. I see Kispert and Todd in the G League to start.

  • PG: Dinwiddie 30, Holiday 18
  • SG: Beal 33, KCP 10, Neto or Holiday 5
  • SF: Kuzma 23, KCP 15, Avdija 10
  • PF: Rui 25, Bertans 23
  • C: Gafford 26, Harrell 22

If the Wizards are to consider adding a third star to partner up with Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal, who are some realistic options? Are Pascal Siakam or Kristaps Porzingis options? (KingBigDaddy7th)

Morrow: Siakam is the popular choice. It seems that Toronto is thinking ahead of drafting Scottie Barnes. I think the Wizards could do better than Porzingis with the big swing, but he’s one to think about. Ben Simmons should be a consideration now that Westbrook is gone. Karl-Anthony Towns if the Timberwolves are really going to sell off everyone. Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers is another name to watch.

What would be the expectation for Avdija going into this season? What would be an indicator to his game that would have you guys say “Yeah he’s improved a lot this offseason”? (JayScott)

Morrow: Tough call. I feel like his style of play should be a better fit both under Unseld and with the different personnel. But, minutes are really just not there to be given out right now. For me to watch him and think “yeah he’s really improved,” I want to see his passing, aggressiveness, and defense (without fouling!) really take a step forward. If those are his strengths, let’s see them more. I am not optimistic about the jumper but those areas where he was marginalized by standing in the corner last year, should be a bigger part of his game now.

Kyle Kuzma can play SF. He has played it before. Despite KCP being better at the 3, Kuzma has the body. I’m leaning heavily on his stock from college more than his Lakers run, potential-wise. And I think he and Rui would actually fit well next to each other. Until he evidently isn’t, should Kuzma get the nod as the starting SF or at least compete with KCP to show he wasn’t just one of LeBron’s “whipping boys?” (BFFromTheGrave)

Morrow: I’m with you! I think KCP can do more than he did in LA coming off the bench. Maybe KCP closes, but I too want Kuzma starting at the 3. KCP has shot a higher percentage but Kuzma’s volume is better and he made more threes last year than Beal and KCP.

A Healthy Westbrook/Beal finished the season 17-6 at a 63 win clip over the season with very marginal NBA players having huge roles. Vegas has the Wizards winning 34.5 games. The Russ trade is a MAJOR LOSS for this season. Should we worry? (jmpalomo)

John Heiser: In basketball terms, we would refer to this projection of 63 wins as “cherry-picking”. Your question ignores is who those wins came against. The Wizards also had one of the easiest schedules to close out the 2020-21 season as well.

The Wizards’ streak was buoyed by healthy players, no doubt. It was not, however, a reason to extrapolate that roster’s ability over a full season, unless the NBA can promise a full season vs the worst teams in the league who are actively tanking.

Albert: One reason why the Wizards may only be pegged to win 34.5 games this season despite their depth is that they have a first-time coach and a lot of new player additions. Some franchises have gotten players to gel together very quickly. The Wizards haven’t, regardless of whether the coach’s name was Scott, Randy, Flip, or Eddie. So maybe some of the worry both you and I have is baked into the Vegas predictions.

Morrow: If you’ve followed the Wizards long enough, you should know that there always should be some worry. The national media has consistently called the trade a win for the Wizards. I’ll side with the majority on this.

Why do you think Tommy Sheppard is as high on No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd as he appears to be? (BPYBAY)

Morrow: The shooting potential, if I had to guess. He has a really smooth stroke with great length, and athleticism to get to his spots.

Should the Wizards make a move for Dillon Brooks? What would the cost be if the Grizzlies plan to move him this summer? (Email)

Yanir Rubinstein: Very interesting question. At the time of the Oubre trade, he did come up in the Marshon Brooks - Dillon Brooks - Scott Brooks jumble...

My inclination would be to actually develop our own Dillon Brooks instead of shedding assets.