2021 NBA Draft: A Washington Wizards Recap
2021 NBA Draft: A Washington Wizards Recap
Whew. The 2021 NBA Draft has come and gone, and the Washington Wizards continue another offseason where change is one of the few constants in the District. After hiring a new general manager in 2019, trading away franchise icon John Wall for Russell Westbrook in 2020, and hiring former Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. as head coach a couple of weeks ago.
Change continues to take place in DC, as hours before the draft kicked off, the Wizards agreed with the Los Angeles Lakers to send Westbrook and second-round picks in 2024 & 2028, to LA for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick in this year’s draft. General Manager Tommy Sheppard stayed busy all night, selecting Gonzaga wing Corey Kispert with the 15th pick, trading the Lakers’ 22nd pick to the Indiana Pacers for Aaron Holiday, and the 31st pick; later used to select G-League Ignite forward Isaiah Todd.
Breaking Down the Russ-Lakers Deal
In a press conference after the season, Sheppard stated that the Wizards were not a “run it back team.” By dealing Westbrook to the Lakers, Sheppard has now made this a certainty. The Lakers targeted Westbrook this offseason to form a Big Three like the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks. Westbrook now goes to play in his home state of California alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The fit has questions spacing-wise, but Westbrook gives the Lakers an explosive playmaker and attacker who showed he can still play at an elite level at age 32.
What This Means for the Wizards
For the Wizards, the move opens up significant cap space in 2022-23 with a potentially loaded free-agent class to boot. They also now have a reputable veteran three-and-D wing which had been missing on the roster for quite some time. KCP shot 41 percent on three-pointers on 4.4 attempts per game, making his value high for a Wizards team that finished 22nd in three-point percentage (35.1 percent) and 28th in three-pointers made per game in 2020-21. (10.2)
The additions of Kuzma and Harrell appear as solid depth returns on the surface, but they do create a logjam at their respective positions. A fresh start could be exactly what Kuzma needs after being scrutinized heavily in LA. He has the ability to play well in a sixth-man, microwave-scoring role off the bench and has made considerable improvements defensively over the past two seasons. Kuzma moves well without the ball and shot 37.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season. However, with the presence of Davis Bertans on the roster who received a 5-year, $80 million contract the last offseason, questions arise about Kuzma’s fit in DC.
Can the New Pieces Fit Together?
Bertans and Kuzma will combine to make about $88 million over the next three seasons; A large amount to spend on two reserve forwards. That’s before accounting for a future extension of Rui Hachimura‘s current contract.
The same issue persists with center Montrezl Harrell, but for slightly different reasons. Both Harrell and Thomas Bryant have one year remaining on their respective deals; both players are also offensive-minded bigs who struggle on the defensive end who can not share the floor. When factoring in that Daniel Gafford– a major difference-maker down the stretch last season is likely to start; it does not make much sense to have two backup centers with similar salaries who have similar skill sets.
It would not be surprising if the Wizards decide to move one or two of Bertans, Bryant, Harrell, or Kuzma later this offseason; after a season tested by injuries though, it also would not be surprising for the Wizards to classify this deep frontcourt as a good problem to have.
Aaron Holiday‘s Role in DC
The Wizards used the 22nd pick acquired from the Lakers to bring in Pacers guard Aaron Holiday. Holiday is 24 and entering his 4th NBA season. A career 37.2 percent three-point shooter, he will provide good spacing around Beal while also playing solid defense. Best at playing in transition and the pick and roll, the Wizards bring in a player who they showed interest in before the 2018 NBA Draft. Holiday did struggle in 2020-21, losing his backup point guard role to T.J. McConnell, but a new role and fresh start in DC could be just what he needs. Heading into a contract year gives Holiday even more incentive to play well before hitting restricted free agency.
Wizards Rookies Bring in Size & Shooting
With the 15th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Wizards selected Corey Kispert out of Gonzaga. A phenomenal shooter and one of the best in his class, Kispert should make an immediate impact for the Wizards, who continue to add shooting to the roster. Kispert averaged 18.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game with a 52.9 percent field goal percentage, 44 percent three-point percentage on 6.5 attempts per game, and an 87.8 free-throw percentage.
Kispert also plays well off the ball and should fit nicely alongside Bradley Beal on the perimeter. His floor-spacing ability will open up driving lanes for Beal, Gafford, and Hachimura. Defense is not his strong suit, but at 6’7″ and 220lbs, Kispert has the physical profile of a capable defender in the NBA. He may not bother offensive players with his length (6’7.25″ wingspan), but he is a smart defender who uses his high basketball IQ to his advantage on both ends. At 22 years old, Kispert could start right away and be a seamless fit in the starting five.
Isaiah Todd Returns to the DMV
The Wizards also selected G-League Ignite big Isaiah Todd with the 31st pick they acquired from Indiana alongside Aaron Holiday. A Baltimore native, Todd brings athleticism and the ability to defend multiple positions with his 6’10”, 206lbs frame. Offensively, Todd showed the ability to space the floor (36.2 three-point percentage on 3.1 attempts) and even flashed some shot creation ability. At 19 years old, Todd’s game is not fully refined yet, but that is typical for most rookies. He will still have time to develop his game and is a high upside pick for the Wizards. Todd could become a big contributor down the line.
The Wizards used the 2021 NBA Draft to add young talent, shooting, and depth to their roster becoming a more well-rounded team in the process. Now with future cap flexibility and a little more spending money as free agency approaches, the Wizards are not done yet. A proven starting point guard will be the focus as the Wizards look to reach the playoffs in back-to-back years.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images