Scott Brooks says Wizards' starting SF competition is 'wide open' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Scott Brooks confirmed what most expected about his starting lineup on Monday, that the backcourt is set with John Wall and Bradley Beal, and that Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are safe in their roles at the four and the five. The small forward spot, however, is anything but settled.
Brooks, in fact, really doesn’t know how it will end up playing out.
“It’s definitely wide open,” he said.
Brooks mentioned four players as being in the mix: Troy Brown Jr., Isaac Bonga, Deni Avdija and Jerome Robinson. Brown, Bonga and Robinson are holdovers from last year, while Avdija just joined the organization as the ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft.
“Those guys are all going to be fighting for minutes. That’s what you want and that’s how you become a better team year after year,” Brooks said.
All four have their positives and negatives and would each provide different elements as complementary pieces. Here is a look at each of them, weighing their pros and cons.
Troy Brown Jr.
Many would probably call Brown the favorite here given his track record as a first-round pick and because he was one of the team’s standouts in the restart bubble. Brown would give the Wizards another ball-handler and passer. Perhaps most notably, he is one of the team’s best rebounders and that is among their most glaring weaknesses.
Brown, though, maybe a more ideal fit for the second unit where he can utilize those playmaking skills. With the starters, he would rarely have the ball in his hands with Wall and Beal running the show. On the bench, he can have more plays run through him and also have a better chance defensively by guarding backups and not elite wing players.
Some might instead see Bonga as the favorite given he started 49 games last year. Clearly, Brooks likes the style he plays as a compliment to Beal and the rest of the Wizards’ core pieces. That is likely because of his length and defensive mindset, which helps offset the team’s offense-heavy roster.
Bonga, though, doesn’t appear to offer that high of a ceiling at this point. You get a glue guy who can force some turnovers and get some scrap buckets, but not a player who is ever going to change a game with a big scoring night.
Avdija may have the highest long-term ceiling of the four, but if he won this competition it would represent a fairly big surprise. That’s because he was most recently a role player in the EuroLeague, where he shot just 27.7 percent from three. He’s also the youngest of the four at only 19, and he is going to have far less time than most rookies usually get to gear up for his first NBA season due to the league’s truncated schedule.
If Avdija did win the job, it would have to mean he improved a lot during the offseason after his underwhelming showing in the EuroLeague. It could also mean his game is better suited for the NBA. Basically, it would be an encouraging sign for the Wizards’ future, as a rookie his age beating out players like Brown and Bonga would be a fairly impressive feat.
This would probably represent the least likely scenario, based on Robinson’s track record so far. In two NBA seasons, he has shot just 37.9 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from three. He is also a more natural two-guard than he is a three. Though he has flashed some defensive potential, he would have to check bigger players just about every night.
Robinson is probably best served in the backup shooting guard role. The Wizards need some depth behind Beal and he could help provide it along with Garrison Mathews.