• Neil Dalal

Thomas Bryant continues strong bubble play and the Wizards want more

The Washington Wizards remains winless in the Orlando bubble after dropping another game; this time to the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-98. Even if the Wizards go 0-8 during the seeding games, they would have had the opportunity to accelerate the development of their young team. Although he just turned 23 years old, Thomas Bryant is a little different than the rest because he has already gotten paid.

Really the only notable free-agent signing in his young tenure, Tommy Sheppard re-signed Bryant with a three-year, $25 million contract. That after claiming the center off waivers from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. Although the former Indiana Hoosier has proven to be a steller finisher close to the basket on offense, he has never been a volume three-point shooter or great on the defensive end. That is changing during the NBA restart.

"I thought he stepped up, best I've seen him on the defensive end. He was outstanding, he took the challenge, his hands were up, getting deflections, blocking shots, he played like we know he can play," head coach Scott Brooks expressed.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a fairly dominant performance, but Bryant stood his ground decently. The Wizards center had 19 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high-tying 4 blocks in 31 minutes of play. With Rui Hachimura on a skid as opposing teams make him a focal point, Bryant has stepped up. An emotional player, Bryant sometimes allows that to impact his game, but Brooks thinks he has improved in that facet, too.

"If he doesn't get a call, a little bit of frustration seeps in, but I think it is much better than it was two years ago," Brooks said.

In the Wizards first four seeding games that have already all but eliminated them from play beyond August 13 when they play their eighth and final seeding game, Bryant has averaged 19.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He may not score as much next year, but they will need that level of rebounding. The big man has also made 8 of his 18 three-point attempts, which is good for 44 percent. When John Wall is back he will have plenty of opportunities to continue knocking those down.

"Step in the right direction, keep improving every day," was how Bryant summarized another strong performance after the game.

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