Andrew Nicholson — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews | Wizards Blog Truth About

Andrew Nicholson — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews

Updated: November 15, 2016

The 2016-17 NBA season is almost here … and upon last check, they are still going to allow allowing the Washington Wizards to participate. So the TAI crew is firing up the pixel makers and churning out player previews, or rather, “Wizards Player Haters’ Previews” — which is not to say that we are hating on the players or the game, but that this season’s version of the Wizards is ready to hate on all those who stand in their way. Up now: Andrew Nicholson, via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)


Gmail, I noticed, was open in the leftmost tab while I was trawling the web for inspiration for this piece. So I clicked, then searched my mailbox for “Andrew Nicholson.” Turns out I added him to my fantasy basketball roster on October 31, 2013, so go ahead and call me a long-time fan.

He hasn’t won many fans since then, though. Despite his natural feel for open space and impressive wingspan (an inch longer than Greek Freak Antetokounmpo’s), Nicholson always seemed to be among the least attractive bigs on any Magic roster during his time in South Florida. It’s possible he’s even gone unnoticed.

In his first season, Nicholson was lost in a rotation between the demonstrative Glen Davis, the withering remains of Hedo Turkoglu, and the next-next-next-next-next young breakout star Tobias Harris. Headlining that frontcourt act was Nikola Vucevic, the hunky, family-sized offensive technician from Montenegro. In later seasons, Nicholson would appear on the court as if by mistake, in place of Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle O’Quinn, or Dewayne Dedmon. On good nights with enough run, Nicholson would sink a long 2-pointer, or five, pull down a few rebounds, and perhaps pull off a post move with enough confidence to get the casual viewer at home to ask, “Who was that?”

Talent, he’s got it. After all, you can’t be the fifth-most efficient post scorer and a knock-down shooter in college ball without it. Getting overlooked happens in basketball as it does in the real world. Nicholson, of course, isn’t living off his former glory. In his last three years in Orlando, he scored on 85 percent of his post touches; so far this season with the Washington Wizards, that mark is up to 92.3 percent. He’s also shooting 54.5 percent on attempts inside 10 feet, better than the mighty DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, Zach Randolph, Dwyane Wade, Andrew Wiggins, and other big tickets.

Still, while his ability is obvious, the magic . . . the allure is missing. Nicholson doesn’t look the part of an NBA stud: picture his sleepy gaze, for example, or his floppy gait. He’s the ugly cygnet who’s grown into a swan, as cygnets do, but never got with the pen (a female swan). He’s the awkward teen that didn’t get asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance, but holds it down as a young professional—a homely hardworking [insert job title here]. Maybe he’s been passed over because he’s not from the stock of brash all-American athletes found from sea to shining sea. Nicholson is Canadian.

In any case, while we can’t all be charmers, Team President Ernie Grunfeld took notice. (Easy enough after whiffing on Kevin Durant, coming close on Al Horford, and whatever Plan C was.)

“Andrew is a very intriguing young talent who has shown the ability to score from both inside and outside as he has developed throughout his career,” said Grunfeld in a press release announcing Nicholson’s signing. “His skill set will help bolster our frontcourt depth and we feel he has good potential to continue to improve.”

He does have potential, it’s true. And while he’s a physics major who surely has the aptitude to figure out the pro game on his own, Nicholson, now entering his prime, is a player who’d benefit greatly from guidance. See: He’s a project deferred, never started. Nicholson has been passed along from Jacque Vaughn to Scott Skiles and now to Scott Brooks, who’s reduced his minutes from significant to DNP-CDs in three of the last four Wizards games, the blowout win over Boston being the exception.

Nicholson was billed as a stretch 4 and 5 before the season, so it’s curious that Brooks didn’t think he could hang with Houston’s wings, even as a ersatz rim protector, or step out to challenge Ryan Anderson. The Wizards haven’t even played 10 games, but I have my doubts that Brooks is the right guy to get the best out of Nicholson. Hear me out: He won with Oklahoma City, but did so with Kevin Durant, who benefitted greatly from the stylings of Russell Westbrook (who, for the record, doesn’t embody chaos today but calculated ferocity). I’ve compared Brooks to a (proper) football coach at a massive club, who often manages personalities as much as talent, which on its own outclasses any other XI on the pitch. While Brooks is an upgrade over Wittman, in so many ways, bring him in as head coach still seemed like a ploy to lure Durant to D.C., which . . . actually, forget it.

The point: Nicholson can play but given he’s limited both by natural athletic ability and expectations, he needs a clear role. He also needs a chance to fail, something he never had in Orlando, as Nicholson never secured a meaningful place on Magic teams that averaged just 27.5 wins per season.

The Wizards are 2-7. What better time to test his mettle and measurables than right now?

Antawn Jamison isn’t walking through the Verizon Center doors, but Nicholson is ready, reliable, and available for deployment. Early returns from Coach Brooks and the recorded development of other Wizards big men (and backcourt talent) fail to inspire much confidence, perhaps there is fairytale ending within reach.


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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.