The Wizards have found their new backup four on the free agent market, inking Andrew Nicholson away from the Orlando Magic. Nicholson is a 26 year old, 6’9” power forward from Mississauga, Ontario. He’s one of 13 Canadians in the NBA at present, having represented Canada at the national level, winning a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 2015. Nicholson gives the Wizards some much needed front court depth, as prior to free agency they had just Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris on the roster. He’ll be a part of a completely new and rebuilt second unit.
Nicholson was a late bloomer in the basketball universe, as he didn’t start playing until his junior year of high school. His first passion was baseball, but when he grew to 6’9” he decided to give basketball a shot.
Nicholson played his college ball at St. Bonaventure and had a prolific career to say the least. He earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors his freshman year and followed with a second-team All-Atlantic 10 performance in his sophomore season. During his junior year, he was named to the All-Atlantic 10 first team, and finally was named A-10 Player of the Year after his senior season with the Bonnies. He also led the St. Bonaventure to its first ever A-10 title and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000 in 2012 (his senior year), where the Bonnies fell in the first round to Florida State. He’s one of only three Bonnies ever to be an All-American, earning honorable mention in his final collegiate season. Nicholson ranks second all-time in school history in scoring (2,103 points), second in blocked shots (244), second in field goal percentage and fourth in rebounds (887). He also graduated with a degree in physics.
After graduating from St. Bonaventure’s in 2012, the Magic used their first round pick, number 19 overall, on Nicholson. Over his four years with the Magic, he was fairly consistent as a rotational big man, averaging 6.5 points on 47.3% shooting along with 3.6 rebounds. Per-36 minutes, he averaged about 17 points and nine boards per game last season. He clearly improved as the season went on, at one point scoring in double figures in nine out of 10 games in March and April. He has yet to appear in a playoff game as the Magic failed to qualify for the postseason in each of his four seasons.
At just 26 years of age, Nicholson should have plenty of room to grow under Scott Brooks. He’s a big man who’s shown an array of post moves with good foot work, as well as a developing outside game. That perimeter growth is almost certainly one of the primary reasons that Washington was so interested in him. His three point shooting has improved every year he’s been in the league, as he didn’t take a single three his rookie campaign before finishing with a 36% mark from deep last year (his fourth NBA season). Nicholson was one of the few guys in Orlando last season that could help space the floor as they struggled from outside. He’s got a quick release for a big man, which should especially work very well when playing with John Wall.
Finally, Nicholson’s defensive ability should help the Wizards this season. Orlando was eight points better per 100 possessions when Nicholson was on the floor than when he was off. His defensive rebounding percentage was 22.8, right in line with guys like Kenneth Faried and Tristan Thompson, two of the best rebounding fours in the league. He’s not much of a rim protector, but since he will presumably play almost all of his minutes next to Ian Mahinmi or Gortat, that won’t be something he’s asked to do much of.
Nicholson should be a welcome addition to the Wizards’ front court depth for the coming seasons. He's a good defender and a guy who can stretch the floor, which is just what the doctor ordered for Washington's second unit ahead of 2016-17. Welcome to DC, Andrew!