When you think of a Latvian player who plays for the Washington Wizards, your mind probably goes to Davis Bertans. Except, there was another Latvian player on the Wizards who impressed: Anzejs Pasecniks. The only fans who probably know that name are Latvian basketball fans, Wizards fans, and 76ers fans. Pasecniks was the 25th overall pick in the 2017 Draft by the Orlando Magic, who traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers would renounce his rights in June, allowing the Wizards to add him to their summer league team.
Pasecniks was not very impressive in the summer league, only averaging 4 points and 5.3 rebounds. But Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards saw potential, as they signed him to an Exhibit 10 deal in October. Pasecniks officially signed a two-way contract in December, averaging 10.5 points and 5 rebounds in 12 games with the Capital City Go-Go at the time. He would play 13 games with the Wizards on his two-way contract. The Wizards got the injury bug as Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner had injuries. Ian Mahinmi was the only healthy center on the active roster. A month later in January, the Wizards would release the injured C.J. Miles to convert Pasecniks’ two-way contract into a three-year NBA deal.
Pasecniks saw NBA action quickly as the backup to Mahinmi. He fared well for himself after he settled into his reserve role. Pasecniks had some nice showings as seen in his game against the Denver Nuggets (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6w67zJWswmo). He had a stat line of 13 points and 8 rebounds with a +26 net rating. You may look at that stat line and see nothing interesting, but I am talking about a 24 year old center in his first NBA season. It is all about looking at the potential of a young player in a developmental season for the Wizards.
The Wizards have the worst defensive rating in the NBA. One of the reasons for this is the lack of rim protection and defensive presence at the center position. The factor that I was most intrigued with about Pasecniks (other than his 7’2 height and 7’6 wingspan) was his ability to use that length to effect shots and be a deterrent at the rim effectively. At 24 years of age, I saw the potential. Pasecniks became my one favorite center prospects on the team. Pasecniks had the lowest defensive rating (108.9) and best net rating (0.4) out of Bryant, Wagner, and Mahinmi. With context, these numbers are from a relatively small sample size (24 games). Pasecniks is not a flashy player, but he is fundamentally sound and knows his role.
As Bryant and Wagner came back to the lineup, Pasecniks went back to the bench. I wanted to see more minutes from the former first round pick, but due to a new contract for Bryant and Wagner being acquired in a trade, naturally Pasecniks would have to lose his minutes. In the games leading up to the stoppage of the NBA, Pasecniks would reappear with some spot playing time. I do not know what the future holds for Pasecniks with the Wizards, but Davis Bertans isn’t the only Latvian that gained my attention this season.