Tonight is the night Wizards fans have been waiting for all (terrible) season long…..the draft lottery is upon us. Will all the losing that fans had to endure pay off with a top flight lottery pick? Will the Wizards land the top spot, or will they fall to the dreaded 5th pick? Will Ernie Grunfeld make the right selection for this team?
Washington will find out this evening what pick they are going to land in the upcoming June 28th NBA draft. The Wizards finished the season with the second worst record, giving them the second most chances at landing the number one overall pick. This also assures that the worst they can select — if jumped by 3 teams with worse records — is the fifth pick.
Back in February at Wizards Extreme, I gave my top 5 selections that the Wizards should take. Since that post, there have been some changes in terms of my player rankings, but the one thing that remained the same is Washington kept on losing and will have a top 5 pick. Back then, I targeted Thomas Robinson as the best pick for the Washington Wizards, outside of Anthony Davis of course. Robinson went on to have a great year, and possibly an even better tournament, and looks to be a great player no matter where he ends up. During the season though, Washington made a move to trade for post presence Nene, and their biggest need is now on the wing instead of inside scoring. Bradley Beal makes a jump into the top 5, and Harrison Barnes drop a couple spots.
The big number this evening is 4. As long as Washington can land in the top 4, they will have the opportunity to select an immediate impact rookie, who can instantly upgrade their roster. Things get a little cloudier if they fall to the fifth spot.
The same as before, Washington needs to target players with high efficiency, hard work ethic, and a high basketball IQ. That has not changed, as the Wizards need to continue their overhaul of players to change the basketball culture surrounding their franchise.
This is a top 5 list that the Wizards should target. Other teams may have a different board, but these are the guys that will be the best fit in Washington.
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (PF) – 6’10″ 220 lbs
Averages: 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 4.7 blocks
Davis, the consensus #1 pick overall, would be a perfect fit for Washington. A front court pairing of Anthony Davis and Nene would be a legit defensive force, combining size, strength, and length to create extremely tough match ups on the interior. He still has a good deal of development to go through, especially on the offensive end of the floor, but has displayed all the tools to be a threat on both ends of the floor. John Wall throwing lobs to AD would be a dream come true for Wizards fans.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (SF) – 6’7″ 228 LBS
Averages: 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.0 steal, .9 block
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be the best fit on this Wizards team if they are unable to land the top pick. His outside shooting will still remain a question mark, but everything else he brings to the table is too much to pass on at the 2 spot. MKG proved to be one of the better rebounding wings in college last year, averaging 7.4 rebounds per contest, on a Kentucky team that featured other good rebounders. He displayed toughness all year on both sides of the floor. His quickness and athleticism should help him develop into a very good defensive player. The ability he has to finish off the dribble and in traffic on the break will be an extremely good fit with John Wall’s speed. Kidd-Gilchrist still has a long ways to go with his jump shot, but he has a very high basketball IQ and a never ending motor to match it. The impact he would have on the Wizards roster can not be measured by his scoring numbers.
3. Bradley Beal, Florida (SG) – 6’4″ 201 LBS
Averages: 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals
I believe Bradley Beal would be the best fit on this Wizards team if the Wizards are unable to land the top pick. Many would argue you can’t draft for need at the top of the draft like this, but the argument can also be made that Beal is the third best player in the draft. The fact that he fits Washington’s biggest need just makes selecting Beal that much more enticing. Washington desperately needs outside scoring from the shooting guard spot, and Bradley looks like the perfect prospect to pair alongside John Wall. He can score from outside, has a good set shot, and can put the ball on the floor. Beal is also a very good rebounding guard, averaging 6.7 boards per game last season. He would immediately slide into the starting 2 spot, moving Jordan Crawford back to a more suitable role as bench scorer. Beal may have more value to the Wizards than other teams, so it is possible that if Washington lands the fourth pick, that he could still be on the board.
4. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (PF) – 6’9″ 240 lbs
Averages: 17.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 50.5% FG
Thomas Robinson is going to be an excellent pro. If Washington drops to fourth and Robinson is available, it is a no-brainer. Robinson was a dominant inside force all year, and went on to have a great tournament en route to leading Kansas to the national championship game. They ended up losing to a dominant Kentucky team, but Robinson’s impact had been made. He is an undersized power forward for NBA standards, but is a very efficient scorer and has an incredible rebounding ability. I see Robinson as a Paul Millsap type of player, and Washington would be lucky to have that type of contribution. If Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton develop, pairing Thomas Robinson with Nene and the still ascending game of Trevor Booker would be a very tough front court.
5. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (SF) – 6’8″ 223 lbs
Averages: 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals
Barnes came into the NCAA season as one of the top prospects. He still had a rather good season on paper, but he did not raise his game to the level many expected when it mattered. Critics say he shies away from big moments, and lacks the aggressiveness needed to be an elite scorer. I still believe Barnes has all the tools to be a very good NBA player. With all the criticism, he would still be an immediate upgrade for the Wizards roster. On top of that, at the fifth selection, he would fit Washington’s biggest need of upgrading their wing scoring.
The real wild card in this year’s draft is going to be Andre Drummond, the 6’10″ center out of UCONN. Draft Express still has him ranked at the number two overall prospect. Depending on how the lottery shakes out, Drummond could be selected in the top 5, which would change the order of available players for the Wizards. I still don’t want Ernie Grunfeld to select him, even at 5, because he is a project who will take a long time to develop. Washington needs to select players who can contribute now, before it is too late and John Wall is out the door.
Other players who are potential picks, especially if Washington drops to fifth, include Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, and Perry Jones. I would not be surprised at all to see Ernie select Perry Jones with the 5th pick, as he falls right into Grunfeld’s wheelhouse of size, athleticism, length, and potential.
A player to keep your eye on for a late first rounder or early second rounder is John Jenkins, shooting guard out of Vanderbilt. The 6’4″, 215 pound wing averaged 19.9 points last year shooting 54.2% from the floor and 43.9% from three point range. The field goal percentage from three is very impressive, but even more so because he attempted 8.7 shots from long range last year. If Washington can package their two second round picks to move up to the late first, John Jenkins would be an excellent pick. Or if he falls to the 32nd pick overall, the Wizards should jump all over him.
Tonight’s lottery will determine where Washington’s draft pick will land. Once determined, the real evaluations begin. Maybe the NBA will decide to make it easy on Ernie and hand him Anthony Davis. Very unlikely. Either way, Washington needs to hit on this draft pick with a player who can come in right away and contribute. If they are unable to do so, the Wizards could be stuck at the bottom of the league for some time to come.