What do you hope for when March rolls around and your favorite NBA team doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs? You hope that David Stern’s draft lottery is kind to your team and said team ends up drafting a franchise changer in the top five. Last year the Wizards nailed their top pick in Bradley Beal and the fan base has been re-energized with his exceptional play. That’s what every franchise hopes for come draft time.
Let’s rewind the calendar back a month to February 19th. The Wizards just lost their 37th game of the year to the Raptors and were sitting at 15-37. The entire fan base, including myself, were expecting a top five draft pick and many outlets wanted the Wiz to draft Otto Porter, Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad, or Anthony Bennett. Articles were flying around the Wizernet about who to draft with this top five pick. Fast forward to present day and Washington now boasts a 24-43 record and currently hold the 8th worst record in the NBA. My what a month does to a lottery bound team who is starting to find their groove!
If the season ended today and the draft lottery played out how it should, the Wizards would be drafting eighth overall. Which means Washington will probably miss on Otto Porter and Nerlens Noel and quite possibly Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad. But maybe this is the blessing in disguise that the franchise needs.
Martell Webster has been playing lights out lately and is currently on the best stretch of his career. John Wall has made it publicly known that he wants Martell back with this team next season. But even after Webster’s stellar play, many around the Wizards circle have stated that the starting position to upgrade is at SF because Wall, Beal, Nene, and Emeka Okafor have strong grasps on their starting spots. So let’s say hypothetically the Wiz draft Otto Porter. I’m sure he would be thrown into a starting position with the Wizards that would in turn regulate Martell to a bench role. Washington would be starting a rookie again and would have a player that John loves to play with, playing a majority of his minutes with the second unit instead of with The Great Wall himself. Webster has played stellar this year, but he’s been at his best with Wall on the court and the numbers reflect just that. In December, sans John Wall, Webster averaged 31.3 MPG and 9.4 PPG. Enter John Wall and a month to run together and Webster’s March numbers are 34.5 MPG and 15.9 PPG. Would Webster put those numbers up coming off the bench next year? His minutes and points would probably take a dip, but I don’t think his efficiency would remain the same playing a majority of his minutes with whoever the Wiz have at backup PG next year. Our friends at WizardsXtra go into more detail on that very point in their latest podcast.
So drafting later might not be the worst thing to happen to this Wizards squad. Drafting in the 8-12 range could open the doors for a player like Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, or Alex Len or possibly even Shabazz or Bennett if they drop. Players that might take a season to develop but could be valuable role players coming off the bench next year. Drafting later might give the Wiz the option to draft their big man of the future and groom him behind Mek and Nene or draft their SF of the future and take shooting lessons from Martell for a year or two. The Wizards could do this grooming while leaving the starting line-up intact and the continuity together that has produced some quality basketball as of late. It also would help financially when it comes to the re-signing of Webster as the difference in salary between the 3rd overall pick and the 8th overall pick is a hair over a million dollars per season.
The next date to keep an eye out for is May 21st. That is the date of the infamous closed door, no cameras allowed draft lottery. After the magical ping pong balls bounce in the favor or whoever pleases David Stern the most, we will see what position the Wizards will be drafting in this June’s NBA draft.
Stayed tuned as we will examine some draft prospects that the Washington should have their eyes on and how those prospects would fit with this Wizards team. Until next time, Stay Steezy my friends!