There plenty of doom and gloom takes on the Washington Wizards these days. Perhaps the most ugly version involves the mid-season trade for Markieff Morris. The deal didn't help the Wizards reach the playoffs and it likely cost their 2016 lottery pick. Fantastic.
Barring a miracle there is no getting around the disappointment over the no postseason angle. As for the no draft pick story, there are a few points folks are overlooking:
1) The Wizards get to keep Morris for at least the next two seasons and at a rather modest cost
2) The projected 2016 Draft class is a mystery wrapped in an enigma of wingspan and extreme youth
3) The 2017 class is much more interesting
Washington traded the 2016 selection to Phoenix with limited protection. If top-9 or better, it stays with the Wizards. However, the standings show Washington would pick 12th barring any changes. Therefore, unless the ping-pong balls come up lucky and they land one of the first three picks, the Wizards won't have a selection in 2016. They previously traded away their second round selection for Kelly Oubre Jr.
Should the Wizards move into the top 3, they convey their 2017 first rounder to Phoenix. Top 3 plays, but Washington is otherwise better off keeping its 2017 selection. Hold this thought.
Many of the people bemoaning the no playoff-no pick fate also note that All-Star guard John Wall is in the midst of his prime. Therefore, immediate help is required. Most drafts don't offer such help anymore. Even down the road, projections for the 2016 group are cloudy according to numerous observers including NBC Sports' Rob Dauster.
"Who in this class are we confident will be a top 15 player, an all-star years from now? [LSU forward] Ben Simmons and [Duke forward] Brandon Ingram, maybe. People think we'll know what the top four or so picks this year will be. After that, who knows," said Dauster, the lead writer for the website College Basketball Talk.
The "who knows" aspect flies in the face of those who believe you build through the draft regardless. There are certainly advantages including moldable youth and cheaper labor. That doesn't mean the draft is a must for each team every year or that even the top picks are slam dunks.
Cellar dwellers gather assets and hope a winning path emerges. Everyone points to the success in Oklahoma City as full proof of concept. They ignore the fate of Anthony Bennett. The No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland in the 2013 Draft is already out of the league.
For those thinking playoffs, vets can trump kids. Washington traded its 2014 first rounder for Marcin Gortat, who is finishing up a third straight solid season. Phoenix used the 18th pick on Tyler Ennis, who averaged 4.2 points in limited minutes for Milwaukee this season.
In some years, the chances of success are better than others. A Morris-type deal in 2015 wouldn't have been viewed positively. Everyone loved the 2015 class because of the upside with the top handful of options and the impressive depth throughout the first round. That meant the odds of landing a potential impact player -- even if, like Oubre, that potential is down the road -- were rather high. When you're making moves for a scenario months out, knowing how big the target for potential success is key.
Even when noting the draft's general uncertainty, the 12th pick in 2016 reaches the next level.
"I'm just not convinced you'll get an All-Star player in that range," Dauster told CSN recently.
Meanwhile "the 2017 draft is definitely deep and more talented with more guys at the top," Dauster states. "There are a lot of studs in that class. More prospects with a chance to be stars."
Sounds like a bigger target for potential. Sounds like it's perhaps better having a first round pick that year.
Dauster's 2016 claim is based on the U.S. college players. International prospects provide another scouting challenge. The upside is New York Knicks rookie Krystaps Porzingis, a player the draft community loved and the uneducated masses mocked. The downside is Jan Vesely, who didn't receive the same hype as Porzingis, but was universally considered worthy of the sixth pick in 2011.
The latest DraftExpress.com mock draft casually projects French forward Timothe Luwawu 12th overall. Even if we move past the international player no fan stateside has ever heard of, five of the six players surrounding Luwawu will have each played as many years of college ball as the seldom-used Oubre. Like Oubre, those players would likely learn by watching in Washington since the Wizards are thinking playoffs and don't have a D-League team yet for needed child care.
Meanwhile Morris, whose $8 million salary over each of the next two years will look like the tip jar compared to some of the overpriced contracts handed out in free agency this summer, is already here. The 26-year-old power forward proved helpful this season -- Washington is 13-12 since the acquisition -- and fills out a roster lacking in bodies entering next season.
Barring a miracle, the 2015-16 season was a missed opportunity. All agree on this. That doesn't mean the Wizards lose even more if they lose their 2016 first round pick. For the long haul, it's perhaps ideal.
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