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NBA Draft Insider sees viable risk-reward options for Wizards at No. 9

NBA Draft Insider sees viable risk-reward options for Wizards at No. 9

CHICAGO -- The NBA Draft lottery happened and went splat for the Wizards. No shot at selecting Duke forward Zion Williamson or Murray State guard Ja Morant. No moving up the board, no holding steady. Instead, Washington fell back to the ninth selection despite a less than four percent chance of falling there.

Get over it and focus on the interesting prospects likely available.

That’s the positive advice from ESPN’s lead NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony as the 2019 NBA Combine sets to tip-off Thursday,

“The best players in the draft rarely go 1-2-3 as we anticipate on the night of the draft,” Givony told NBC Sports Washington. “Year after year we re-draft and see how it goes. (2013 No. 1 overall pick) Anthony Bennett goes here; Giannis Antetokounmpo goes (15th in 2013). Whatever, the draft happened and now it’s time to move on and discuss some guys.”

While the 2019 talent lacks a deep talent pool at the top relative to other years, Givony said, “[The Wizards] are going to get an interesting, young talent. This is the Zion draft, but there are other players that are going to be good in this draft.”

Consensus remains elusive with the prospect order nearly one month ahead of the June 20 draft other than Williamson and Morant likely going off the board 1-2, followed immediately by Duke’s RJ Barrett.

Two players last seen in the national championship game, Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver, project among the top 4-8 selections. Another Duke player, forward Cam Reddish, could slide to nine, but don’t hold your breath considering his potential.

Based on the No. 9 pick, the draft class and a Wizards roster lacking bodies, the debate is less about need vs. best player available and more about upside vs. identity. The first-round selection may become the first major personnel move by the next general manager. Washington remains without a set front office head since Ernie Grunfeld’s dismissal on April 2.

If there’s a go big mentality, there might not be a more on the nose candidate than Bol Bol.

The 7-foot-2 son of ex-Washington Bullet Manute arrived on the college basketball scene last season as the fourth overall prospect behind those three Duke heavyweights. The slender center only got to show off his unique size and skill combination in nine games before fracturing his foot in December.

“I think Bol is really interesting,” Givony said. “If he didn’t get hurt I think we’d be talking about him in that top four group."

Bol averaged 21.0 points. 9.6 rebounds and shot 52 percent from beyond the arc before suffering the season-ending injury after nine games.

“Offensively the upside may be the highest in the draft. How often can you find a  guy who is 7-foot-2, can shoot threes, pass it, has amazing touch, can move the way he does and block shots? The guy’s talent is unreal,” Givony gushed. “Maybe that’s the guy you take at nine and (think) if things would have worked out differently for him he’s’ a top four pick.”

For this potential reward comes sizeable risk. While Bol measured a 7-foot-7 wingspan at the Combine according to ESPN, he weighed a mere 208 pounds after tipping the scales around 225-230 pre-injury. Powerful NBA big men would push Bol around even at the higher weight.

Other concerns exist with Bol’s attitude and passion. Or at least they did entering college. One NBA scout told NBC Sports Washington,“[Bol] was considered a bad kid, entitled. I didn’t want anything to do with him.” That specific source suggested the desired turnaround occurred during the season. Givony concurred.

“[Desire] was a definite knock on him going into college, but I’ve heard he’s made major strides in that area this year,” Givony said.

Evaluating Sekou Doumbouya, the youngest prospect in the 2019 class, presents different challenges -- and potential.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Guinea plays professionally in France’s top league. Maturity in multiple ways is a question mark for the 210-pound, 18-year-old old, but Givony sees a prospect worthy of lottery consideration. Givony slotted Doumbouya to Washington in his first post-lottery draft.

“I think he makes a lot of sense (for the Wizards),” Givony said. “What he’s doing in France, it’s not what (Mavericks rookie) Luka Doncic did in Real Madrid, but it’s very, very rare. He’s starting, he’s productive. He’s making shots. He’s guarding everybody. He’s their best defender. He’s athletic. He’s long. He’s multi-positional. His shooting has made significant strides. He’s what the NBA is looking for these days, that wing forward type. Can guard everywhere, make a three. Athletic, has a great frame. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t one of the players the Wizards looked at."

Doumbouya did not attend this week’s Combine. Don’t fret. There’s a good chance the Wizards have a thick file on the kid thanks to Tommy Sheppard’s relentless scouting.

“There’s not an executive I see on the road more than [Tommy] throughout the year, especially this year," Givony said. “He’s prepared for this.”

Whether Sheppard, the Wizards’ interim front office leader since Grunfeld’s dismissal, makes the pick at nine remains unclear. Sheppard is one of several candidates in consideration. The group reportedly includes Denver president Tim Connelly.

What’s also uncertain is which players will be available at nine and how the Wizards’ eventual decision-makers value those options.

“I’m not sure the player you get ninth is any different from the player you get sixth. It’s beauty in the eye of the beholder. Maybe a guy we have projected 13th goes seventh,” said Givony, who acknowledges his big board is hardly set. He also believes the Wizards are positioned to add help.

“I’m not that smart to know how this thing is going to play out five weeks before,” Givony said. “Anytime you have a top 10 asset I think it’s a pretty valuable asset. I’m sure Tommy and his group will use it wisely -- if he’s the one making the pick.”

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2019 NBA Draft Lottery Results: Wizards drop three spots, will pick ninth in June draft

2019 NBA Draft Lottery Results: Wizards drop three spots, will pick ninth in June draft

 

In their previous four NBA Draft lottery appearances, the Washington Wizards bucked the odds twice by moving up significantly in the overall selection order.

The Wizards received the rights to the No. 9 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft based on the results from Tuesday’s lottery show from Chicago.

The first opportunity since 2013 did not work out as well. The New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and will have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

That slot takes Washington out of range for this year’s prized prospect, Duke’s Zion Williamson. Murray State’s Ja Morant and another Duke standout, R.J. Barrett, are projected top 3 selections. 

The next group, including Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter, offers potential starting help, but lacks the high ceiling-high floor combination offered by the top three prospects per league sources.

The Wizards need an infusion of talent -- and hope -- following a frustrating regular season that ended with the team’s worst record (32-50) since a 29-53 mark in 2012-13.

Washington entered the draft lottery with a nine percent chance of landing the first selection, the sixth-best odds overall. New changes with the draft lottery formula flattened the chances for the teams coming off the worst season by record. New York, Cleveland and Phoenix all entered with a 14 percent chance of receiving the first pick.

The Memphis Grizzlies landed the No. 2 overall pick. The New York Knicks earned the No. 3 overall pick, with the Los Angeles Lakers landing the No. 4 pick.

The Wizards twice previously won the draft lottery. Washington selected forward Kwame Brown first overall in 2001 and point guard John Wall with the top choice in 2010. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed the draft order from Chicago, site of the league’s annual draft combine, the every nine-year trend ended.

The Wizards’ latest season was highlighted by defensive struggles, internal squabbles, roster shakeups and injuries most notably to John Wall and Dwight Howard. Owner Ted Leonsis made a significant change in April with the firing of team president Ernie Grunfeld after 16 seasons.

Washington’s current roster includes Bradley Beal, but the two-time All-Star is the only returning healthy player to start more than 10 games last season.

Hunter, a hero on Virginia’s national championship team, brings 3-point shooting and defensive prowess to the small forward position. The Wizards went from being stacked at the 3 to needing bodies after trading Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. last season.

Cam Reddish, part of Duke’s heralded freshman class along with Williamson and Barrett, is another small forward candidate. Reddish’s physical attributes are impressive, but his late-season struggles dropped his pre-draft ranking.

Texas Tech wing guard Jarrett Culver led the Red Raiders to the national championship game. The 6-foot-5 sophomore averaged 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.

A pair of point guards, Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and North Carolina’s Coby White are the other current members of this tier. Garland’s shooting range stands out, but he missed nearly all of his lone collegiate season with a knee injury.

White’s stock rose throughout his season after averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 assists for the Tar Heels. The 6-foot-5 White has the size to play both guard spots.

Other prospects worthy of top 10 consideration include Texas center Jaxson Hayes, Kentucky forward P.J. Washington, Oregon’s 7-foot-3 center Bol Bol, and a pair of Gonzaga forwards, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke.

Grunfeld’s eventual replacement has the opportunity to reshape the roster. The Wizards ended the regular season with eight free agents, and, barring a major change of thought from its new leadership, will decline the $20 team option for forward Jabari Parker.

Whether the front office prioritizes restricted free agents Thomas Bryant, Tomas Satoransky and Bobby Portis, or veterans Jeff Green and Trevor Ariza, the draft comes before free agency opens July 1. How much salary cap space the Wizards have available this summer generally depends on whether they attempt to keep some of the various free agents.

Along with Beal and the injured Wall, the Wizards 2019-20 roster currently includes rising second-year guard Troy Brown, centers Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard and guard Jordan McRae.

Wall is expected to miss at least a significant portion of the season following February’s surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles.

The Wizards do not own a second-round pick in 2019 or any draft until 2023. They do have the opportunity to add a player selected in the lottery.

That’s not the same as drafting Zion Williamson, but it’s a chance to retool on the fly.

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2019 NBA Draft: Six potential draft prospects for the Wizards at No. 9

2019 NBA Draft: Six potential draft prospects for the Wizards at No. 9

The stage is finally set for the 2019 NBA Draft. On Tuesday night, the NBA Draft Lottery results were unveiled, with the New Orleans Pelicans landing the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to draft Duke phenom Zion Williamson.

The Washington Wizards did not hit the lottery jackpot on Tuesday night. In fact, the Wizards were one of the biggest losers of the night, falling back three spots despite having the sixth best odds.

Focus now shifts to the 2019 NBA Draft Combine, which begins Wednesday, May 15 in Chicago, Ill., where some of the top prospects will be performing and competing in front of coaches and scouts. The Wizards will have plenty of options with the No. 9 overall pick, meaning the front office has a lot of homework to do before the June 20 draft.

Which players should the Wizards consider? Which players fit their system the best? Here's a quick look at five potential prospects the Wizards could use their No. 9 pick on.

Cam Reddish, Duke

- 6-8 SF/PF. Freshman.
Draft fans have soured on the enigmatic Reddish, and it's hard to blame them. Reddish trod water at various times during his lone season at Duke, and really struggled from beyond the arc. But even when he was banged up, Reddish was one of the best defenders in the country, being able to guard all five positions. He has more upside than teammate Barrett but is also a bigger risk to become a draft bust. Having said all that, he makes a lot of sense for the Wizards: He's a freak athlete with limitless upside and fills a need at the wing forward. Expect Reddish to be a major slider in the first round. You may not want to use a Top 5 pick on him, but No. 9 would be an exceptional value.

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

- 6-6 SG, Sophomore.
Like Reddish, the only chance you get Culver is if he falls, and there's not a lot suggesting he will. I had concerns that he might be too similar to Bradley Beal, but might be the most skilled shooter in the draft and is a ferocious defender. If he's there at No. 9, don't even bother using the whole allotted time. Draft Culver and don't look back.

Coby White, North Carolina

- 6-5 SG, Freshman.
Bigger than John Wall, but not quite as quick, White brings a lot of similar characteristics to the table as John Wall in the open court. He's a better shooter than Wall was when he entered the league, and while he's not the defender Wall is, his instincts and game management are way ahead of the curve. He's one of the most realisitic options at No. 9 for the Wizards, although in an ideal world, the team focuses a bit more on their need for bigger bodies.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga

- 6-9 SF/PF, Junior.
The Wizards won't need to reach for Hachimura, and they won't have to worry about him being a bust. Hachimura might not be a multi-time All-Star, but he's trending toward a long career as a starter due to his excellent basketball I.Q., elite motor, and nose for the basketball. Don't discount his touch around the rim. Hachimura might be the best, and safest pick at No. 9. Virginia's De'Andre Hunter would be an excellent pick and is a better version of Hachimura, but it's likely that Hunter is off the board at No. 9.

Jaxson Hayes, Texas

- 6-11 C, Freshman.
The Wizards have an aging frontcourt and not much depth to speak of. Hayes is a physical freak with loads of upside but is still raw and unproven. Any spot above No. 9 might be too rich for Hayes, but the Wizards landed in a good spot to get good value.

Hayes probably has the biggest bust potential of any of these prospects, which might not be the safest bet for a team with its star player still a year away from a return.

Nassir Little, North Carolina

- 6-6 SG/SF. Freshman.
Little had arguably the most disappointing season of any freshman draft prospect. But the upside and athleticism is there in spade and it was clear toward the end of the season that Little had made some major strides. There's some concerns about him being to adjust to the learning curve.

The floor and the ceiling are both at the extremes for Little, which makes him a dangerous pick, but also is the reason he'll be there for the taking. 

Other Potential Picks at No. 9

Bruno Fernando would be great for the D.M.V., but does he have more upside than Jaxson Hayes? The Wizards could trade back a handful of spots if they have their sights set on Fernando.

The same applies for Kentucky wings Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington. Both have the toughness, motor, and talent to be great contributors, but how different are they from Troy Brown?

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