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Homecoming workout for legacy Wizard Jerian Grant


Homecoming workout for legacy Wizard Jerian Grant

Jerian Grant's tour of NBA cities already includes five stops. The latest is easily the most familiar of all and quite possibly where the point guard ultimately ends up during the NBA Draft.

The DeMatha product, Notre Dame star and son of former Bullet/Wizard Harvey Grant participated in the Wizards' first workout session ahead of the June 25th draft. Grant, who co-headlined the session with Utah's Delon Wright, another fifth-year senior point guard, previously worked out for the Pacers, Rockets, Thunder and Suns. Therefore, a fifth opportunity directly in front of an NBA team didn't faze the mature Grant in the least. Neither did the setting. Neither did his father's presence alongside coach Randy Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld.

"I'm home," said Grant, who was raised in the area and spent time on the Verizon Courts growing up. "I walked through these locker rooms and the practice gyms. It brings back memories."

West Virginia guard Juwan Staten, UMass center Cady Lalanne, Stanford center Stefan Nastic and D.C. native Darian Hooker (NYIT) also participated in Monday's workout held on the Verizon Center practice court. 

The Wizards own the 19th and 49 overall picks in the 2015 Draft. Grant and Wright, selected first and second team All-Americans respectively by the Associated Press, are both projected as first round selections.

The Washington Bullets selected University of Oklahoma forward Harvey Grant 12th overall in the 1988 draft. The tweener forward spent his first five NBA seasons in Washington, averaging at least 18 points per game over the final three. Traded to Portland in 1993 for center Kevin Duckworth, Grant returned to the organization as part of the Rod Strickland-Rasheed Wallace deal in 1996. He spent two more seasons in Washington, including the organization's first year as the Wizards.

Jerian Grant is one of Harvey's three basketball playing sons, all of whom starred locally as preps at DeMatha. Jerai, the oldest brother, spent his college days at Clemson before playing professionally overseas. Jerami, the youngest of the three, played 65 games as rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.

"It's big for me," Grant said of his exposure to all levels of basketball. "I've studied the game a lot.  I've been around the game, especially the NBA game my whole life. Just my knowledge of the game, my basketball IQ, being around the game for so long helped me."

Grant rarely left the court during Notre Dame's 32-6 campaign which culminated with an epic Midwest Region finals loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals while playing 37 minutes per game. 

Wright directed Utah to the round of 16 during the NCAA Tournament, including a win over Georgetown. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 36 percent on 3-point attempts. 

It might seem odd that the Washington Wizards would consider taking a guard in the first round of the NBA Draft considering the team's strength lies with the John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt. It probably shouldn't. The Wizards have frontcourt needs, but can go with the best player available, especially if forward Paul Pierce returns.

With Wall's long-term contract, point guard isn't a pressing need. Adding Ramon Sessions at the trading shored up the backup position. However, Sessions' deal ends after the 2015-16 season. He's also more of a scorer than facilitator. Washington used Beal significantly more as a lead guard when Wall missed three games with a fractured hand and wrist during the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta.


The Hawks' use of drive-and-kick point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder either together or in waves kept Wizard defenders on their heels throughout the six-game series.

"I think it would be good fit," Grant said. "Bringing some energy off the bench. Some readiness off the bench. More playmaking. I think I can definitely fit."

At 6-foot-5, Grant and Wright have the size to defend wing guards and play alongside Wall. Grant only shot 32 percent on 3-pointers this season after sinking 41 percent as a junior. He attributed the decline to taking more shots off the dribble rather than being set up with passes on the wing. 

"Putting the ball in my hands or having me run of some screens and spotting up, I think I'm equipped to do both," he said.

Grant's sense of the draft board puts him in the 7-20 range. That could mean landing with his hometown team. Some players prefer getting out of town. Grant doesn't see an issue.

"I'm mature. It's not going to bother me too much," he said. "I have a pretty strong base family. It wouldn't be too bad at all for me."

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.


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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did


Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.


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