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Looney and loaded: 'Freak of nature' forward visits Wizards

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Looney and loaded: 'Freak of nature' forward visits Wizards

When looking at forward Kevon Looney's entire portfolio including measurables, stats and analytics, the take from the UCLA product's former teammate doesn't seem so outlandish.

"Kevon is a freak of nature," said guard Norman Powell, who played with Looney during the big man's lone college season. 

The pair and four other NBA Draft prospects worked out for the Washington Wizards on Monday. For all kinds of reasons, Looney is frequently projected as one option for the Wizards with the 19th overall pick:

Need - Whether Paul Pierce stays in Washington or not, the Wizards are in the market for a stretch-4. The 6-foot-9 Looney shot 41.5% (22 of 53) from beyond the college 3-point arc during his freshman season while averaging 11.6 points.

Glass work - Rebounding numbers, more than most stats, tend to translate from college to the pro game. Looney grabbed 9.2 last season, including 3.8 off the offensive boards. Though a good rebounding team during the regular season, the Wizards work on the boards dipped in the playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

"His IQ of being able to go and grab rebounds. I've seen him grab rebounds that I didn't even think was possible," Powell exclaimed. 

Measurables - Not only does the Milwaukee native possess good height for NBA power forward, Looney sports a 7-foot-4 wingspan. Powell: "His measurements are out of this world."

Advanced math - DraftExpress.com looked at seven different analytics models from various sources in comparison with its own rankings (Read more if you want to geek out on the details). Most of the expected top picks, including Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke big man Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell, retained their lofty status. Looney finished ninth overall, ahead of Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis and Kentucky shot-blocker Willie Cauley Stein. DraftExpress rates Looney 17th overall.

Versatility - if you one of those modern-thinking basketball fans who likes concept of a point-forward, Looney wants you to know he ran his team's offense during his senior year of high school, which ended just about one calendar year ago. 

"I didn’t play some. I played point guard in high school," the 19-year-old Looney stated. "I think I bring a lot to the table from both positions, small forward and power forward. A good rebounder and real versatile. I think that’s one of my strengths."

That strength works perfectly in the current NBA where players are tasked with constantly switching on both ends of the court. Asked which position serves him best entering the league, Looney passed on picking just one.

"I don’t like to limit myself because when I watch the games a lot of guys are interchangeable," he said. "Otto Porter played a lot of three and the four. Paul Pierce even played four this year. You watch a team like Golden State where their guys are playing everywhere so I don’t want to limit myself."

For all that potential and freak of nature talk, there is some downside when examining Looney's future, which explains why he might not hear his name called until the early 20's.

He's not an exceptional athlete by NBA standards with only basic-level quickness. DraftExpress notes his "high, narrow hips that give him somewhat of an awkward build." 

Looney isn't the only freshman in consideration for teams picking in the Wizards' range, but lack of experience plays a factor for a team with thoughts of winning the Eastern Conference. CSNwashington.com asked NBADraftBlog.com analyst Ed Isaacson to rank 10 prospects with the Wizards' situation in mind. Looney ranked last.

The media was allowed to watch the final 10 minutes of Monday's workout, which went for more than one hour. Of the six prospects, Looney was the one appearing fatigued, grabbing at his shorts and not moving his feet defensively during 3-on-3, half court drills. Apparently that's the norm. From DE's player profile: "Looney tends to tire fairly easily and often looks fatigued as the games move on, grabbing onto his shorts and really struggling with his effort and awareness."

Then again, like the other prospects, Looney has spent the last month crisscrossing the country going from workout to workout. The Wizards were the 11th or 12th team he's visited.

One more session at San Antonio remains. The Spurs pick 26th. There are teams in the early teens who have shown interest. 

"I really have no clue," Looney said about where he might land. "I’m waiting for a surprise. I really don’t know. I worked out for everybody from 12 to 23, 25. Anything can happen. I don’t know what to expect."

On some level, the same can be said for the "freak of nature" prospect.

Notes: The 6-foot-4 Powell has worked out for 14 teams with two more coming ahead of Thursday's draft. The combo guard with a two-way game believes his draft range is anywhere from "mid-to-late first to early second." 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

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