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NBA Draft: Which one of five ways do Wizards go?


NBA Draft: Which one of five ways do Wizards go?

For a moment, put aside the hype or any particular fondness for specific prospects. Based on looking at the current roster, short-term needs and big picture goals, the Wizards could head in five different directions during the first round of Thursday's NBA Draft. 

Now, back to the players as we pick the leading realistic candidate for each of those five roles - presented in order of need - with the 19th overall selection in mind.

The stretch-4: Bobby Portis, Arkansas

Tabbing the 6-foot-11 Portis doesn't exactly come as a surprise. He's been the fan choice for weeks and fave of most analysts. We're not talking about a rim protector or a particularly dynamic athlet, but a hustling forward with an inside-outside game and a smiling human with an infectious personality. The Wizards are in the market for a stretch-the-floor type, not to mention younger legs seeing as none of their primary options are under 30. Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden filled the stretch-4 role last season and neither might return for 2015-16. Nene's contract expires after next season, leaving a void at power forward regardless.

On the other hand: Nene and Kris Humphries are back. No reason to think Gooden won't return assuming the team has interest and why wouldn't they. Factor in center Marcin Gortat and that's a veteran-laden interior four-man rotation right there for coach Randy Wittman. Maybe Humphries worked on his deep ball enough to serve as a stretch-4 with Gooden. Seeing as a certain 2016 free agent is the ultimate stretch-4, maybe the Wizards can address other areas in round one while adding a stopgap big in free agency. Keep in mind that inconsistent rookies, which is most rookies, historically struggle for minutes on contending teams when stable options exist. Also, are we 100% sure Paul Pierce is gone? Opting out might just be about wanting a raise, right? Then again, maybe not.

Backup planKevon Looney, UCLA. The talent is evident, but can the title-chasing Wizards take a raw prospect unlikely to make an impact year one?

The shooter: R.J Hunter, Georgia State

Have written plenty over the last month about the 6-foot-6 basketball player. That's how Hunter described his position in college and he's not wrong. On the pro level we're looking at wing guard, but with the Sun Belt program he carried the scoring load, ran the offense and took all the big shots. Simply put, Hunter knows how to play the game and isn't afraid of the big moment. Mentioned this comparison before, but Hunter reminds me some of an extrovert Otto Porter with deeper range because both are long and possess great instincts. If the Wizards think they can use Hunter defensively in three guard sets with John Wall and Bradley Beal, then this is the shooter for them.

On the other hand: There really isn't a counterpoint. The Wizards need more shooting besides Beal, period. However, if Hunter isn't available, Washington may target other traits first based on the available options.

Backup plan: Whether it's Portis, Looney, Virginia swingman Justin Anderson, Murray State point guard Cameron Payne or UNLV wing Rashad Vaughn, the Wizards should have perimeter-shooting options available from different positions. 

The versatile: Justin Anderson, Virginia

If Pierce does leave, the Wizards' small forward depth chart consists of the promising but never-been-a-true-starter Otto Porter and the oft-injured Martell Webster. The former Montrose Christian product - we're talking Anderson, not Kevin Durant - has the skills for the desired 3-and-D type performer. The hyper-mature 6-foot-6 forward has the strength to battle bigger players and the quickness/desire when perimeter defense is required. Seismic improvement with his 3-point percentage occurred between his sophomore and junior season. Having waves of wings on the roster certainly is trendy and, as Golden State can attest, effective.

On the other hand: Some scouts question whether his improved shooting form can hold up from beyond the deeper NBA 3-point line. Part of the swingman appeal is having a backup at the 2 and 3, but Anderson's ball handling isn't NBA-ready. He loses some allure if Washington doesn't think he can play consistent offensive minutes in the backcourt. Also, if the Wizards lose Pierce, do they want another youngster or a seasoned veteran ready to help out from Day 1?

Backup planSam Dekker, Wisconsin.  For starters, decent chance the 6-foot-9 junior isn't around at 19. Dekker didn't work out in Washington, but that doesn't matter. The natural small forward has the size, athleticism and, in theory, the shot for stretch-4 work. There were times last season, especially during the NCAA Tournament, when Dekker played the part of future lottery pick. At other times, like chunks of the regular season, he didn't live up to the hype. Labored the past two years shooting from deep and at the free throw line, but his overall game swagger remained.

The point: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

The 6-foot-5 Grant has the size for both guard roles and he excels in pick-and-roll sets. Washington' basic offense struggles when Wall sits and not just because Wall sits, but because they don't have true distributor. Add such a player and the production for those on the second unit - plus a rolling Gortat - bumps up.

On the other hand: Keeping Pierce means keeping the core of the team that many believe was a Wall injury away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals. That scenario keeps "Best Player Available" angle alive. Otherwise, it becomes a bit harder for the Wizards to look at another lead guard with the upcoming season in mind considering the presence of Wall and Ramon Sessions. 

Backup plan: Delon Wright, Utah. Similar size and style to Grant. Length defensively and experience likely becomes the senior's primary rookie asset.

The big: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

The unconventional replacement for Kevin Seraphin. Unlike the (likely) soon-to-be ex-Wizard center, Harrell's energy on the glass never quits. Though undersized at 6-foot-8, the 253-pounder is rugged and long (7-foot-4) wingspan. Harrell's offensive game and free throw shooting needs plenty of work, but he'll run the court with Wall and provide second chance opportunities off the offensive glass. If the coaching staff can help channel his rage for good (rebounding and defense) and not evil (silly fouls, lost focus), the Wizards' second unit won't get punked any time soon. 

On the other hand: Harrell would essentially have to play center for Washington because he's even less of a court-spacing fit with Gortat than Nene. Regardless of position, the Wizards need more shooting and that's not his game. The 60% from the free throw keeps him off the court late in games. 

Backup planChristian Wood, UNLV. Different from Harrell in just about every way. 6-foot-11, lean and skilled, Wood oozes potential as a scorer, shooter and ball handler. Also swatted plenty of shots in college. Like Looney, he just might need more time before contributing consistently on the NBA level. 

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!