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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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Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to Spotrac.com, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.


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UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

USA TODAY Sports Images

UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

In Tuesday's Wizards Talk podcast Chris Miller sat down with point guard Coby White, a projected lottery pick from the University of Carolina. 

On Monday, the Wizards worked out White and college teammate Nassir Little in the franchise's highest-profile workout this year. Despite being projected higher than No. 9, White was enthusiastic about the opportunity. 

"These mock drafts are cool, but it's not the real deal," explained White. "If I was to slip and Washington were to select me, I'd be in a great place."

White's passion combined with his impressive skill set enabled him to become the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school history. Growing up he followed John Wall, as did every hooper in North Carolina, and he still remembers Wall shredding apart defenses on his legendary high school mixtape. 

"His mixtape was lit," professed White. "The style he played with was uncomparable to anyone else."

What many people don't know about White was that growing up, his dream school was Duke. Once he got to Chapel Hill, however, Roy Williams, his teammates and UNC's winning tradition won him over in a heartbeat. 

"They didn't care how much you had coming in, Coach Williams never promised me playing time," said White. "He just promised me 'I'll be the hardest coach you ever had and I'll try my best to make you the best you can be.'"

At Thursday draft, White's life will be changed forever once he hears his name called and shakes Adam Silver's hand. For Wizards fans, hopefully, that won't happen before the No. 9 pick