The NBA Draft will be held June 25 in Brooklyn. Assuming the Washington Wizards keep their first round pick, 19th overall, they will draft a player based on the following statement uttered by coach Randy Wittman during his season-ending press conference Monday:
I can't sit here and say, obviously, until you get through the draft and free agency and that, but obviously playing small is successful for us. Playing faster. Those are the things I want to try to improve this team, moving forward, with. Being able to play smaller. Being able to play faster. ... We've got to be able to have the pieces to do that in the regular season.
Now, its possible that team president Ernie Grunfeld expresses a different plan when he meets with the media later this week, assuming he provides any specific details at all. However, the Wizards were clearly at their best this postseason when playing with smaller, faster lineup lineups. That's become code for using a "stretch-4." That doesn't mean the Wizards should only focus on adding a perimeter shooting big man. Other needs exist and one-third of the roster might not return. With all that in mind, here's a thumbnail look at a group of prospects you can expect to hear plenty about over the next month.
Justin Anderson (Virginia, SG, 6'6") - The former Montrose Christian product starts off as a 3-and-D option, but with far greater potential. Posted 43-inch vertical leap at the combine and sports 6-foot-11 wingspan, meaning he and Otto Porter could former a lengthy defensive combo on the wing. Shot 45 percent from beyond the arc as a junior. The Wizards have lacked a scoring backup plan behind Bradley Beal.
Jerian Grant (Notre Dame, PG, 6'5") - Did it all last season while leading the Irish to the Elite Eight, averaging 16.5 points and 6.6 assist as a senior. The son of ex-Bullet Harvey Grant is a true point guard. Granted, the Wizards have one of those. As the Atlanta Hawks showed, having two isn't a bad thing. Grant and John Wall both have great size for the position, meaning they could play together. Shooting form is better than his 31.6 percentage from distance reflects.
Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, PF, 6'7") - The power-packed forward provides energy and rebounding (9.2 last season). Makes up for lack of height with insane 7-foot-4 inch wingspan and bulk (253 lbs). Harrell isn't a perimeter threat, but would be a ferocious rim-to-rim runner on the wing for fellow North Carolina native Wall. Former MVP of the Capital Classic averaged 15.7 points last season.
R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, SG, 6'6") - Instincts and shooting range for days. The son of a coach averaged 19.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 89 percent from the free throw line as a junior. Hunter is a self-sustaining scoring threat because of size, shooting, and playmaking. The Wizards' second-unit could use that type of talent. Ignore the 29 percent from deep last season as opponents sent waves of defenders his way (He did shoot 39 percent as a sophomore). Ice water in his veins as evidenced by his hero turn in the NCAA Tournament.
Kevon Looney (UCLA, PF, 6'9") - The consensus on Looney's draft day value is that there is no consensus. Those viewing him as a lottery pick note the shooting range (41.5 percent on 3-pointers) and work on the offensive glass (3.4 per game). Those dropping the raw prospect deeper into round one point out lack of quickness and average athleticism.
Trey Lyles (Kentucky, PF, 6'10") - Nobody denies the overall talent, though a bit hard to evaluate the 241-pounder from his one season with the Wildcats. Often forced to play small forward despite his power forward size. Strong on the offensive glass and a heady passer. More of a mid-range shooter at this point - finished a dismal 13.8 percent from 3-point range -, but has good form overall. Turns 20 in October.
Bobby Portis (Arkansas, PF, 6'11") - If you look big men with size, who produce (17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds as a sophomore), have a relentless motor and can score from inside and out (47 percent from beyond the arc on 30 attempts), then this is your guy. Basic athleticism is what probably keeps Portis from being a lottery selection, but his physical tools are strong as his shooting touch. The ideal fit for the Wizards - and a some other teams picking in front of them.
Christian Wood (UNLV, PF, 6'11") - This is an upside play. Great size, boasts a 7-foot-3 wingspan and can sky, all of which makes Wood a strong finisher at the rim. Averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a junior. Needs to bulk up (216 pounds) and work on his perimeter shooting (28 percent on 3's). Turns 20 in September.
At this moment, I like Portis, Hunter and Lyles most for the Wizards. Whether any of them will be available at 19 is the question.