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NBA Draft: Wizards will select one of these eight players (or not)


NBA Draft: Wizards will select one of these eight players (or not)

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.

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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 


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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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