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Wizards take closer look at UConn's Andre Drummond


Wizards take closer look at UConn's Andre Drummond

As Andre Drummond readied himself for questions from the local media following his workout with the Wizards on Monday, Washington assistant coach Gene Banks momentarily stopped the process. Banks, himself a rugged, albeit undersized power player during his college days at Duke, put his arm around the physically imposing center before proceeding to smile andjoke his way through a statement about Drummond being his long lost son.If the 6-foot-11, 278 pound Drummond truly carried some of that Banks high-effort DNA, there would be no question about who the Wizards would take with the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Actually, in that scenario, they would not even have a chance on June 28 seeing as how there would be no way Drummond makes it past the Bobcats at two. It certainly would not be a foregone conclusion like it is now that Kentucky shotblocker Anthony Davis is the overall number one pick.
Alas, that part of the 18-year-olds big man game he turns 19 in August - remains in question. That and whetherDrummond's truly raw offensive skill set will develop in rapid enough fashion for a team ready to make a move toward the playoffs and away from its perpetual draft lottery status.Other likely candidates for the Wizards first selection, including Kansas Thomas Robinson, Floridas Bradley Beal and Kentuckys Michael Kid-Gilchrist, have recently been put through the paces by Wizards coach Randy Wittman and his staff. Now it was the Connecticut freshmans turn.It went really well. Its a great day for me today, Drummond said following his session on the Wizards practice court, his third to date with an NBA team. Im definitely starting to come around. The workouts are good, real good. Im working well the coaching staff. Everything is going real good for me right now."Drummond, who averaged 10.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks last season for the Huskies, also has scheduled upcoming visits in Charlotte and Cleveland. His mock draft projections range from number two down to the middle of the lottery teams. While these individual team sessions are said to be only a small portion of the overall evaluation process, it provides the player a chance to show what they have going on.That I can be an all-around player that can definitely defend the hoop, block a shot, grab rebounds, but also put points on the board. I can run the floor real well, Drummond said of what he hoped to show the Wizards and other inquiring teams.He didnt mention shooting ability. That is because right now, his is not on the positive side of the assessment ledger.Though Drummond finished his one college season as 54 percent shooter, most of his attempts came on dunks or looks within proximity of the basket. Out at the free throw line, Drummond clanked at an astonishingly low 29.5 percent (26 of 88). During the small window of time the media watched his workout on Monday, Drummond uncomfortably missed three of four free throws with at least one errant toss finding only the side of the rim.Good thing for Drummond its his size and physical skill set that attracts NBA teams. His shot blocking ways could help a team in year one even if his offense remains a work in progres. In preparation for the draft, Drummond said he has lost 22 pounds since the season ended.From the Wizards perspective, will they want to take on another big man project after going through the slow process with another physically gifted big man (though in different ways), JaVale McGee. Since Drummond is not ready to be a contributor and may not be for another year or two, the Wizards may find themselvessimply grooming him so he can go play elsewhere once his rookie contract is up. That would also lead to a similar financial debate like the one that just took place over McGee. In addition, Washington currently employs two wide body types on the roster - Nene and Kevin Seraphin- that figure to eat up most of the center minutes.The teams primary needs lie on the perimeter, in terms of bodies and shooters. Clearly, Drummond cannot help in those areas. Whether his upside outweighs those current concerns is what the Wizards must decide either at No. 3 or as a trade down option.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.


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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did


Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.


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