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2019 NBA Draft Big Board 8.0: As GM search continues, Wizards also face mystery with ninth pick

2019 NBA Draft Big Board 8.0: As GM search continues, Wizards also face mystery with ninth pick

For those hoping consensus forms around whom the Washington Wizards should draft with the ninth overall selection, here’s the good news.

Ten days remain until the 2019 NBA Draft. Maybe folks agree on some pecking order by then.

For the moment, at least from the outside perspective of scouts, front office executives and college coaches, whom the Wizards should draft at nine remain unclear. This occurs despite a somewhat consistent view of the top eight selections in the June 20 draft regardless of the exact order.

Duke forward Zion Williamson, the most exciting player to enter the NBA Draft since LeBron James, is alone in his own tier. Momentum for the second pick remains with Murray State point guard Ja Morant though Duke’s R.J. Barrett has his supporters.

Perception of talent available drops off from there, but credible public mock drafts overwhelmingly have the names (here listed alphabetically) Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Coby White next.

From there, insert your favorite shrugs emoji.

Some buy Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, a 6-foot-8 power forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan who averaged 19.7 points last season with the Bulldogs while draining 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts. There are whispers that the Wizards are interested in the Japanese native at nine.

“I like Rui a lot,” a college basketball coach told NBC Sports Washington. “I think teams will pass on him and regret it.

However, when asked about the possibility of at nine selecting Hachimura, one Eastern Conference scout echoed the take from others by saying, “that might be a stretch.”

The latest mock drafts from ESPN and The Athletic slot French forward Sekou Doumbouya, the youngest player in the 2019 class, to the Wizards. Plenty of intrigue lies with a developing 6-foot-9 player capable of defending 1-4.

NBC Sports Washington also sent Doumbouya to Washington in last week’s mock draft. Upon hearing this decision, one NBA scout simply replied, “too high. This was not a unique response.

None of this is to suggest Hachimura, Doumbouya, North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke or a handful of other candidates are not intriguing. The balking becomes less muted somewhere in the teens. Based on the historical norms of the ninth pick, excitement remains elusive.

Another Eastern Conference scout said this draft class from four down, but particularly from mid-lottery down, left him feeling manic. “One day in love. The next day with the same yet different eyes, the perception changes,” said the scout.

As for whom the Wizards should draft, one player’s name came up a bit more this week than others: Texas center Jaxson Hayes.

Like Doumbouya, going with 7-foot Hayes is a long-term play. Some league and college sources are intrigued by his combination of length (7-foot-3 wingspan) and agility. Hayes blocked 2.2 shots per game last season while shooting 72.8 percent from the floor. Many of those field goals came on dunks as the Longhorns effectively used Hayes as a screen-and-roller or as a lob catcher.

Just like his peers, Hayes’ candidacy doesn’t come with universal approval. Some sources question the 219-pound freshman’s toughness or ability to bang with real NBA centers. Hayes averaged 5.0 rebounds in 23 minutes for the Longhorns.

“[Hayes is] quite raw. Doesn’t rebound,” one NBA scout said. “Betting on the upside for sure.”

Despite the lack of a permanent front office leader, the Wizards are doing their homework. They met with several prospects at last month’s NBA Combine including White, Reddish and Clarke. Scouts attended agent-driven workouts across the country in recent days.

What they have not done is work out any realistic players with the ninth pick in mind at their practice facility.

Monday’s pre-draft session is Washington’s sixth in Ward 8. Only second-round targets and likely undrafted free agents have come through. Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson is expected to visit Wednesday, a source tells NBC Sports Washington, but projections for the small forward are typically in the 15-22 range. Same with USC guard Kevin Porter, who is expected in Washington on June 17.

One agent repping a consensus top 10 prospect told NBC Sports Washington he was not planning to send his player to Washington for a workout because of the front office uncertainty. Without knowing who ultimately decides what happens at nine, does the workout matter?

These workouts are not an overwhelming component in the pre-draft process but do provide teams a chance to learn more about the players on their turf. The Wizards have more time to get players in for that closer examination. Based on how the league currently views their options at nine, they need all the data possible before making a decision.

2019 NBA Draft Big Board

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Coby White, SG, UNC
8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, France
10. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
11. Nassir Little, SF, UNC
12. Goga Bitadze, C, International/Georgia
13. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
14. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon
15. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
16. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
17. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
18. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
19. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
20. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
21. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech
22. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia
23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC
24. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.
25. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia
26. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
27. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
28. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue
29. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia
30. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
31. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
32. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
33. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova         
34. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee
35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA
36. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont
38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA
39. Louis King, SF, Oregon
40. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
41. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska
42. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn
43. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU
44. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee
45. Naz Reid, C, LSU
46. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi
47. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State
48. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
49. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College
50. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga
51. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania
52. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest
53. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s
54. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan
55. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel
56. Miye Oni, F, Yale
57. Brian Bowen, PF, USA
58. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan
59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa
60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State; Justin Robinson, PG, Virginia Tech

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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.