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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: What if lottery doesn’t score Wizards Zion Williamson or Ja Morant?

2019 NBA Draft Big Board: What if lottery doesn’t score Wizards Zion Williamson or Ja Morant?

The Washington Wizards are no exception when it comes to dreaming for Zion Williamson.

Odds suggest jumping up the lottery board to the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft for the rights to select one of the most exciting prospects over the last two decades won’t happen. Moving into the 2-4 pick range or even remaining with their current sixth slot requires true luck as well. Possible, yes. Likely, eh.

Without that boost, the Wizards would surely miss out on Williamson and Murray State point guard Ja Morant. Duke leading scorer R.J. Barrett is no less than the consensus third overall prospect. The board lacks definition after that talented trio.

The Wizards have a nine percent chance of owning the first selection and a 37.2 percent chance of landing in the top four.  They could ultimately pick 1-4 or 6-10 based on the draft lottery mechanics. As long as the Wizards’ pick does not fall below eight, they are guaranteed to land one of the following players: Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver, Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter, Duke forward Cam Reddish or North Carolina guard Coby White.

This tier, while a significant step below Williamson/Morant and Barrett, includes interesting options for a Wizards roster lacking anything solid beyond two-time All-Star Bradley Beal for next season. There is no need vs. best player available debate this year. The Wizards must add talent regardless of position.

Once we get past the top eight, it becomes eye-of-the-beholder territory as the risk rises while the reward may lack significant upside. Players in this range include Oregon’s Bol Bol, Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, and Kentucky’s P.J. Washington.

This week’s NBA Combine effectively starts the league-wide, pre-draft evaluation process with team and individual workouts to follow. Those interviews and on-court observations will alter big board’s ahead of the June 20 NBA Draft. For the Wizards, there’s also the input from the yet-to-be-named new general manager.

For now, here’s a ranking of those five players behind Williamson, Morant, Barrett with the Wizards in mind.

De’Andre Hunter – Whatever the 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward supposedly lacks in upside, he makes up for with defensive prowess, versatility, and team culture. Hunter blossomed into a bona fide college star in his sophomore campaign at Virginia, which he capped with 27 points in the national championship game.

The Wizards don’t have a true forward currently on the 2019-20 so Hunter could slide into a starter’s role. If the front office is focused more on setting a tone than hoping on potential, this 3-and-D option is the easy call.

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Jarrett Culver – The 6-foot-6 wing went from off-the-lottery-radar to top 10 prospects after leading the Red Raiders to the national title game. Culver demonstrated a smooth shooting stroke and showed growth with getting to the basket during the regular season. He didn’t make a strong final impression by shooting 8 of 36 from the field in two Final Four games while displaying suspect decision-making.

The Wizards have Beal and 2018 first-round pick Troy Brown at two-guard, but that alone should not prevent them from strongly considering Culver.

Cam Reddish – All-Star talent or underachiever? That’s one of the bigger questions for NBA scouts ahead of June’s Draft. It’s wild that Reddish could slip beyond the top 3-4 picks and perhaps significantly considering the conversation surrounding the small forward throughout the regular season. The thing is Reddish delivered an uneven final few weeks of the season, struggled shooting from deep and mysteriously missed Duke’s Sweet 16 game against Virginia Tech.

The 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan could become the Wizards’ small forward after the team traded Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre during the regular season. Some draft evaluators still believe his overall skill set including on the defensive end offers major potential. There’s also a legitimate downside to consider.

Coby White – There must be an NBA source not in love with the 6-foot-5 guard sporting big hair and a large scoring arsenal. I’ve yet to chat with the individual. White, the all-time leading scorer among high school players in North Carolina history, can fly in the open court, spot up from beyond the arc and get buckets.

So, why rank him behind a more polarizing prospect like Reddish on this Wizards-centric list? Largely because the forwards would offer the Wizards’ coaching staff to maximize minutes playing alongside Beal and John Wall whenever the injured point guard returns from Achilles surgery. White does have point guard skills and the size to play behind Beal. Consider all of this a minor point and perhaps a positional tiebreaker. Come June, we may learn the Wizards love White like everyone else.

Darius Garland – Sidelined with a major knee injury since late November, Garland remains a tantalizing prospect. ESPN ranks the 6-foot-3 guard with impressive shooting skills fourth among all 2019 NBA Draft prospects. There is, however, the obvious risk that comes with the physical recovery and lack of experience against high-major competition.

While the Wizards selecting Morant at 2 or 3  is considered a no-brainer despite the positional overlap with Wall, the same shouldn’t automatically be said of a rookie point guard entering the league coming off a knee injury. That is unless Washington determines it simply cannot pass on Garland’s talent.

As for potential targets beyond this group, the highly efficient Clarke would offer some of the similar winning-culture intangibles like Hunter. Another Gonzaga forward, Rui Hachimura, is a more well-rounded option at the four. Selecting Texas center Jaxson Hayes might indicate whether the Wizards think they can retain restricted free agents Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

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. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

10. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International

11. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

12. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

15. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

16. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

17. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

18.  Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

19. Goga Bitadze, C, International

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

21. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

22.  Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

23. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

24. KZ Okpala, SG. Stanford

25. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia

26. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

27. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

28. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova

29. Carsen Edwards, SG/PG, Purdue

30. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

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Taking more threes is imperative for Wizards' stalled offense as they face Bucks

Taking more threes is imperative for Wizards' stalled offense as they face Bucks

The Wizards remain winless in the NBA's restart bubble through six games now and that has left them only two opportunities to secure a victory or otherwise leave Orlando with no more wins than when they arrived. Keep in mind they haven't won an organized basketball game in five months.

The playoffs are an impossibility and it has all been about player development, anyways. But surely they would feel a lot better about themselves with at least one victory.

The big problem is their final two games are against really good teams; the Bucks and Celtics. They will start with the Bucks on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Milwaukee will be a major challenge for the Wizards and not just because they have the best record in the East and arguably the best player in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo. They happen to have the best defense in the NBA and the Wizards' most glaring issue in the bubble has been a lack of scoring.

It was predictable they would struggle offensively once it was revealed Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans would not be joining them in the bubble. The two are their top scorers and combine to average 45.9 points per game. But the drop-off in offense for the Wizards has been staggering.

Of the 22 teams in Orlando, the Wizards are 21st in points (105), 20th in offensive rating (102.9), 21st in field goal percentage (43.5) and 19th in three point percentage (32.3). The volume isn't there from the perimeter, either, as the Wizards rank 21st in both threes made (9/g) and attempted (27.8/g).

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They are missing nine points from their season average on three-pointers made(12). Given they are averaging 9.7 fewer points in Orlando than they do on the season as a whole, that seems noteworthy.

Thomas Bryant has been their best scorer in terms of volume and efficiency. He's averaging 18.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the field. Troy Brown Jr. has also been good with 16.3 points and 5.0 assists per game. And Jerome Robinson is averaging 15.5 points while shooting 37.8 percent from three.

Collectively, it hasn't been enough to replace the production missing with Beal and Bertans out. Those guys are particularly good at making threes and their removal from the lineup has deprived the Wizards' offense of space.

As good as the Bucks are defensively, though, they might present a chance for the Wizards to have a breakout game from long range. Milwaukee allows more three per game (14) than any other team.

They also give up a league-high 39.5 three point attempts per game. Teams shoot 36.5 percent on threes against them, which only ranks 14th, but is still a high clip. Beal shot 35.3 percent on threes this season, for comparison.

The Wizards should be able to take more threes against the Bucks if they want to.  If a few fall early, maybe they can ride the wave to a better offensive game. If not, it could be another long night.

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NBA draft lottery 2020 to be held virtually amid coronavirus pandemic

NBA draft lottery 2020 to be held virtually amid coronavirus pandemic

The NBA offseason arrives later this week and will speed up soon not long after with the Aug. 20 draft lottery, which will be held virtually this year.

The news it is being held virtually, which was first reported by the Athletic, was a fairly obvious expectation. All 14 teams participating will do so remotely via a video feed. That's the way many events are being held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wizards have the ninth-best odds in this year's lottery. That gives them a 4.5 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a 20.2 chance to select in the top four.

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The top eight teams in the lottery are the Warriors, Cavs, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Warriors, Cavs and Timberwolves are tied for the best odds to get the No. 1 pick.

There is no consensus top player in this draft. Mock drafts have rotated through a few players at the top. The big names include James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball.

The Wizards will need some luck to move up and have a chance to get one of them.

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