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.https://twitter.com/_SportsPlug/status/1115457223877103616
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.
A reason why I'm still pretty high on Cam Reddish is because of his defense. He shows nice defense on Coby White by moving his feet & using his size to block White around the rim.— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) April 24, 2019
Obviously, Reddish needs to contribute in more ways than just defense, but I believe in his shot pic.twitter.com/h8yy4xaL7Q
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
5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
7. Coby White, SG, UNC
9. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
10. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International
11. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
12. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
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
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
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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