In their previous four NBA Draft lottery appearances, the Washington Wizards bucked the odds twice by moving up significantly in the overall selection order.
The Wizards received the rights to the No. 9 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft based on the results from Tuesday’s lottery show from Chicago.
The first opportunity since 2013 did not work out as well. The New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and will have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
That slot takes Washington out of range for this year’s prized prospect, Duke’s Zion Williamson. Murray State’s Ja Morant and another Duke standout, R.J. Barrett, are projected top 3 selections.
The next group, including Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter, offers potential starting help, but lacks the high ceiling-high floor combination offered by the top three prospects per league sources.
The Wizards need an infusion of talent -- and hope -- following a frustrating regular season that ended with the team’s worst record (32-50) since a 29-53 mark in 2012-13.
Washington entered the draft lottery with a nine percent chance of landing the first selection, the sixth-best odds overall. New changes with the draft lottery formula flattened the chances for the teams coming off the worst season by record. New York, Cleveland and Phoenix all entered with a 14 percent chance of receiving the first pick.
The Memphis Grizzlies landed the No. 2 overall pick. The New York Knicks earned the No. 3 overall pick, with the Los Angeles Lakers landing the No. 4 pick.
The Wizards twice previously won the draft lottery. Washington selected forward Kwame Brown first overall in 2001 and point guard John Wall with the top choice in 2010. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed the draft order from Chicago, site of the league’s annual draft combine, the every nine-year trend ended.
The Wizards’ latest season was highlighted by defensive struggles, internal squabbles, roster shakeups and injuries most notably to John Wall and Dwight Howard. Owner Ted Leonsis made a significant change in April with the firing of team president Ernie Grunfeld after 16 seasons.
Washington’s current roster includes Bradley Beal, but the two-time All-Star is the only returning healthy player to start more than 10 games last season.
Hunter, a hero on Virginia’s national championship team, brings 3-point shooting and defensive prowess to the small forward position. The Wizards went from being stacked at the 3 to needing bodies after trading Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. last season.
Cam Reddish, part of Duke’s heralded freshman class along with Williamson and Barrett, is another small forward candidate. Reddish’s physical attributes are impressive, but his late-season struggles dropped his pre-draft ranking.
Texas Tech wing guard Jarrett Culver led the Red Raiders to the national championship game. The 6-foot-5 sophomore averaged 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.
A pair of point guards, Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and North Carolina’s Coby White are the other current members of this tier. Garland’s shooting range stands out, but he missed nearly all of his lone collegiate season with a knee injury.
White’s stock rose throughout his season after averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 assists for the Tar Heels. The 6-foot-5 White has the size to play both guard spots.
Other prospects worthy of top 10 consideration include Texas center Jaxson Hayes, Kentucky forward P.J. Washington, Oregon’s 7-foot-3 center Bol Bol, and a pair of Gonzaga forwards, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke.
Grunfeld’s eventual replacement has the opportunity to reshape the roster. The Wizards ended the regular season with eight free agents, and, barring a major change of thought from its new leadership, will decline the $20 team option for forward Jabari Parker.
Whether the front office prioritizes restricted free agents Thomas Bryant, Tomas Satoransky and Bobby Portis, or veterans Jeff Green and Trevor Ariza, the draft comes before free agency opens July 1. How much salary cap space the Wizards have available this summer generally depends on whether they attempt to keep some of the various free agents.
Along with Beal and the injured Wall, the Wizards 2019-20 roster currently includes rising second-year guard Troy Brown, centers Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard and guard Jordan McRae.
Wall is expected to miss at least a significant portion of the season following February’s surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles.
The Wizards do not own a second-round pick in 2019 or any draft until 2023. They do have the opportunity to add a player selected in the lottery.
That’s not the same as drafting Zion Williamson, but it’s a chance to retool on the fly.
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