Wizards

James Bouknight can provide notable depth behind Bradley Beal

Wizards

The Washington Wizards are picking squarely in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether Washington trades up, down or stays firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who the Wizards could consider selecting.

2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: James Bouknight

School/team: Connecticut

Position: Guard

Age: 20

Height: 6-5

Weight: 190

Wingspan: 6-8

2020/21 stats: 15 G, 18.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg, 44.7 FG% (6.5/14.6), 29.3 3PT% (1.5/4.0), 77.8 FT%

Player comparison: Derrick White, Jordan Clarkson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, Sports Illustrated 8th, Ringer 21st, NBADraft.net 7th, Bleacher Report 13th

5 things to know:

- Of all the prospects not projected to go in the top ten, James Bouknight might provide the most explosive playmaking ability of the rest of the class. A quick first step and attacking mentality makes the versatile combo guard a menace on the court. He hunts for his shot and has no lack of confidence in any area of the court. Last year he posted nearly 19 points per game with a per-40 minutes average of 23.7 ppg. 

- Surgery to address bone spurs in his left elbow sidelined the Brooklyn native for half of the 2020-21 season. The injury came from a hard fall against Marquette, causing him to miss over six weeks of in-game action. Once back, he didn't seem to miss a step recording four straight games with 18 points or more. Being on his non-shooting arm, it shouldn't be too big of a factor in his draft evaluation. 

 

- Many rave about his jump from his freshman to sophomore season. Bouknight improved his scoring numbers by nearly six points and added a rebound and a half. But a lot of that improvement came with a ton more of shots, his shooting numbers actually went down significantly. 

- His sophomore year showed that Bouknight is a volume shooter. Shooting nearly 14.6 shots a game and only making 6.5 of them is not the efficiency needed in the professional ranks. From three, it's even worse (1.5/4.0 attempts) and his 3-point mark went down five percentage points. In the NBA, guards have to be able to hit threes and he went in the wrong direction in the year leading up to the draft. 

- There is no consistency from mock drafts on where the UConn guard will go. Some have him a mid-tier lottery selection. Others have him going late in the mid-twenties. That's a wide range with less than three weeks to go. There's no mistaking his playmaking ability, likely slotting into a secondary role in an offense. But, will his shooting efficiency stay this low when his attempts go down? That's what teams will have to weigh in the upcoming weeks.

Fit with Wizards:

Right in the middle of the Bouknight draft range, the combo guard could be a value add for the Wizards. Considering that there is not likely going to be an NBA-ready starter that could fill in the wing at 15, the team does need depth behind Bradley Beal and a scorer off the bench. 

These NBA playoffs showed how pertinent depth is for teams that want to make playoff runs. Washington is still far away from that of the four teams that made the Conference Finals. Their top bench backcourt scorer was Raul Neto - who also started 22 games - and averaged 8.7 points. Even with a top-heavy roster that's not cutting it for the second unit. 

The noticeable drop-off was who played behind Beal. It was either Neto, who's traditionally a point guard, or Garrison Mathews, who averaged 5.5 points in 64 games. At least in terms of scoring, Bouknight would add a boost and play well alongside Ish Smith or Neto in the backcourt. A downhill, multi-level scorer would do wonders for some of the 3-point shooters on the bench as well to open the floor.

Yes there are other needs for Washington. Likely those needs - at least for this season - can only be reasonably addressed in free agency to make a jump this year. Bouknight would serve an immediate role and, if he plays to his maximum potential, could in a few years be viewed as a steal at 15.