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: Usman Garuba
School/team: Real Madrid
2020/21 stats: 38 G, 4.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.4 FG% (1.6/3.1), 27.5 3PT% (0.3/1.1), 59.5 FT%
Player comparison: Robert Covington, Khem Birch
5 things to know:
-Garuba is a physical forward with a very high ceiling defensively and a raw offensive skillset that suggests he will be a four at the next level, at least initially. He's 6-foot-8, strong and aggressive on defense, able to block shots or step out to the perimeter to harrass guards. While it isn't easy for young players to figure defense out quickly, Garuba has an NBA-ready body and has experience guarding professionals in the EuroLeague, which is the second-best league in the world.
-He was one of the best shot-blockers in the EuroLeague despite standing 6-foot-8. Garuba was ninth in total blocks while only averaging 16.5 minutes per game. That broke out to 1.7 blocks per-36 minutes, which ranked fourth in the EuroLeague. Though there is no official data, Garuba reportedly has a plus-wingspan above 7-feet. What he may lack in height, he could make up in length and coordination, a la Draymond Green.
-Garuba is also an excellent rebounder. He pulled in 4.1 rebounds per game in a bench role, which equaled 10.0 boards per-36 minutes. That was the 9th-most in the EuroLeague. It seems likely his rebounding carries over to the NBA, perhaps more likely than his shot-blocking, given his size. He's strong, has a high motor and a good sense for positioning on rebounds.
-Though he shot a good percentage from the field, Garuba's shot is a concern. He wasn't a 3-point shooter and shot below 60% at the free throw line. He has more of a set shot than a jumpshot and a bit of a slow delivery. He can knock it down when open but has a tendency to hesitate and appear unsure. Garuba is at his best on offense in transition and when he has an opening to finish at the rim with his strength.
-Garuba stood nearly 6-foot-3 as a 12-year-old, which is one of the reasons he quit playing soccer to focus on basketball. He was so tall he made the news in Spain, as one journalist described him as 'The Pearl of Madrid.'
Fit with Wizards:
Garuba would fit in well on the Wizards given their needs for depth at forward and physical defense. Garuba would give them more versatility on that end of the floor while also adding athleticism and energy.
Garuba would almost certainly start out in a bench role behind Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans in the forward group. He could find a niche early as a glue guy in the second unit, someone who can take on tough defensive assignments while cleaning up the boards and making teams pay by running the fastbreak to hunt for easy dunks.
Garuba could expand his role long-term with the Wizards as a defensive specialist, not unlike Matisse Thybulle has in Philadelphia, though with a different style. The Wizards could place Garuba in lineups with scorers to offset his shortcomings on that end of the floor. On defense, he could develop into a guy who can defend wings with size like Jayson Tatum and Tobias Harris, the types the Wizards had a lot of trouble with this past season.
Garuba is being mocked all over the teens, so he should fall within the Wizards' range in the first round. If they took him 15th overall, it would make plenty of sense given the boxes he would check off for them.