Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said earlier this year he could be inclined to take a long-term project in the 2020 NBA Draft, knowing there may not be the same opportunity for rookies to get minutes with John Wall and Bradley Beal back on what they hope is a deeper and better roster than they had a year ago.
But what could throw a wrench into those plans is the uncertainty of the 2020-21 G-League season, which reportedly hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Wizards have utilized the Capital City Go-Go to get draft picks like Troy Brown Jr. and Admiral Schofield more run, but that may not be an option this season.
The prospect of no G-League games probably wouldn't affect their decision-making with the No. 9 overall pick, as that player would be unlikely to spend time down there anyway. But it could conceivably play a factor when the Wizards are on the board in the second round with the 37th pick.
Sheppard, though, believes the same principle could apply.
"If that player's worth it, you're patient because the payoff is so good. Especially, if it's second round. I value second round [picks]. We're trying to get more right now," he said. "I think the most important thing is that the whole group comes to the conclusion this player's worth waiting two years on, three years on."
The part about trying to get more second-round picks certainly stands out. The Wizards could acquire another second-round selection via trade or by buying one. Last year, they entered the draft without a second-round pick but then got one just in time to take Schofield 42nd overall.
Schofield was a four-year college player, so many believed he would translate to the NBA quicker than a one-and-done 19-year-old. Yet, he still played more minutes for the Go-Go (1019) than he did for the Wizards (368).
That same situation may not be possible in the 2020-21 season and there will be 10 fewer NBA games to work with as well, given the league is set to play a 72-game season. So, if the Wizards take a project, they may have to get creative.
"We think there will be opportunities to develop our young players throughout the season. Hopefully, there's vehicles for that. If not, we have a great development staff here and they will get better," Sheppard said.
"They'll get in practices with some of the best players in the NBA with Bradley and John. We'll make it work however it is. I just love the opportunity the G-League represents for getting young players playing time. I don't think you can replace that, but we'll have to have other options."
As for which players the Wizards could target as potential long-term projects, there should be some options in the second round. Maybe Aleksej Pokusevski of Serbia falls that far. He's a lanky 7-footer with a unicorn skillset. Or, Duke one-and-done guard Cassius Stanley, who is a freak athlete but has an unrefined game.
Those guys wouldn't be of much help at the NBA level yet, but fast forward a few years and they could prove to be diamonds in the rough. Giving them the proper chance to develop, however, will be key.