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How the draft lottery changes could help the Wizards and give them a decent shot at Zion Williamson

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How the draft lottery changes could help the Wizards and give them a decent shot at Zion Williamson

It was never in the plans for the Wizards to bottom out like they did in 2018-19, with a 32-50 record, their first losing mark in six years. But if they were to pick a year to drop out of the playoffs and into the lottery, this may be the one.

That is because the league adjusted their lottery rules by spreading out the odds to discourage tanking. The Wizards will become one of the first teams to benefit from the changes.

Washington ended the season with the sixth-worst record. That gives them a nine percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a 27.6 percent shot at selecting in the top three.

Under the previous system, the sixth-best lottery odds would have given the Wizards a 6.3 percent chance at No. 1 and a 21.5 percent shot at the top three.

Upping the Wizards' chances for the first overall pick by 2.7 percent may not seem like much, but that leaves them at only five percent lower than the top teams. The best odds are 14 percent and shared by the Knicks, Cavs and Suns.

Under the old system, the team with the worst record held a 25 percent chance at No. 1, the No. 2 team had a 19.9 percent shot and the third team had 15.6 percent odds. But those percentages were lowered and the remainder was distributed to help other teams like, in this year's case, the Wizards.

Nine percent odds will not give the Wizards assurances of anything, but every ping-pong ball will count this year with a top prospect in Zion Williamson that makes this no ordinary draft. He is expected to change whichever franchise he lands with both on and off the court as a star player and perhaps the most marketable prospect since LeBron James.

If Williamson came to the Wizards, he likely wouldn't be their best player right away given Bradley Beal is an All-Star and potentially an All-NBA player in his prime. But Williamson would immediately be the de facto face of the franchise, the guy most fans associate the Wizards with. He is expected to field many endorsement offers, including what could be one of the most lucrative shoe deals for a rookie in NBA history.

Landing the No. 1 pick is not the only scenario that would amount to a win for the Wizards at the May 14 draft lottery. Their highest odds are for the seventh pick at 29.6 percent and the eighth pick at 20.6. If they can jump up to any of the top four spots, they could come away with a franchise-changing player, possibly Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett of Duke.

Washington just needs a little luck. But past draft lotteries have shown that a longshot can happen.

Back in 2013, the Wizards jumped from the eighth-best odds to No. 3, an event that had a 4.8 percent chance of happening. They selected Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown. 

In 2014, the Cavs got the No. 1 pick despite having the eighth-best odds and just a 1.7 percent chance. And the Clippers made a similar jump in 2011, going from eighth to first with just a 2.8 percent change.

The Wizards could easily end up seventh or eighth and go into the pre-draft process with many possibilities. But they have decent odds to land the top pick, making the draft lottery a very important event in their offseason. 

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Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

John Wall last played in an NBA game on December 26, 2018. He's expected to come back at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and once he makes his long-awaited return to the Wizards' starting lineup, he'll find himself in a much different point guard landscape than the one he left. 

The position has changed, traditional point guards are mostly a thing of the past. NBA offenses are either run through multiple ball-handlers who can score and facilitate, or they're one-man shows centered around highly skilled individuals such as James Harden and Luka Doncic. 

Wall has consistently been one of the best in the league at his position, but after missing a year to an Achilles injury, it's hard to forecast where his game will be come next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 point guards in the game (all presumed healthy), and see where Wall falls on the list. 

1. James Harden
2. Luka Doncic
3. Damian Lillard
4. Steph Curry
5. Chris Paul
6. Kyrie Irving
7. John Wall
8. Russell Westbrook
9. Kemba Walker
10. Kyle Lowry

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Wall has the talent to be in the top three of this list for sure, though it's difficult to put him anywhere but No. 7 right now. He's probably a tier above Walker and Lowry, while Wall and Westbrook are more comparable players. 

Irving, Curry and Lillard are too good and have been consistently great enough to where you can't put them below Wall, while Paul might be a great inspiration for players like Wall. Paul keeps getting older and keeps getting hurt but he's still so, so good. 

Then you have the two walking offensive systems in Doncic and Harden. Their production and what they do for their teams as primary ball-handlers is mostly unmatched across the eight players listed below them. 

Wall could rise all the way to the top of this list if he plays to his full abilities. The speed, perimeter defense, passing and dribble penetration made him an All-NBA level player. If Wall can improve his accuracy from beyond the arc, take more threes and fewer mid-range jumpers, I don't see why he can't see an uptick in efficiency even if his athleticism isn't what it used to be.

It's not a reach to say the Wizards' contention hopes depend heavily on whether Wall plays back to All-Star form or not. An Achilles injury is incredibly challenging to bounce back from, especially for a player like Wall whose game has had so much to do with speed and explosion in the past. 

The good news is he's had a chance to digest the game from a different perspective and time to fine-tune his jumper, while his Wizards teammates, especially Bradley Beal, are better than when he last suited up. 

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2020 NBA Draft: Robert Woodard II could be one of the best prospects no one is talking about

2020 NBA Draft: Robert Woodard II could be one of the best prospects no one is talking about

The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Robert Woodard II

Team: Mississippi State
Position: SF
Age: 20 (turns 21 in September)
Height: 6-7
Weight: 230
Wingspan: 7-1

2019/20 stats: 31 G, 33.1 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg, 49.5 FG% (4.4/8.9), 42.9 3PT% (1.0/2.3), 64.1 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Chandler Parsons

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, Sports Illustrated 43rd, Ringer 28th, NBADraft.net N/A, Bleacher Report N/A

5 things to know:

*Few players in college basketball took as big of a jump as Woodard from his freshman year to his sophomore season. He transitioned from a bench role player that could do a little bit of everything, into an able-bodied scorer off the ball that could take advantage of multiple size matchups. His scoring improved by a six-point average and had a key role in the Bulldogs' offense.

*Most impressive for Woodard was the development of an outside shot. His growth included a 15% jump from long-range with an added confidence to score at all three levels. Mind you, his 42.9% shooting was only on 70 attempts and an area of his game that was not previously highlighted. 

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*How Woodard fits on an NBA roster is what has mock draft experts split on where he will be selected. Some don't even have him being drafted. It seems he's most natural on the floor playing as a guard, however, he has a high dribble and commits two turnovers a game for someone that typically does not run the point. He has the accuracy to be a wing scorer, but lacks the consistent shot selection of a 3-point threat. Some evaluators see him as an undersized four, for his rebounding and presence around the rim, but his post-moves are really nonexistent. 

*Woodard is built well and has an NBA-ready frame. It led him to be an effective rebounder 6.5 boards per game as a nontraditional post player and a good defender with the agility to block shots. He also has a high basketball IQ which makes him a high-level defender off the ball.

*Woodard's father, Robert Woodard is Mississippi's all-time high school scorer with 4,274 points. He also continued his playing days at Mississippi State. 

Fit with Wizards: Positional flexibility with a knack for hitting 3-pointers would be why the Wizards would take a chance on Woodard. Many of the fundamentals of his game are already set which wouldn't mean Washington would need to spend time on development. 

He has a similar offensive game to Rui Hachimura: Nice size and build, that occasionally also steps out behind the arc. He can also rotate to multiple positions.

How the Wizards would utilize Woodard remains to be seen though. Backing up Hachimura, who was drafted just the year prior is not a long-term sustainable plan. Having Woodard even be a bigger wing (ie. Davis Bertans if re-signed) would be another back-up role. Yet, Woodard does not nearly jack up as many threes as Bertans. Playing Woodard as a guard isn't really in the cards either.

A depth piece that can fit in multiple spots is Woodard's biggest asset for the Wizards. And from there they could develop him into the role they see fit. His one season of a robust 3-point shooter is not enough to see that being his future.

There's not much to justify him going in the lottery. However, if Tommy Sheppard wants to add a young, NBA ready-built player in the second round or even as an undrafted free agent, Woodard could provide value in those spots. The athleticism and ability are there.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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