Wizards

If Wizards take a project, could it be Wall or Beal's long-term replacement?

Wizards
© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

All the way back in April, long before the Wizards went to Disney World, general manager Tommy Sheppard dropped a line in a team-held Twitter Q&A that may directly apply to the present, especially now that they Wizards have received the ninth overall pick.

"I think when you look at our roster and you see eight players 23 or younger, we can probably take a swing at somebody and they're not going to have to help us immediately next year. If that player is there, certainly we do that," Sheppard said.

He reiterated that in different terms on Thursday night in a live stream show on NBC Sports Washington. Basically, the Wizards could take a very different approach than they did last summer when they drafted Rui Hachimura out of Gonzaga, also at ninth overall. Hachimura was a three-year college player and, with help from that experience, made an instant impact this season.

What could make this year's plan extra interesting is the fact short-term need wouldn't necessarily have to enter the equation. If that player is going to be counted on more so in two or three years, then they could take a guard despite the presence of John Wall and Bradley Beal on their roster.

If you project the Wizards two years down the road, for instance, then Wall will be turning 32. Two years from now, Beal will be weighing a player option in his contract. If the Wizards took a long-term project at guard, they could be developed as a potential replacement for either of them.

 

By eliminating position as a qualifier, the Wizards could have some intriguing options at No. 9 if they want to take the longview. French guard Killian Hayes certainly stands out. He's 19 years old, 6-foot-5 and with court vision and a stepback three well beyond his years. 

https://twitter.com/overtime/status/1227629255187738624

Hayes probably wouldn't make much of an impact on the Wizards right away with both Wall and Beal atop the depth chart. But long-term, he would present very high upside, in a best-cast scenario becoming a guy who reminds people of James Harden, not unlike Trae Young is to Stephen Curry.

Guard/forward Isaac Okoro from Auburn would also fit the project bill, though he would have a better chance to make an immediate impact because of his NBA-ready body and skillset as a wing defender. He could find minutes at the small forward spot alongside Wall and Beal, though not much could be expected of him offensively, likely for a few years.

There are more guards that would fit the project label that are expected to fall in the Wizards' range. Tyrese Maxey of Kentucky lacked efficiency in school, but offers two-way potential. And with other UK guards before him like Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tyler Herro, the Wizards could see him as a better fit for the NBA than college, just like they were. The Wizards have already interviewed Maxey in the pre-draft process, as NBC Sports Washington reported.

R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony could also make sense in this strategy. Both had their stock lowered in part because of injuries. Hampton had a hip flexor which sapped his production while he was playing in New Zealand. Anthony had an ankle injury which crushed his numbers at UNC after a strong start to his freshman year.

Particularly when it comes to Wall, thinking long-term about who takes his place at point guard may a smart way to look at the Wizards' future. Keep in mind, a lot of these players are 19 years old, having been one-and-done in college. Four years from now, Wall will be 34 and they will be 23, likely just entering their prime.

The best front offices think ahead and it sounds like Sheppard is doing just that.