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Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

The Washington Wizards selected John Wall first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. Other lottery picks followed in subsequent years. None were point guards. Nobody bothered contemplating such a scenario.

That’s no longer the case.

There is Wall’s uncertain physical status for next season and beyond because of a ruptured Achilles.

Thursday’s mind-blowing performance from Murray State point guard Ja Morant put such contemplation into overdrive.

For many NBA-only fans, the 12th seeded Racers' 83-64 thrashing over no. 5 Marquette in its West Region first-round game marked the initial opportunity to watch the buzz-worthy Morant. He did not disappoint.

Morant, who only trailed Duke phenom Zion Williamson for jaw-dropping highlights this season, dazzled with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists for the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. His next chance to wow comes Saturday against fourth-seeded Florida State.

Imagine the Wizards receive some lottery luck ahead of June’s NBA Draft. Not the overflowing pot of gold kind that means grabbing Williamson first overall, but jumping up above the average options to the second or third selection. Washington (30-43) has a 26.3 percent chance of landing a top 4 selection, according to the draft website Tankathon.

Williamson might be the only player selected ahead of Morant in June in what one NBA executive deems a two-player draft. “Zion makes it feel better than it is. After Zion and Ja, just an average draft,” the executive said.

You’re on the clock. Duke’s RJ Barrett is another top 3 candidate, but Morant gained ground on the wing guard and others all season by averaging 24.0 points, 10.0 assists and multiple viral video moments a game. By June, Morant might be the clear-cut second-best player.

Wall’s recovery timeline keeps the five-time All-Star sideline for the majority if not all of the 2019-20 season. He will eventually return, however. That factor cannot be ignored especially with his 4-year, $170 million supermax contract starting next season. Ideally, the selection compliments Bradley Beal and Wall in the starting lineup.

Wall also turns 29 in July and recovery from such a devastating injury presents significant unknowns.

Tomas Satoransky, Wall's primary backup and the current starter, is a restricted free agent this summer. The Wizards would like him back, but the marketplace might have other ideas.

Time’s up. Turn the selection card in. Take Morant or not?

“Hell, yes!” multiple college basketball sources responded via text.

Others went with a standard roster-building approach.

“I take the best player available and figure it out,” an NBA scout texted.

In other words, hell yeah on Morant.

Another NBA scout received his first extended look at wispy yet athletically super-charged Morant last summer at Chris Paul’s basketball camp. “I thought he was ordinary because he played more off the ball,” the scout said of the 6-foot-3, 174-pound Morant. “But now he’s really, really good. Can pass with either hand.”

The scout offered an NBA comparison: John Wall. “Not as fast as John, but he’s got the same explosive athleticism at the rim.”

The counter-argument, a mild one at that, looks beyond next season.

Playing time ranked high among the reasons why the Wizards sought low-cost backup point guards over the years for Wall. Combo guards aside, if Wall goes 35-38 minutes nightly, why invest significant assets into a 10-13 minute-a-game player.

There’s some debate over whether Morant could play off the ball next to Wall. The sophomore is shooting 33.6 percent on 4.8 three-point attempts per game this season.

Based on the initial reaction from the various sources, nobody cares. Take the talent and figure out the rest. It's unclear what the Wizards have in Wall going forward. Maybe trade one of them down the line. The Wizards only have three healthy players under contract for next season. The 2019 first-round pick could immediately become a high-rotation player.

Such expectations rise if the Wizards jump up in the lottery. Historically there’s no chance they consider a point guard in the lottery with Wall on the roster. Times are different especially if there’s a chance to grab a hell yeah talent like Morant.

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John Wall ranked ninth-best top pick since 2000 by Bleacher Report

John Wall ranked ninth-best top pick since 2000 by Bleacher Report

All Wizards fans remember that faithful November 2nd night back in 2010. The Verizon Center was packed to the brim in anticipation of the 20-year-old phenom out of the University of Kentucky.   

The air was electric, and all fans rejoiced when the name "John Wall," was announced as the starting point guard of the Wizards, as they were set to take on the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Fast forward to 2020: Wall is a 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA selection, and 1x All-Defensive selection, but how does he measure up to the other No. 1 overall picks of the 2000s?

RELATED: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE 2010 DRAFT LOTTERY

Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey recently ranked the No.1 overall selections of the 2000s and he placed Wall ... ninth.

Bailey spelled out an intricate explanation of the methodology he used to rank these players, but I'll give the SparkNotes version before we dive into his reasoning. 

  • Box plus/minus, win shares per 48 minutes and player efficiency rating
  • Usage percentage
  • Both regular-season and playoff numbers
  • Championship points and MVP shares
  • A fan vote to "add a little subjective flavor"

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Now let's get into why Bailey slotted Wall at 9.

Bailey starts off acknowledging something that true fans of basketball are aware of: Prior to his recent injuries, Wall was one of the best guards in the game.

"He was one of the game's most dominant point men before that," Bailey said. 

"From 2013-14 to 2016-17, Wall averaged 20.0 points, 9.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game," he continued "In that stretch, the Wizards were plus-3.1 points per 100 possessions with Wall on the floor and minus-5.2 with him off."

I like the path you're on, Bailey, but don't forget to mention Wall was also an All-Star in every single season mentioned above. 

Bailey then went on to address the drop off in Walls production because of injury, which is fair, due to the fact that "Wall's only managed 73 appearances since the start of the 2017-18 campaign."

The eight players  ahead of Wall on the list are Derrick Rose, Karl-Anthony Towns, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James, respectively,

The nine slot for Wall isn't terrible seeing as though he's virtually missed the past two seasons of basketball. The bigger question is: When it's all said and done, how far can Wall catapult up this list? 

RELATED: WHERE DOES A HEALTHY JOHN WALL RANK AMONG NBA'S TOP 10 POINT GUARDS

Does he have to claim an MVP title to jump Rose? Will an NBA Championship place him above/below Irving? 

We'll just have to wait and see. 

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NBA's latest return-to-play plan would include Wizards in 22-team format

NBA's latest return-to-play plan would include Wizards in 22-team format

The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 as the date to resume the 2019-20 season, but how the league will return to action is still under consideration.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, numerous members of the NBA's board of governors are in favor of a 22-team format that would likely include play-in games to compete for playoff spots.

In the proposed format, teams that are within six games of the final playoff spot would be invited to compete at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., where the league is planning to resume the season in a "bubble-like" format.

That means the Wizards, who currently sit 5.5 games back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, would be the only team invited from the East that currently doesn't hold a playoff spot.

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In the West, four teams -- the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings -- are all within six games of the conference's final playoff spot. 

This news comes after general managers expressed their interest in expanding the playoff field from 16 to 20-24 teams earlier this week.

The NBA has yet to decide how the final playoff spot will be determined, whether that be based on multiple regular season games or a play-in style tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Regardless, the league is adamant about playing multiple regular season games before entering the playoffs, according to the report.

Commissioner Adam Silver indefinitely suspended the NBA season on March 11 when Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and the league has been on hiatus ever since.

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