CHICAGO -- The NBA Draft lottery happened and went splat for the Wizards. No shot at selecting Duke forward Zion Williamson or Murray State guard Ja Morant. No moving up the board, no holding steady. Instead, Washington fell back to the ninth selection despite a less than four percent chance of falling there.
Get over it and focus on the interesting prospects likely available.
That’s the positive advice from ESPN’s lead NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony as the 2019 NBA Combine sets to tip-off Thursday,
“The best players in the draft rarely go 1-2-3 as we anticipate on the night of the draft,” Givony told NBC Sports Washington. “Year after year we re-draft and see how it goes. (2013 No. 1 overall pick) Anthony Bennett goes here; Giannis Antetokounmpo goes (15th in 2013). Whatever, the draft happened and now it’s time to move on and discuss some guys.”
While the 2019 talent lacks a deep talent pool at the top relative to other years, Givony said, “[The Wizards] are going to get an interesting, young talent. This is the Zion draft, but there are other players that are going to be good in this draft.”
Consensus remains elusive with the prospect order nearly one month ahead of the June 20 draft other than Williamson and Morant likely going off the board 1-2, followed immediately by Duke’s RJ Barrett.
Two players last seen in the national championship game, Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver, project among the top 4-8 selections. Another Duke player, forward Cam Reddish, could slide to nine, but don’t hold your breath considering his potential.
Based on the No. 9 pick, the draft class and a Wizards roster lacking bodies, the debate is less about need vs. best player available and more about upside vs. identity. The first-round selection may become the first major personnel move by the next general manager. Washington remains without a set front office head since Ernie Grunfeld’s dismissal on April 2.
If there’s a go big mentality, there might not be a more on the nose candidate than Bol Bol.
The 7-foot-2 son of ex-Washington Bullet Manute arrived on the college basketball scene last season as the fourth overall prospect behind those three Duke heavyweights. The slender center only got to show off his unique size and skill combination in nine games before fracturing his foot in December.
“I think Bol is really interesting,” Givony said. “If he didn’t get hurt I think we’d be talking about him in that top four group."
Bol averaged 21.0 points. 9.6 rebounds and shot 52 percent from beyond the arc before suffering the season-ending injury after nine games.
“Offensively the upside may be the highest in the draft. How often can you find a guy who is 7-foot-2, can shoot threes, pass it, has amazing touch, can move the way he does and block shots? The guy’s talent is unreal,” Givony gushed. “Maybe that’s the guy you take at nine and (think) if things would have worked out differently for him he’s’ a top four pick.”
For this potential reward comes sizeable risk. While Bol measured a 7-foot-7 wingspan at the Combine according to ESPN, he weighed a mere 208 pounds after tipping the scales around 225-230 pre-injury. Powerful NBA big men would push Bol around even at the higher weight.
Other concerns exist with Bol’s attitude and passion. Or at least they did entering college. One NBA scout told NBC Sports Washington,“[Bol] was considered a bad kid, entitled. I didn’t want anything to do with him.” That specific source suggested the desired turnaround occurred during the season. Givony concurred.
“[Desire] was a definite knock on him going into college, but I’ve heard he’s made major strides in that area this year,” Givony said.
Evaluating Sekou Doumbouya, the youngest prospect in the 2019 class, presents different challenges -- and potential.
The 6-foot-9 forward from Guinea plays professionally in France’s top league. Maturity in multiple ways is a question mark for the 210-pound, 18-year-old old, but Givony sees a prospect worthy of lottery consideration. Givony slotted Doumbouya to Washington in his first post-lottery draft.
“I think he makes a lot of sense (for the Wizards),” Givony said. “What he’s doing in France, it’s not what (Mavericks rookie) Luka Doncic did in Real Madrid, but it’s very, very rare. He’s starting, he’s productive. He’s making shots. He’s guarding everybody. He’s their best defender. He’s athletic. He’s long. He’s multi-positional. His shooting has made significant strides. He’s what the NBA is looking for these days, that wing forward type. Can guard everywhere, make a three. Athletic, has a great frame. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t one of the players the Wizards looked at."
Doumbouya did not attend this week’s Combine. Don’t fret. There’s a good chance the Wizards have a thick file on the kid thanks to Tommy Sheppard’s relentless scouting.
“There’s not an executive I see on the road more than [Tommy] throughout the year, especially this year," Givony said. “He’s prepared for this.”
Whether Sheppard, the Wizards’ interim front office leader since Grunfeld’s dismissal, makes the pick at nine remains unclear. Sheppard is one of several candidates in consideration. The group reportedly includes Denver president Tim Connelly.
What’s also uncertain is which players will be available at nine and how the Wizards’ eventual decision-makers value those options.
“I’m not sure the player you get ninth is any different from the player you get sixth. It’s beauty in the eye of the beholder. Maybe a guy we have projected 13th goes seventh,” said Givony, who acknowledges his big board is hardly set. He also believes the Wizards are positioned to add help.
“I’m not that smart to know how this thing is going to play out five weeks before,” Givony said. “Anytime you have a top 10 asset I think it’s a pretty valuable asset. I’m sure Tommy and his group will use it wisely -- if he’s the one making the pick.”
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