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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 

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Celtics' Al Horford reportedly will decline option, become unrestricted free agent

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Celtics' Al Horford reportedly will decline option, become unrestricted free agent

Boston big man Al Horford is reportedly not picking up his $30.1 million option with the Celtics for the 2019-20 season, qualifying him as an unrestricted free agent according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Horford is reportedly interested in working out a long-term deal with the Celtics with negotiations beginning after the start of free agency June 30.

The five-time All-Star could help free up some of the Celtics' cap space with a deal under his $30.1 million option.

Horford joined the Celtics in the 2016 offseason, leaving the Atlanta Hawks. At the time, the Wizards had been a contender to sign him before he ultimately chose Boston. 

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

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NBA Draft Big Board 9.0: League-wide intel, tiers, Wizards first-round options

After months of scouting games, watching game tape, conducting interviews and holding workouts, one should logically expect some semblance of order with a given year’s draft class.

That simply won’t occur in 2019. Get past the likely top three picks -- Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett -- and anything is possible.

Over and over that is the position of numerous NBA sources heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft in which the Wizards select ninth overall.

“This draft is pretty unique,” said a Western Conference scout in recent days. “There are a few outliers and then the draft could really, really go in any direction. It’s really an eye of the beholder draft.”

In other words, after those top three, consensus doesn’t exist. Teams will surely add help and some prospects will ultimately turn into viable starters and perhaps more, but in June of 2019, there isn’t much love for the 2019 group especially in the lottery range.

There’s a general agreement within public mock drafts in terms of the five players after Barrett, but the order comes out in a variety of ways. Some observers see little difference between picks 4-12 while others view 9-22 comparable.

That anything-is-possible vibe has some believing more than the usual amount of trades occurring. One already went down, though the Pelicans adding the fourth overall selection wasn’t exactly the main point of Saturday’s deal with the Lakers involving Anthony Davis.

Yet the main reason behind all the anything-is-possible talk stems from several teams simply not loving the options especially in the top half of the draft. Therefore, why trade up if the player available in teens is comparable to the candidates at nine?

The same logic applies for the team holding the ninth pick. For the Wizards, the general hope is one player they truly desire slides to them or some team that covets a prospect is willing to pay a premium for a trade up.

Stay put and even without a shocker ahead of them, the Wizards can help their cause. Not with an obvious slam dunk selection, but in specific areas, eventually, hopefully.

This year, anything seems possible.

As stated above, projecting who goes where and the preferences of each team, especially in this era of positionless basketball, is a true challenge. Before getting into some league-wide notes, here are some educated guesses for the Wizards.

The rebounder: Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. There might not a better selection for addressing numerous areas than the athletic 6-foot-8 power forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Wizards currently lack a true forward on the roster. This one brings three years of collegiate experience.

The 21-year-old Hachimura led Gonzaga with 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season while shooting 41.7 percent on his 3-point attempts.

The Japanese native lacks upside compared to some other candidates and there are concerns about his basic hoops instincts. There have also been long-running whispers of interest from Washington.

The defender: Sekou Doumbouya, France. The still maturing 6-foot-9 forward with good size and length showed off his freaky athleticism in France's top league. As the youngest player in the 2019 class, Doumbouya will need more than a minute to find his footing and develop his perimeter shot, but his physical traits and defensive versatility match the direction of the modern NBA.

The polarizing upside: Cam Reddish, Duke. Reddish goes third on this list even though the likelihood is, based on year-long player projections, he becomes the pick if available. While it seems doubtful he falls past eight, Reddish feels like the one heralded prospect who could take a tumble on draft night.

The 6-foot-8 forward turned into a clanky 3-point shooter around mid-February and often faded late in games. While his perimeter stroke is pretty, Reddish struggled significantly around the rim. Yet his athletic fluidity is ideal. Combined with strong measurables (7-foot-1 wingspan) there is plenty to like. Where he lands in terms of team culture feels like a huge key to unlocking the potential vs. bringing out the worst.

Considering all the variables, Reddish represents a big test for the league's talent evaluators -- All-Star level talent or underachiever?

The scorer: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky. The likely wing threats available in the 9-22 range epitomize the risk-reward aspect in this class. Despite specific concerns, Nassir Little (raw instincts), Romeo Langford (27 percent on 3’s), Kevin Porter (undisciplined) and Tyler Herro (short wingspan) could all hear their names called before Johnson and with good reason due to their intriguing potential.

Meanwhile, the UK product offers hope with impressive athletic traits and a 38.1 percent clip on 3-pointers during his freshman season. On the other side, Johnson lacks playmaking skills; he averaged 1.6 assists in 31 minutes per game.

Nine seems high based on perception, but Johnson might be the prospect who turns out more coveted by teams than public big boards. While his range is considered 10-20, sources feel Johnson goes somewhere 15 or higher. Potential target if the Wizards trade down.

The high floor: P.J. Washington, Kentucky. Washington’s profile lacks the wow factor compared to the names listed above. What the sophomore offers is a steadier baseline in numerous areas including rebounding, defending, 3-point shooting and maturity. All of that comes with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. If the Wizards go safe rather than star chasing, Washington makes sense especially if they move down in the first.

*The feeling around the league is a lottery-picking team has made a draft promise to Hachimura with Minnesota the likely spot. That’s assuming the 4-man gets past the Wizards.

*For those of you wanting Oregon’s Bol Bol at nine, I hear you based on the height (7-foot-3), length and impressive perimeter shooting. Some of Bol’s game tape is wildly mesmerizing. The downside, however, ranging from his weight (208 at the Combine) to the injury risk to an inconsistent motor to defensive concerns beyond shot blocking, seems a bit much for the Wizards’ situation. Also not hearing much about a landing spot in the lottery, but subterfuge is real this time of year.

*Interesting that North Carolina guard Coby White worked out for the Wizards Monday considering most projections have him off the board by seven. Say Reddish goes before White and the scoring threat remains available at eight. Do the Hawks, already loaded with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, go elsewhere? That’s one way White could fall to nine.

*Speaking of promises, University of Washington wing Matisse Thybulle received one in the first round according to multiple sources and... Arkansas center Daniel Gafford to a team in the 17-23 range?

That would be quite a jump for Gafford based on public projections; NBCSW ranks him 31, Sports Illustrated 36 and ESPN 40. If true, the best guess among those teams is...Atlanta at 17? The Hawks need a center. This approach would allow them to take the best available at 8 (Reddish?) and 10 (Doumbouya?).

*Georgia center Nic Claxton, slotted 21st on the NBCSW Big Board, is receiving interest from teams picking in teens.

On to the main event...

2019 NBA Draft Big Board (with tiers)

TIER 1

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

TIER 2

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

TIER 3

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

TIER 4

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

TIER 5

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, France

10. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

11. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

12. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

13. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

14. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

17. Goga Bitadze, C, International/Georgia

18. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

19. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

20. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

21. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

22. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Fla. St.

25. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

28. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

29. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

32. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova      

35. Darius Bazley, SF, USA

36. Jordan Bone, PG, Tennessee   

37. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

38. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

39. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA

40. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

41. Louis King, SF, Oregon

42. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

43. Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn

44. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU

45. Naz Reid, C, LSU

46. Terence Davis, SG, Mississippi

47. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

48. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

49. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College

50. Zach Norvell, SG, Gonzaga

51. Deividas Sirvydis, F, Lithuania

52. Jaylen Hoard, F, Wake Forest

53. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

54. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan

55. Yovel Zoosman, F. Israel

56. Miye Oni, F, Yale

57. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

58. Ignas Brazdeikis, PF, Michigan

59. DaQuan Jeffries, SG, Tulsa

60. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

Others: Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Miss. St; Dedric Lawson, F. Kansas; Marcos Louzada Silva, SF, Brazil; Terance Mann, G, Florida State; Justin Robinson, PG, Virginia Tech

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