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Thirty days after the NBA Draft lottery and exactly one week before the draft itself, the Washington Wizards on Thursday hosted their first prospect who is expected to fall within their range at the No. 9 pick.
Kentucky swingman Keldon Johnson paid a visit to the Medstar Performance Center in Southeast Washington, as the Wizards got an up-close look at a player they could realistically select on June 20. Previously, their workouts had been groups of players more likely to be options for their G-League or summer league teams.
Johnson's visit, which was first reported by NBC Sports Washington, was also a bit different in its structure than the previous ones they have held this month. They hosted Johnson along with only one other player, Cam Lard of Iowa State. Most of their workouts have featured five or six players.
Instead of seeing Johnson in a three-on-three setting, interim president Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards' front office observed Johnson in a variety of one-on-one drills.
Johnson said it was very different than most of the workouts he has had with other teams. This one was more competitive and also more exhausting.
"It's a lot more conditioning. You get a lot more reps," Johnson said. "They were really involved. We really got to compete. It was a two-man workout, but everybody was really into it."
Johnson, 19, offers high upside as a young and athletic player, true to form as a John Calipari pupil from the University of Kentucky. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds as a freshman in Lexington while shooting 38.1 percent from three-point range.
Johnson said he is hoping to show teams his ball-handling skills and his willingness to learn from coaches. With more spacing at the NBA level, he believes his game will translate well to the pros.
"I think going to the NBA, it's a lot of up-and-down [in transition], and that really fits my game well," he said.
Johnson has worked out for a collection of teams and has only one more before draft night. He will head to see the Minnesota Timberwolves next.
The Wizards had yet to work out any players of Johnson's caliber, but they did bring in his brother, Kaleb, earlier in the week. Kaleb played at nearby Georgetown University and the family hails from South Hill, VA.
They crossed paths in a workout with the Phoenix Suns and have had a unique view of the pre-draft process.
"It's been amazing. I feel like we're both living out our dreams," Keldon said. "Going through the process with him, I wouldn't rather do it with anybody else except for him. I grew up with him. He's been there with me all of my life. Us both going through it, it's just amazing."
"We're kind of learning from each other," Kaleb said. "We talk about the workouts and stay in touch every day."
Keldon has raised his stock in the past several weeks, ranking as high as eighth in mock drafts. Some projections, though, have him going as low as the 20s.
The Wizards will have to determine if he is worthy of the ninth spot, or if he makes more sense in a trade down scenario.
From a fit perspective, he makes plenty of sense. The Wizards need wing depth and young players with high upside. Johnson would also give them another three-point threat.
But even though he's the biggest name to come through Washington, he may not be the best player on the board when the Wizards name is called on draft night. Perhaps Thursday's visit will convince the Wizards otherwise.
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