The Washington Wizards have the No. 9 pick in the NBA Draft for the second year in a row. Last year they stayed there and took Rui Hachimura out of Gonzaga. But what if they decided to trade back this time around?
We have assembled some of our Wizards analysts to answer a series of debate questions involving the upcoming draft. The latest asks the question:
Who should the Wizards target if they trade back from No. 9?
Chris Miller: Jalen Smith. If the Wizards get involved in some type of draft day deal, moving down could land them still a shot blocking, rim-running prospect in Maryland’s Jalen “Stix” Smith. Smith earned first-team All Big Ten honors coming back for his sophomore year in College Park. One NBA scout told me Smith’s consistency night in and night out in conference play this past season is one reason for his draft stock rising. Smith’s ability to protect the rim (2.4 bpg), will allow him to earn playing time his rookie year. NBA teams now want bigs who have the ability to shoot threes and Smith improved from behind the arc his sophomore year connecting on 37 percent.
Chase Hughes: Jalen Smith. Every indication I've received from sources is that the Wizards like Smith, who played his college ball just 10 miles northeast of Capital One Arena at Maryland. He can rebound and block shots, making him the ideal type of big man for what they need. He can also spread the floor, which means he would fit into their vision offensively and could make an ideal frontcourt partner with Hachimura. The question is whether they can justify taking him ninth overall. They might not be able to based on where he is projected to go, so trading back for him makes a lot of sense. Call Boston. They have the 14th, 26th and 30th picks in the first round. Maybe No. 14 and 26 (plus Carsen Edwards?) get it done. You take Smith at 14 and hope a high-ceiling guard like R.J. Hampton or Cole Anthony falls to 26.
Tyler Byrum: Aaron Nesmith. Obviously, the situation has to present itself but if Onyeka Okongwu is off the board, trading back should be a possibility for the Wizards. Nesmith is a versatile wing known best for his defensive abilities. Guarding across multiple positions is a huge asset for a team that had the second-worst defensive rating in the league. It's an added bonus that he's an elite 3-point threat after shooting 52.2% in an injury-shortened season at Vanderbilt. A 'three-and-d" lockdown on-ball defender is one position the Wizards have overlooked for the past few seasons and would give the roster much more flexibility. With Nesmith slated to go at the end of the lottery to the middle of the first round, it could set up the Wizards nicely to build up some draft capital while adding a needed piece.
Quinton Mayo: Saddiq Bey. For me it's something about those Villanova guys, coached by Jay Wright, and how quickly they translate in the NBA -- Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo, etc. all guys who were drafted recently and already serve as significant pieces on their respective teams. Bey is widely recognized as one the most NBA ready prospects and for a team that is looking to compete at a high level, quickly, they need as many plug-and-play weapons around John Wall and Bradley Beal as possible. Bey won't need his hand held on or off the floor, he's extremely coachable, and injects some energy and scrappiness into a team that has oftentimes cited "lack of effort" as the reason for falling short in games. Mind you, I haven't even mentioned the skills Bey possesses. He's a 6-foot-8, 215 pound small forward that can legitimately stymie positions one through four, with occasional success against smaller centers. Oh, did I mention he's an outstanding three-point shooter who finished at 45 percent for the season on a high volume of shots (2.5 made threes per game)? Lastly, if Washington is serious about moving Rui Hachimura to the three slot, Bey has the length, athleticism, and skill to man either forward positions and alleviate some pressure from Hachimura during that transition.
Voting results: Jalen Smith 2, Aaron Nesmith 1, Saddiq Bey 1
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