AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rather than use a pick on a player they didn’t really want, the Washington Wizards traded it away and left empty-handed at the NBA draft.
The Wizards didn’t have a first-round pick Thursday night, and they sent their second-round selection — guard Jordan Clarkson from Missouri — to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash.
“We focused in on two, three players who we thought would be there,” team President Ernie Grunfeld said, “but they were gone by the time it was our turn to pick, and we didn’t want to waste it and just bring someone in who didn’t fit in with what we were trying to do.”
Grunfeld will therefore seek other ways to augment a team that just ended a long playoff drought. Led by the up-and-coming backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington made the postseason for the first time since 2008 and won a playoff series for the first time since 2005.
The first step will be to decide which players to keep among several set to hit the open market when the free agency period begins next week. Among the key contributors who could or will become free agents: Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Drew Gooden, Al Harrington and Andre Miller.
“We like our nucleus, and we’d like to keep our core together,” Grunfeld said. “Obviously you never know what happens with free agency, and we have some work ahead of us.”
Inevitably, there will be new faces, and Grunfeld would prefer to add a veteran during free agency than anyone who was available when the Wizards were the clock at No. 46 overall late Thursday. Last year’s draft picks — Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. — didn’t get to play much as rookies, so Grunfeld still considers both to be developmental players.
“This way it opens up another roster spot for us to get someone who’s established,” Grunfeld said.
The last time the Wizards were bystanders on draft night was 2009, and it was under similar circumstances: They didn’t have a first-round pick, and they traded second-round selection Jermaine Taylor to the Houston Rockets.
Washington’s first-round pick this year was traded to the Phoenix Suns in October in the deal that brought Gortat to Washington.
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