Republished from The Sports Capitol with permission.
WASHINGTON — We’re keeping things simple on NBA Draft day with the ABC’s for the Wizards and the league.
A is for Arizona center Deandre AYTON, who is the likely No.1 overall selection by the Phoenix Suns. The chiseled 7-foot-1, 260-pound center looks like a superhero. Some think he’ll turn into one on the basketball court. It doesn’t seem like all truly buy into the 1.1 hype. That might just be some reticent Luka Doncic fans thinking the Slovenian guard should get that call.
B is for BLOCKBUSTER trade, as in can the Wizards make a blockbuster trade for say Kawhi Leonard? Eh, but if the Spurs insist on shipping him to the Eastern Conference, then maybe. Otto Porter oozes San Antonio DNA. Same with Tomas Satoransky. Toss in the player drafted at 15 and that still probably doesn’t match any package from Boston (Jaylen Brown and picks) or Philadelphia (Markelle Fultz). The Wizards would also have to take back another contract for the math to work. Leonard is all kinds of risky – he either was hurt all last season OR he stayed away from the NBA’s gold standard franchise all season AND he is signed for just one more season. Still, if they said yes to the Porter-Sato-15 deal, roll that dice on a Finals MVP.
C is for CAREFUL, as in be careful what you wish for Wizards fans if you’re willing to help Marcin Gortat pack his bags. Yes, the 34-year-old is declining. Sure, that old school interior game appears prehistoric at times in the small-ball era. Just realize that no Gortat likely means Ian Mahinmi is your opening night starting center. Mahinmi is a very nice man whose offensive game at times reminds one of a giraffe learning to walk. Another “C” word is chemistry. The Wizards’ team had little last season. Dumping Gortat won’t resolve the issue. Of course neither will standing pat.
D is for DOWN, not out. When I reported the Wizards had discussed the idea of dealing 15 if teams were willing to take on an expiring contract, many reacted as if that meant adios to round one. Nope. This first-round selection is Washington’s best asset right now. We can scream at the moon as to why that’s the case or how the Wizards put themselves into salary cap jail, but been there, done that. Moving down isn’t a bad play if Washington sheds some salary, receives back a helpful rotation piece (especially if it’s Gortat on the move) and believes there are some true helpful prospects later in the first. None of this is ideal. It’s just not a debacle either (he says knowing that debacle is another “D” word).
E is for ERROR in judgment made by the good folks at News Channel 8 and WJLA for letting this bearded mug on television as often as they do. Also, thanks for that. Normally The Sports Capitol holds down the Monday slot. This week it was Tuesday night. This week that meant talking draft scenarios for the Wizards.
F is for #FAKETradeAlert. You love making up trades. I love making up trades. Since I have this platform, here are some fake trades:
- Wizards trade 15, Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith, Jodie Meeks to Lakers for 25, 39, Josh Hart, Channing Frye. Hart (Sidwell Friends), who shot 39 percent on 3-pointers as a rookie, will earn just over $7 million during the next three seasons before hitting restricted free agency. Oubre has one year remaining before RFA at which point he might hit $10 million or more per season. Frye is non-rotation depth at this point of his career, but perhaps he can sink some open 3’s. Washington saves around $2 million overall on this deal. It would also have three picks overall and could perhaps land center Mitchell Robinson at 25 and Michigan stretch-4 Mo Wagner at 39 along with point guard Devonte Graham with its own selection at 44. Los Angeles is rumored to have interest in Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith. The trade machine accepts the deal without Oubre involved so perhaps the Lakers are cool with moving up without receiving him back.
- Wizards trade 15, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith to Hawks for 30, 34 and Kent Bazemore. Any deal involving Mahinmi’s contract reeks of fan fiction, but Bazemore makes a tick more over the remaining two years. Atlanta might want to open guard minutes if it drafts Luka Doncic third overall. Bazemore’s game doesn’t sniff those contract terms, but he gets after it defensively, can guard multiple positions at 6-foot-5 and shot 39 percent from 3 last season. Sure, dropping from 15 to 30 is rough, but Bazemore provides real minutes and this draft has talent into the 40s. Cool with point guard Jevon Carter at 30, Wagner at 34 and ex-Terp forward Justin Jackson at 44? Oh, this also means Marcin Gortat is staying.
G is Kentucky guard Shai GILGEOUS-Alexander, who would be a fascinating combo option for Washington if available at 15. The 6-foot-6 freshman now might end up becoming the first point guard selected. (College source): “I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that he’s the best point guard in the draft. Shai is NBA-ready right now to help NBA teams step on the court and win right now. Has a tremendous feel for the game. … Great feel on the ball screen. Can get into paint. Great length, vision, size. Defensive end has almost 7-foot wingspan. Pest for 94-feet. Can switch and guard. … His shot is good. Still a weakness, but he works on it. Got it off quicker. Learning to have catch-and-shoot mentality. … He’s a basketball player. He’s a guard. … Not sure how he gets past the Clippers.”
H is for Maryland guard Kevin HUERTER, whose stock seemingly remains solid in the 17-21 range despite recent right hand ligament surgery. He keeps moving up mock drafts with the Bucks (17) and Spurs (18) considered landing spots. If the Wizards are truly down for a trade down, perhaps the Hawks (19, 30, 34), Jazz (21) and Lakers (25) become dance partners.
I is for I didn’t fully update my mock draft in any timely manner, but will cobble together something before the real show. Among the changes: Trae Young slips to 11, Gary Trent Jr. enters the first round with the Warriors at 28. Also, a new player for the Wizards. Hold, please.
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J is for Michael B. JORDAN, who I watched umpteen times today in the trailer for “Creed 2 (Please don’t tell Todd Dybas). Confession: I still haven’t watched “Creed” yet. Hope we can still be friends. The surprise end of this trailer has me ready to atone for my sins as soon as the draft is over. Also, I know this has nothing to do with the draft, but Michael B. Jordan is almost Michael Jordan, who certainly is better than LeBron James so please let’s stop having that silly GOAT debate especially if we’re excluding Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Tim Duncan.
K is for Kentucky combo forward KEVIN KNOX. While Knox was often projected to Washington in early mock drafts, his valuation seemingly moved the 6-foot-8 freshman into the 9-12 range. Still I have this scouting report from a college source, so… “Kevin is a tremendous scorer. Has the pro size. Can playing multiple positions. Has to show he can guard, but looks like a monster small-ball 4. Extremely gifted off the catch-and-shoot. … Needs to be with an organization that knows it will take time. 6-8 guys in this draft that are game-ready in pros. Knox, like many, needs time.”
L is for Miami wing guard LONNIE Walker, who would give the Wizards an athletic and lengthy backup option behind Bradley Beal. The 6-foot-4 freshman with a 6-foot-10 wingspan can stroke it from distance. He led the ACC’s third-best team in scoring last season despite starting slow with an injury. One source tagged him with Jimmy Butler upside. Oh, Walker also thinks the earth is an illusion. Neat. Also neat: Me discussing Walker and three other potential targets at 15 on the TV.
M is for Michigan State forward MILES Bridges, who I have come to predict is the pick for the Wizards at 15. He plays bigger than his listed 6-foot-6, meaning there’s enough brawn to defend power forwards and play the 4-man in small-ball lineups. Tom Izzo products bring toughness to the league. Bridges can shoot; 36 percent on 3-pointers, 85.3 percent from the free throw line. That 6-foot-9 wingspan isn’t impressive. Nobody is perfect. One source said watch out for interest from the Clippers, who are looking to add toughness this offseason. They also may want to add a center (Robert Williams) and a point guard with their picks at 12 and 13. If not and Bridges slips past the Nuggets at 14, the Wizards would have a chance to add an athletic frontcourt option who can help now yet offers sincere upside. Same goes if Williams remains on the board. That worries of consistency dotted conversations about the Texas A&M center makes him the riskier of the two, but with greater potential. I changed the third player on my realistic Wizards wish list from Miami’s Walker to Boston College’s Jerome Robinson. The 6-foot-5 combo guard averaged 20.7 points and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers. He also met with Washington yesterday. More interestingly, sources have been telling The Sports Capitol that Robinson’s draft stock is higher than often projected and could eventually land in the late lottery.
N is for NOT understanding why UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday’s stock apparently dropped since the pre-draft workouts began. He’s got the on-ball skills, the 3-point touch, the bloodlines. Even the Wizards at 15 should consider him since his shooting ability would allow for a pairing with John Wall. Holiday slipping into the 20s means gift for a playoff team.
O is for OH, no, what have I done by coming up with this cockamamie alphabet article. (This “oh, no” bit also saved me from discussing why the Wizards should absolutely be exploring trades involving Kelly OUBRE considering he becomes an RFA next summer. Such thinking isn’t popular with Wizards fans so I didn’t go there. You’re welcome.)
P is for POINT guard, as in do the Wizards need a backup point guard? At this point I think they do. Not suggesting that Tomas Satoransky is headed for Springfield, but the guy made plays on the second unit and as John Wall’s injury replacement and yet his head coach seemingly took every opening to use the 6-foot-7 player elsewhere. If Scott Brooks really views Sato as a versatile piece rather than his reserve one, then the Wizards should seek their version of Fred VanVleet in the second (Devonte Graham?) – and trade Satoransky. I’ll bet someone out there covets his vision-passing-size-shooting package.
Q is for QUESTION (Dwight Schrute voice): Why did the Wizards conduct solo workouts with Texas A&M center Robert Williams and Boston College guard Jerome Robinson in the final days before the draft? Occam’s razor would have us thinking it’s because they wanted a closer look at a possible rim-running big man and a perimeter threat they think are worthy of selection at 15. Another thought: Since I cannot recall any public solo workouts in previous years — The Sports Capitol reported that Michigan Mo Wagner returned for a second and private session this month — one wonders if this was perhaps a way to get some teams below 15 thinking about a deal up. Probably not, but the second approach is more cunning and ingenious so let’s root for that.
R is for REDDIT. Wizards Reddit kindly had me on its platform Wednesday for my first AMA. Among the questions thrown my way, “What are the chances we get a new GM during our Wall/Beal era?” My response:
Imagine the financial hit if an individual placed annual wagers on the Wizards changing GMs over the years. Rough.
Beal’s contract runs through 2021. Wall 2023. Odds suggest a change happens over the next five years if the Wizards don’t eventually advance beyond the second-round of the playoffs. Of course, numerous moments in time over the last 10+ years presented ownership a chance for change — and they didn’t. I’m not somebody who thinks Grunfeld is a debacle. I do understand why fans want change. The summer of 2016 alone, yikes. But, there’s been almost no inkling of a front change shakeup. Until there is, I wouldn’t wager on one happening.
S is for possible SECOND-round frontcourt targets at 44 not mentioned elsewhere in this article: Maryland forward Justin Jackson, Villanova forward Omari Spellman, USC stretch-4 Chimezie Metu, Louisville shot blocker Ray Spalding and UNLV center Brandon McCoy. Jackson had lottery buzz last season. Then came a torn labrum, which cratered his sophomore year. Spalding and McCoy made pilgrimages to Chinatown pre-draft. The draft board may shake out where wings are the best options at 15. Needed athletic bigs are available in the second.
T is for TRAINING under basketball wunderkind Drew Hanlen. The man who helped turn Bradley Beal into an NBA All-Star and Jayson Tatum into a playoff force as a rookie is working with Texas center Mo Bamba. That a player with a 7-foot-10 wingspan even has a chance to become a stretch-5 speaks to the natural talent and Hanlen’s influence. Before you ask, no, I am not sure what he and Kelly Oubre have been working on this offseason. Have to think that 3-point shot went back into the lab. More to come.
U is for UNDERRATED. Players I would consider tagging with that “U” word based on public big board rankings and conversations with sources: Wendell Carter, Collin Sexton, Donte DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson, Jacob Evans.
V is for VOLATILE, which is what one league source forecasts for Oklahoma guard Trae Young on draft night. The smallish guard’s lack of defensive qualities combined with that offensive decline over the second half of his freshman season has some teams shying away. Of course, that Stephen Curry impersonation he displayed from distance was lit.
W is for WICHITA State point guard Landry Shamet, who former Georgetown coach and “I Called Game” podcast guest John Thompson III identified as a worthy second-round option. “Good size, good athleticism. Can shoot it. Can run a team. Can defend. He had a disappointing year relative to what was expected, but he is someone I think years from now we can look and think ‘That guy was a steal for so-and-so team in the middle-to-late second.’ …I think he’s a one who can shoot with good size.”
X is for X-factor, which in this draft class is 7-foot-1 center Mitchell Robinson. When you don’t play at any level last season and thus force teams to re-scout your prep career, you’re a mystery. The athletic gifts are legitimate. So is the Wizards’ interest in Robinson, according to a source during the pre-draft process. If Washington thinks its culture can help shape Robinson into a professional, wow, this could be the move. (Pssst — Wizards’ “culture” came up as a concern during discussions with sources more often than the just about any issue other than those aging centers, so…)
Y is for whY I’m not discounting the Wizards’ chances for a turnaround next season even without any salary cap space. On Feb. 27 Washington stood 36-25, good enough for the 4-5 seed mix at the minimum. Then it lost 14 of its final 21 games. The weight of carrying on without Wall eventually wore the Wizards down. They had baffling losses all season whether the All-Star point guard played or not. With any luck Wall won’t miss exactly half the season in 2018-19. If he plays 75 games, if Otto Porter’s hip stops becoming a nagging injury and they avoid medical calamity elsewhere, this team has 3-4 seed potential even if the entire crew returns along with the additions of 15 and 44. That’s not the same as predicting a 3-4 seed finish. Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Indiana and Cleveland with LeBron James are among the other factors. Washington’s top five players are all 28 and under. Bradley Beal was having an All-NBA season before those final weeks. Porter raised his scoring average for the fifth consecutive year. Wall remains a 20-10 force nightly. It’s likely the 18 or 19-year-old selected at 15 won’t become a steady rotation player. That’s OK. This season he just needs to outperform the 15-20 minutes per game worth of production from Jodie Meeks for a boost. Biggest key is figuring out why this team looked out of sorts on the regular. Get their head game fixed and another 3-5 wins come easily. Avoid injuries, tack on more W’s. The fear is what happens if chemistry remains combustible and the medical report remain longer than Oubre’s wingspan. Could happen. So could a turnaround and an opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference finals, in theory.
Z is for Texas Tech guard ZHAIRE Smith, who more than any of the other likely options at 15 matches the type of raw athlete Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld selected in seasons past. The overlap with Oubre probably doesn’t work for roster balance. The competitiveness and above-the-rim prowess does. That others in this specific phylum include JaVale McGee and Jan Vesely surely has some of you thinking hard pass on Smith.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.