With all its unscripted drama, the NBA Draft is back. And for the Washington Wizards, that means more options to consider.
The Wizards have the 10th overall pick in Thursday’s draft, but it is possible they could move up in the draft or move out of the draft entirely, in pursuit of a veteran NBA player. The Wizards’ last three first-round picks have impressed in their short careers, and it is not out of the question that the Wizards are quiet and keep their pick.
Wizards President and General Manager Tommy Sheppard is in his fourth offseason in charge of the team and has already shown he is not afraid to make deals when he believes they are necessary. During last year’s NBA Draft, Sheppard traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, and while he cannot predict the Wizards’ activity this year, he has a feeling it will be a busy night.
“I do think there will be some deals done,” said Sheppard. “It seems like it is that kind of draft where some teams might say, ‘Let’s put what we have on the table.’ Also, teams recognize first-round picks are great things to have, but you don’t necessarily need three or four of them.”
Oklahoma City has the second overall selection in the draft, but has three first-round picks and might be open to making a trade for one of its later first-round picks. Orlando is scheduled to pick first, and Houston picks third.
The prevailing thought among NBA scouts is that there is a consensus top three for the draft — led by Auburn power forward Jabari Smith, Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren and Duke power forward Paolo Banchero.
The top three picks are not expected to be traded. Sacramento has the No. 4 overall pick, and the Wizards would probably love to make a deal with the Kings, but they are not only team that covets the Kings’ selection. Charlotte has multiple picks below the Wizards, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility for the Wizards to trade down in the first round.
When discussing the NBA Draft, what a team needs often starts the conversation. The reality is most teams pick the best player available (a cold cliché that is true) regardless of position. In my role as a Wizards play-by-play announcer, I have had the privilege several times over the years to be in the team’s draft room and see firsthand that players are not ranked by position.
In the mock draft game, where reporters and analysts make their best guesses, guards Johnny Davis from Wisconsin and Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji are popular choices for the Wizards. Davis can defend and likes to attack the basket, but needs to improve his 3-point shot. Agbaji is more of a small forward. Neither player would fill the Wizards’ biggest need at point guard.
“If we were to draft a point guard, certainly we think he is capable of playing backup minutes next year,” said Sheppard. “Now if he can start, I am not going to tell him he can’t. However, I do not want that pressure on that person coming in the door. It changes the whole experience for him.”
At 6-foot-7, 19-year-old Dyson Daniels from Australia is rated as the top point guard in the draft. Daniels worked out for the Wizards and spent last season here in the U.S. playing for G-League Ignite. To get Daniels, the Wizards likely would have to make a deal to move up in the draft.
Kentucky’s TyTy Washington and Arizona’s Dalen Terry are other possible options at point guard in the first round. Like Daniels, Terry is 6-foot-7, adding intrigue to his skill set at the position, but Washington might be the better player. Terry and Washington played only one year of college basketball and amplifies Sheppard’s assertion that if the Wizards selected a point guard, he would not start right away as John Wall did in 2010.
In pre-draft sessions, the Wizards worked out over 70 players. The prospective draft picks not only came in to display their basketball skills, but also spent the day with the team going through interviews. The off-court activities the players go through are considered just as important — if not more important — to the evaluation process, because it’s assumed they can play basketball at a high level.
“I like aggressive, assertive and relentless,” said Sheppard. “Those kind of attitudes are non-negotiables. We have to have more of that kind of approach across our roster.”
Editor’s Note: Dave Johnson is the longtime radio play-by-play voice of the Washington Wizards.