Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld is a hit-or-miss kind of executive
There is some hype surrounding the 2013-14 Washington Wizards, and it's directly related to success in the past few drafts.
Though he has yet to play a meaningful game for the Wiz, Georgetown's Otto Porter already has Wizards fans and writers discussing the importance keeping in tact the Wizards young core.
Other Eastern Conference teams attempting to escape the rebuilding period, namely the Cavaliers and Pistons, have used a more free-agent heavy approach to do so this past offseason to acheive this same hype.
The Wizards are taking a more old-fashioned approach. It helps when you have three top-three draft selections in four years, but the Wizards deserve this good fortune.
They have not always been so lucky.
Over the current five-year playoff drought, the Wizards are guilty of falling in love with a few players they should not have.
Perhaps it was something in the air or thoughts of the upcoming 40-year anniversary of Woodstock, but the summer of 2008 was the pinnacle of this love. Gilbert Arenas played only 13 games in 2007-08, but was showered with a $111 million contract. Trusty Antawn Jamison deserved his four-year, $50 million contract yet some had to wonder where this money was coming from.
All they needed to round out this twosome of guard and swingman was a seven-foot center with a 7’6’’ wingspan. Add this, and Wizards nation would be smitten
This is where we begin our tour of the Wizards' past five drafts, the year 2008. Some call it the year when the glorious downward spiral began. Others have tried to forget its implications, and the player with the 7'6'' wingspan.
Either way, along with the other years mentioned in the slides to come, it went a long way towards shaping the team as it is today.
According to a post-draft article by Ivan Carter of The Washington Post, JaVale McGee," knew they were going to take me. They were constantly talking to me, constantly trying to get me to work out for them and constantly in contact with me."
So there were mutual feelings there with McGee too, at least according him. A less than stellar relationship, however, between the Wizards and their first pick of 2008 would follow.
McGee has become a fixture of talk radio and the Internet in recent years, as made evident by BuzzFeed’s Jack Moore and a wonderfully in depth look at McGee’s 2011-12 season by Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Jesse Dorsey.
His role on the Denver Nuggets has been reduced to coming off the bench, yet McGee continues to stay busy on Instagram and other social media platforms.
This includes a lovely rendition of ‘Pure Imagination’ as tweeted by Yahoo! Sports’ blog Ball Don't Lie.
Wizards fans can be proud of his humor, as Its undeniable that the former first-round selection helped Wizards fans laugh through the worst of times.
His head-scratching antics epitomized just how lost and directionless the organization once was. In some ways, JaVale McGee created a sense of urgency in the franchise to change their makeup.
This pick was not all Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld’s fault. A stroke of bad luck on draft day caused hometown hero and Georgetown standout Roy Hibbert to be taken by the Toronto Raptors with pick No. 17, one before the Wizards selection.
Notables selected after McGee in 2008 were, in their draft order—J.J. Hickson, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and George Hill. Even the second-round offered better or at least safer talent. Nikola Peković, Mario Chalmers and DeAndre Jordan all were early picks in round two.
That’s a list McGee and Grunfeld will have to live with.
After a 19-63 record in 2008-09 and the second best chance to earn a top-three pick, Washington ended up in an okay spot—the fifth pick in the NBA draft.
With their streak of consecutive playoff appearances snapped, inconsistencies at head coach and an injury plagued year from Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards needed a solid draft.
The Wizards received a pair of three-point specialists in Randy Foye and Mike Miller in the pre-draft trade, both of whom averaged over 11 points per game their final year in Minnesota. Washington also rid themselves of their failure of a 2006 first-rounder, Oleksiy Pecherov, along with two other centers in Etan Thomas and Darius Songaila in the trade.
Foye and Miller were regulator contributors their first season in the nation’s capital, but a 26-56 record discredited the team’s offseason moves.
Foye moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers, where he spent two seasons before a quality 2012-13 with the Utah Jazz. The Villanova alum appeared in all 82 games and recorded his highest single season three-pointer total with 178. He will spend next season in Denver as part of the return for Golden State’s Andre Iguodala signing.
Mike Miller was a fixture of both Miami Heat Championships, but Miami elected not to resign the forward this past offseason. Miller recently signed with one of his many former teams, the Memphis Grizzlies, and should be able to contribute once again at a high level.
Washington did have another pick aside from No. 5 overall. Sticking with their theme of trading picks, however, Washington sent the No. 2 pick of the second-round, Jermaine Taylor, to Houston for $2.5 million. The former University of Central Florida product spent three seasons in the NBA and the D-League before heading overseas to play in Spain, Israel and China. He is now back in the D-league
At least he got to travel. The Wizards will have to stay put knowing how much more they could have done for their franchise in June 2009.
What the Wizards gained in Miller and Foye—three-point shooting and a secondary ball-handler—could not have been more available in the draft.
The Wizards bailed on a lottery-pick in a highly talented draft class. Blake Griffin was a shoe-in for the No. 1 overall selection, but any arrangement of Hasheem Thabeet, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, and Rubio could have occurred after that.
Outside of Thabeet, all of these would have been franchise-altering selections. There were also a slew of point guards waiting to hear their name after the No. 5 pick, including Steph Curry, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson.
It’s safe to say all of those guys are as good as Randy Foye.
Wall ended an era of brutal Wizards draft days
One enormous positive came out of the tumultuous 2009 offseason for Washington.
They won the NBA draft lottery.
A system that left them unable to get their hands on Griffin, Harden, Evans and Rubio the year before now left their mouths watering over the prospect of bringing an electric Kentucky point guard to D.C.
Wall dominated the college landscape with lightning quick speed, leading Kentucky to the nation’s best record at 35-3.
Though he did not take home any championship hardware, the guard won the national player of the year award.
His draftexpress.com profile explains most of what was thought about him heading into the draft; he has through-the-roof upside and only a few weaknesses.
Wall remains a fixture of the Wizards and an essential part of their hopes to end their current playoff drought.
Will Wall be able to stay healthy for a full-82 games for the first time in his NBA career? Will his supporting cast do enough to aid him in his cause?
Apparently, the Wizards are ready to give Wall enough money to suggest that the answers to both of these questions is a resounding "yes."
Wall has the potential to be an All-Star. The abysmal 4-28 the Wizards got off to without Wall in the lineup proved just how devastating life without him can be.
Once Wall returned to the lineup, Washington gained some respectability, climbing out of the basement of the NBA.
Bleacher Report Analyst Nick Farnsworth noted this impressive stat line for Wall at the end of 2012-13
“Over the last two months of the season, John Wall averaged an impressive 22.7 points per game on 46.4-percent shooting, 7.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 36 minutes a game.
Farnsworth attributes these impressive stats to increasingly aggressive play. If this has anything to do with the confidence Wall is talking about, good things will be coming to Washington in the wintertime.
Jan Vesely, ever the comedian, may start playing with his eyes closed
The two picks everyone was waiting for. The hardest part is deciding where to begin with Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton.
In an effort to not be mean, they are both struggling.
Vesely, at least, appears to be taking a page out of JaVale McGee’s book on how to entertain the Internet fan base. The Ukrainian forward recognizes his off-court popularity far exceeds his on-court popularity, and thus he is turning to social media for applause.
After he re-created the popular Beastie Boys tune "Sabotage," Vesely made a Vine of his perpetual shooting machine, h/t to Lang Whitaker of NBA.com, which loops a shooting and rebounding segment featuring Vesely in the gym.
Vesely named the machine after himself, but forgot his 30 percent mark from the free-throw line raises serious doubts about the legitimacy of this move.
The Wizards should have seen these jokes, and not the 30 percent free-throw tally, coming when they took Vesely with the No. 6 overall pick.
Unfortunately, his lack of seriousness is one of the primary reasons the Wizards have been unable to sustain any recent success.
At this point, Vesely should be at least a part of the rotation and someone who can contribute more than a shade above two points per game. His 6’11’’ frame is a matchup nightmare considering his ability to run the court, but too often the Ukrainian gets pushed around on the low blocks.
The worst part is, former ACC standout Chris Singleton has been just as bad.
At 6’8’’, Singleton plays both forward positions at an average level—the most likely reason he has yet to pan out.
The second-year player just looks too slow at times. After setting career lows in every statistical category outside of field-goal percentage during the 2012-13 campaign, Singleton regressed in his second pro year.
Singleton ultimately fell out of the rotation completely in favor of Vesely, as it appears that only one of the two players will have an opportunity to shine going forward.
NBA/Wizards reporter Michael Lee of The Washington Post wrote that head coach Randy Wittman hopes one of Vesely, Singleton, or the other forwards on the roster with a first-round pedigree develop some confidence this summer or emerge in time for the season.
I must say that going into the 2012 NBA draft, I thought Grunfeld and the Wizards would be far more intrigued by Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond and Harrison Barnes than Bradley Beal with the No. 3 overall pick.
Though it was more difficult at the time to write off Vesely and Singleton than it is now, these were elite talents at forward and the Wiz needed production in those areas.
In a draft that appeared full of question marks, and with no obvious big men on the roster and certainly no centers, they would at least consider one of the two great rebounders in Robinson or Drummond, right?
Thankfully I am not a general manager, because the Wizards appear to have a real keeper in Beal.
Finishing third among rookies in points per game with a 13.9 clip, Beal looks the part of a suitable wingman for John Wall going forward.
The two should benefit from playing together more frequently, as they only saw the court at the same time in 25 contests.
Wall’s early season injuries obviously did not match up with the young ex-Florida Gator’s. Beal’s injury issues continue to linger, but he has been keeping busy, according to Michael Lee, despite a right fibula injury that has kept him out of the majority of offseason activities.
Rotoworld reports that the guard plans to start contact in the next week, a good sign for Wizards fans who are eager to see the bright future of the Washington Wizards all in action at the same time.
It is, after all, hard to ignore the bright prospects that a 1 through 3 of Wall, Beal and Porter represent.
It is hard to draw any real historical trends from the past five years of drafts, but it goes without saying that the Wizards have had two excellent drafts (Wall—2010, Beal—2012) and three horrendous drafts (2008, 2009, 2011).
No real middle ground there.
Lets hope Otto Porter can stay on the positive side of the spectrum.