The Top 5 Best and Worst Washington Wizards Draft Picks Since 2000
It's still too soon to issue a final verdict on Otto Porter Jr.
The 21-year-old played in just 37 games this season, averaging 8.6 minutes per contest. He never saw much of an opportunity behind small forwards Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, so we'll have to wait at least another season before we can make any bold proclamations about Porter's future.
In the meantime, this franchise has left us with plenty of draft fodder since 2000.
There have been highs (John Wall), and there have been lows (Kwame Brown)—and then there's been plenty in between.
Here's a rundown of the best and worst the Washington Wizards' draft-day decisions have had to offer.
Best: Andray Blatche
Selection: No. 49, 2005
Before questioning the merits of classifying Blatche among the "best" of this list, keep something in mind: He wasn't selected until the second round of the 2005 draft—19 picks into that second round to be precise.
Given how few second-rounders even make it in this league, Blatche's career has been nothing if not a success story.
It took several seasons for Blatche to get his feet wet, but he started producing some pretty impressive numbers when the time arrived. He was subsequently rewarded with a lucrative contract extension in 2010 that paid him about $35 million over the course of five years. At times, Blatche struggled to measure up to that contract, and his popularity suffered as a result.
So too did his stint with Washington.
The organization amnestied Blatche in 2012, feeding the perception that he was damaged goods.
In turn, Blatche had a strong bounce-back season with the Brooklyn Nets, averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 19 minutes per game during the 2012-13 campaign. With a little extra playing time, Blatche built upon those numbers even further this season.
The 27-year-old has since opted out of his contract for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent. He could, however, still sign a long-term deal with Brooklyn if the two sides can agree on a price.
Worst: Jan Vesely
Selection: No. 6, 2011
Jan Vesely might just be a late bloomer. Or he could be a bust.
In any case, the Wizards gave up on him after just two-and-a-half seasons. The Washington Post's Michael Lee explains:
The Wizards drafted the 7-foot forward from the Czech Republic sixth overall in 2011. His time in Washington was highlighted by a draft-night kiss with his girlfriend at the time and a few sensational dunks, but it was overshadowed by constant struggles with his confidence, adventures at the free throw line and a failure to provide consistent production.
Per Lee, the 24-year-old expressed frustration about the early going, saying:
I was the sixth pick of the draft. I didn’t get much time to play and to prove that I can be in the league. Sometimes I got to play, I play all right, and the next game, I don’t play. That got me confused sometimes, but that’s part of life. You have to be ready all the time, even if you play 30 minutes and the next game you don’t play.
While Vesely has undoubtedly learned a valuable lesson about working in the NBA, it's unclear when—or if—he'll ever reach the potential that seemingly warranted such a high pick in the draft. He has the kind of range and athleticism this league's teams crave among big men.
He just hasn't put it all together yet, certainly not to the satisfaction of the teams for which he's played. Even after being traded to the Denver Nuggets, Vesely averaged just 14.6 minutes per contest—right about where he left off with the Wizards.
Time will tell whether the criticism of Vesely is premature. But so far, there's been little reason to be hopeful.
Best: Bradley Beal
Selection: No. 3, 2012
It hasn't taken long to figure out how good Bradley Beal will be. After a compelling rookie effort, the 20-year-old turned in an even better sophomore campaign this season. He averaged 17.1 points and made over 40 percent of his three-point attempts, playing a pivotal role in Washington's postseason success while he was at it.
The smooth-shooting Florida product has completed Washington's backcourt, ensuring a long-term partner for John Wall and another cornerstone for a franchise that could be successful for a long time to come.
Beal has drawn comparisons to Ray Allen on account of his range and accuracy. It will take some time to determine whether that's really a fair parallel but so far, so good.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Beal has been that he doesn't shrink under pressure. He averaged 19.8 points in Washington's first round against the Chicago Bulls and another 18.7 per game against the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals—both improvements over his season average.
And both coming against stifling team defenses.
If this guy gets any better—and he almost assuredly will—we could have a legitimate superstar on our hands.
Worst: Kwame Brown
Selection: No. 1, 2001
Let's first get one thing out of the way. Much of the criticism that has come Kwame Brown's way isn't entirely fair. He's never been a terrible player—he just wasn't a great draft pick. He never turned into the kind of big man you'd expect a No. 1 pick to turn into.
But as former Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins put it (per SBNation's Roy Burton), "When people mention Kwame's name, they only want to talk about something negative. And that's not fair... that's really not fair."
Former Sixers president Rod Thorn echoed that sentiment (again, courtesy of Burton):
People had unreasonable expectations for Kwame. They were evaluating him from the standpoint of being the first pick in the NBA Draft once upon a time. All we needed for Kwame to do was to be a defensive player, rebounder, stalwart on our back line to help us from that angle. That's something that we didn't have at the time, and that's what Kwame had done the last few seasons before he got here.
So the big takeaway is that Brown has indeed managed to make some contributions in his today. He wasn't a total loss, even if he did become something of an aimless journeyman.
Brown had his best overall season in 2003-04 with the Wizards, averaging 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds—respectable numbers but well below the production you'd expect from such a high pick. The defense has always been solid but not particularly dominant from a rim-protection standpoint.
While we should all give Brown a bit of a break, this list wouldn't be complete without him. Washington needed a game-changer with that No. 1 pick, and that's not what it got.
Best: John Wall
Selection: No. 1, 2010
Sometimes No. 1 picks work out precisely how they're supposed to. So far, that's been the case for John Wall.
The electric point guard is coming off his best season yet, averaging 19.3 points and 8.8 assists per contest. In his four seasons, he's never averaged fewer than 16.3 points or 7.6 assists. That consistency earned him a lucrative max extension last summer.
At the time, CBSSports' Royce Young wrote, "Wall has yet to really completely realize his full potential, but part of that has been the somewhat dysfunctional culture he was drafted into. The Wizards have attempted to restructure their roster over the past few seasons to build a much more developmentally friendly environment."
Things have subsequently changed for the better. Washington advanced to the second round of the 2014 playoffs on account of defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round. It was a momentous occasion for the franchise, a sign that its draft fortunes were finally paying off in a big way.
It was also a sign that the future may be brighter still. With Wall making a long-term commitment to the organization, there's some guaranteed stability and star power—two things that go a long way in determining a young team's fate.
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