Leonsis went on to say, “When you get young players to start and they can become your core, you can create a culture and a style and an environment that they feel comfortable in and they grow up in. Then you can make trades to fill in some of the blanks.”
Leonsis did not always believe this was the way. There was a time when he reached deep into his deep AOL built pockets and tried to buy a championship.
Back in the late '90s and in the early part of the new millennium, Leonsis spent a lot of money on high-priced free agents as the then-new owner of the Washington Capitals.
Leonsis took over a team that was just one year removed from appearing in the Stanley Cup finals. He believed that spending a lot of capital would ultimately get them back to the Promised Land.
That never happened. In fact, the Capitals became one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Realizing his fiscal mistakes was very difficult for a man not used to making them. However, Leonsis did make the realization and the Caps were torn down and rebuilt. After several losing seasons, which resulted in high draft picks, like Alex Ovechkin in 2006, the Caps are now the successful young franchise that has registered 106 consecutive home sellouts.
Much like his counterpart, Caps GM George McPhee, did on the ice side of the Leonsis operation, Wizards GM and President of Basketball Operations, Ernie Grunfeld is very much on board with the “Leonsis project.”
“Our blueprint, as Ted has laid out many times, is to build through the draft, develop our young players, and continue to add pieces,” Grunfeld said during the same March interview with the Washington Times. “We’ve come a long way since last year, when we were way over the luxury tax, and we’ve turned over the roster."
Grunfeld continued, "We’ve positioned ourselves very well salary cap-wise, so at the right time, we’ll also play the free-agent game. I think players like Washington, D.C. We won’t have a problem finding the right player to come here.”
The Wizards have become free of the contracts that burdened them in recent years and have money to spend, but as Grunfeld stated, the time for spending will only come once the Wizards have a solid core of young talent to build around.
They are well on their way with last year’s No.1 overall selection, John Wall.
Wall averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 assists in 69 games, was a near-unanimous choice for the all-rookie team, and finished second to Los Angeles Clippers all-star forward Blake Griffin, the 2009 No. 1 pick, for rookie of the year.
In any other season, Wall would have won the rookie of the year award.
Griffin, a second-year player, missed the entire 2009-10 season after suffering a fractured left patella in the Clippers’ preseason finale and never appeared in a regular season game during his first year in the league.
The Wizards have two picks in the first round. They will choose at No. 6, No. 18 and pick again at No. 34 in the second round. However, this draft is considered one the weakest in recent memory. Despite that fact, Grunfeld knows he cannot shoot an air ball.
If the Wizards miss their mark on Thursday, the rebuilding process will take a major hit.
Last year's selection of John Wall was the simply the foundation to the championship. Tonight's draft must produce a big chunk of the support system needed for the foundation of this organization.
Leonsis knows that unlike the NHL draft, where hall of fame talent can be found in the lower rounds and in some cases even go undrafted, NBA selections can be long shots to succeed as a mid- to late-first-round pick.
Jan Vesely is the name many experts are predicting the Wizards will choose at No.6.
Along with the Vesely, here is an in-depth look at five players the Washington Wizards will consider selecting during tonight's NBA draft.