The ultimate goal
The Washington Wizards have had about as good a past 13 months as anyone could have expected:
-They swapped Gilbert Arenas’ cap-killing contract for Rashard Lewis' shorter one.
-They flipped Kirk Hinrich for cap space, Jordan Crawford AND the No. 17 pick.
-They had one of 2011’s top drafts, hauling in Jan Vesley, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack.
The only thing that could have made it better would have been buying the draft rights to Marshon Brooks (purchased by the Nets) and/or Jeremy Tyler (purchased by the Warriors) when they had the chance. But I digress.
For a team so far out of the playoff picture last season, Wizards fans have reason to be optimistic—if not downright joyous—about what the future holds.
Unfortunately, there may not be basketball this season, and free agency is forcibly on hold for the foreseeable future.
Because of the Wizards' youth and desire to shed Lewis’ contract ASAP, a missed season may be better for the Wizards than most other NBA teams.
But, as a basketball junkie, I’ve already shifted my attention to analyzing the 2012 draft.
Some of these guys haven’t even laced them up for a college game, so we’re working off scouting projections in those cases.
Regardless, here are some players the Wizards should be looking at as first- and second-round options next season—guys who can be difference-makers if the team's young talent continues to make big strides next season.
(Caveat: I’m projecting the team to miss the playoffs and get a top 10 pick, and will be assuming the depth chart below for positional deficiencies).
John Wall/Shelvin Mack
Nick Young/Jordan Crawford/Othyus Jeffers
Rashard Lewis/Jan Vesely/Chris Singleton
Andray Blatche/Trevor Booker
JaVale McGee/Kevin Seraphin/Hamady N’Diaye
Barnes is a SG/SF swing man at the NBA level, and his penchant for hitting clutch shots would be a welcome addition to the Wizards.
With no sure-fire center prospects, Barnes should be near the top of the Wizards wish list—he was one of their targets this year before he announced he’d be returning to Chapel Hill to chase an NCAA title.
Barnes will have plenty of talent around him this year at UNC, which is one reason I’m hopeful his stock won’t go through the roof when the team is successful.
James McAdoo, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall will all be sharing the load. So it’s possible Barnes’ stats don’t experience a meteoric uptick.
If he’s around when the Wizards pick, which will have to be in the Top Five to have any chance at the Ames, Iowa native, he’s a no-brainer.
We haven’t seen Davis play an NCAA game yet, but the consensus is that he’s a great athlete and possible top pick who grew a whole heap late in his high-school career.
Currently standing 6’10” with a 7’4” wingspan, he’ll need to grow into that body. But he’s got the ball-handling and passing skills of a player half a foot shorter.
Most impressively, he’s a great defensive player, one reason he’s been compared to Kevin Garnett.
He had a huge game at the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic, putting up 29 points and 11 rebounds, but he impressed me more by adding four blocks against some of the nation’s top competition.
Davis could certainly be higher on this list, but until we see him against legitimate competition and continued development of his post game he will remain a bit of an unknown commodity.
While many have lauded Sullinger’s decision to return to school and admired his commitment to win a championship with the Buckeyes, he unquestionably forfeited a higher draft position by not declaring this year.
That could be good for the Wizards, who might have a shot to pick him up even if they don’t end up in the Top Five.
Sullinger has drawn comparisons to Kevin Love, but he’s also been mentioned in the same sentence as Michael Sweetney.
He’s running quite the gauntlet, largely because of his questionable athleticism, but he’s apparently slimmed down to the tune of 10-15 pounds this summer to increase his mobility.
Sullinger was arguably the most impressive player in college basketball this past season, and his big body and penchant for rebounding and doing the dirty work inside would be great addition to the Wizards.
A Washington, D.C. native, Robinson was projected as a mid-first-round pick in this past draft had he declared—despite his relatively minimal statistical contributions to Kansas last season.
But now that the Morris twins are both NBA-bound, Robinson will have a chance to shine in Lawrence this season.
Robinson averaged two fouls per 14 floor minutes, something that held him back from better production, but also averaged a double-double in games where he played at least 20 minutes.
He’s got great size and strength at 6’9” and 240 pounds, which will make his transition to the NBA as a power forward a bit easier. He’s also athletic and sports a 7’1” wingspan.
If he makes strides this year he’ll be a lottery pick, and Ted Leonsis has put a premium on drafting local talent to increase interest in the team.
Rivers has been compared to Steph Curry for his incredible long-range shooting, and based on Curry’s ascendence as one of the league’s top combo guards, I doubt Rivers makes it very deep into the lottery.
The same goes for Lamb, but more because of his incredible physical talents.
With Kemba Walker moving on to the NBA, he’ll have an opportunity to showcase his talents as the primary option for UConn this season. He certainly did himself a favor with some good games in the U19 World Championships (subscription required).
Both players are versatile and can hit from long range, which is something the Wizards need to improve upon.
Based on how the NCAA season unfolds for Duke and Connecticut, these two guys may be viable options with a pick around No. 10.
Taylor is a great athlete and has been developing a jumper that will make him a more complete player.
He hit around 35 percent of his three-pointers this season, and surprised some by taking his name out of a draft where he might have been a first-round pick.
Taylor still needs to work on that shot and improve his ability to get it off in isolation situations.
He has been chided for being unable to create his own space, which is odd considering his impressive athleticism. He has been asked to do a lot for Vanderbilt, and his progress will certainly be on display this year, when he will be expected to lead the Commodores in his senior season.
Another player who pulled his name out of this year’s draft, Nogueira is quite raw offensively.
In fact, he was in a very similar situation as Bismack Biyombo—they both had eye-opening triple-doubles in international competition and have incredible length that can produce double-digit blocks at that level.
Biyombo is the more athletic of the two, but Nogueira is slightly more polished and considerably taller.
A legitimate seven-footer, Nogueira was talked about as a late first-rounder this year, which means he may fall to the Second Round in a more loaded 2012 draft.
He wasn’t ready to contribute to an NBA team anyway, so monitor his progress this year to see if he’ll be a viable option with a mid-to-early second-round pick.
Pairing another Wildcat with John Wall could be a great decision.
Lamb took his game to another level in March Madness and was likely a late first-rounder this season.
There are a number of parallels to be made with UConn’s Lamb—name (obviously), great length, deep range, seemingly effortless ability to put the ball in the basket and a wiry frame that will need to fill out if they hope to impact at the NBA level.
An aggressive rebounder and potent scorer around the basket, Green falls because of his limited upside, smallish height (though he has long arms) and lack of polish in his offensive game.
But the Wizards are always looking for warriors as they tend to improve defensively through hard work, grit and determination.
He gets to the line at a reasonable clip, and shoots relatively well there, but he will need to show improvement hitting from the perimeter if he wants to become a threat at the NBA level.
Black is expected to be one of the main cogs of a young Memphis team this season, and his size and defense are what makes him special.
He’s got a great motor in the lane, where he can make an impact on the defensive and offensive boards, and his physicality is something the Wizards have certainly put at a premium.
At this point, however, he cannot score from outside of 10 feet and will need to expand his game this season if he hopes to be regarded as a complete prospect in this draft.
Because of his physical attributes, he could be a first-round pick. But his skills are lagging significantly. The Wizards need post scoring but would also be happy to pick up a hard-working, defensive-minded player who can get easy buckets after scooping up an offensive board.
I had to mention this one, because it’s a more recent development that the Wizards should monitor.
Drummond is technically in the 2011 HS class and will be 19 when the 2012 draft comes around.
He’s doing a “Graduate School” year after finishing his high school classwork, so some believe that will make him eligible. We’ll see what the new CBA and the Players Union have to say about that.
But Drummond is certainly an elite talent. He’s 6’10” and about 275 pounds, so he has the NBA body. He’s also been compared to Amare Stoudemire for his freakish athleticism.
Even better, he uses it to dominate defensively in the paint and can block shots with the best of them. The only questions are about his motor, which seems to idle if he’s disinterested or not playing competition.
He will be in the running for the top spot if he’s eligible because of his massive upside, but if teams black-ball him, he may be an option for the Wizards a few spots later in the round.