There is more suspense about what the Washington Wizards might do in tonight’s NBA draft than there has been since George W. Bush was still in his first term as President.
Certainly there was way more hype last year when Washington was about to select John Wall with the first overall pick. But other than that foregone conclusion, tonight’s sixth selection is the Wizards’ first since 2004 when general manager Ernie Grunfeld chose Devin Harris fifth overall and promptly traded him to Dallas.
Washington’s only other top 10 selection during the past decade was Jarvis Hayes, who went tenth in 2003 and played an undistinguished seven years for the Wizards, Detroit Pistons and New Jersey Nets.
Aside from Richard Hamilton, a wise choice at No. 7 overall in 1999, Hayes was the only first-rounder for Grunfeld’s predecessor, Wes Unseld, who was also the GM from 1996-January 2001 when Michael Jordan took command of Washington’s front office. Five months later, he chose high school player Kwame Brown first overall. That bust and the selections of Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon, 11th and 17th, respectively, in 2002, made Jordan, a legendary player, look foolish.
So what do the Wizards do tonight? Since they also own the 18th and 34th selections, they might be able to package picks and move up if there’s a player they really like. But after averaging just 23 victories the past three seasons and with only Wall truly set as a starter, Washington needs quantity as much as quality. Imagine how much better the Wizards will be if they stay put and land two immediate starters with those three picks.
Wouldn’t Texas’ physical Tristan Thompson and sweet-shooting Jordan Hamilton, San Diego State’s rebounder extraordinaire Kawhi Leonard and Providence’s scoring machine Marshon Brooks or the Morris twins from Kansas, Marcus and Markieff, look good in Washington’s re-designed red, white and blue uniforms?
Literally winning the lottery last spring to be able to select point guard Wall was a blessing for a seemingly cursed franchise. But the Wizards might figuratively really win the lottery if Grunfeld makes the most of having two selections in the top 16 and three in the top 34 especially with the looming lockout likely to put adding free agents on ice for a while.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.