WASHINGTON – When it comes to the NBA Draft, Ernie Grunfeld never deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Pardon my pessimism, but a brief review of the selections Grunfeld has made since becoming the Wizards GM in 2003 is a kaleidoscope of disappointment. Tall guys, short guys, foreign guys, local guys, Ernie has yet to concoct a winning formula on draft day.
To date, Grunfeld has made 24 selections as the Wizards GM. Those players had combined for zero All-Star selections until John Wall broke the streak this season. Thus, the NBA Draft is usually not something Wiz fans look forward to. Now that the team has emerged from perennial lottery status, this year’s draft was supposed to be even less exciting — Ernie had other plans. The Wizards traded the 19th pick, and two future 2nd round picks, to the Atlanta Hawks for the 15th pick — they used the pick to select the supremely athletic but underdeveloped swingman, Kelly Oubre.
Oubre, who is 19 years old, quickly made a splash with the media by stating, “I feel like I’m a steal in this draft. I’m ready to win a championship. And whatever team gets me, we’re winning a championship, and I’m ready to put the work in to do so.” Sorry, Kelly, we don’t believe you, you need more people — namely, Kevin Durant. Oh, did you forget that you were living in the era of #KD2DC? The inescapable and improbable campaign to lure KD into returning “home” to play for the Wizards in 2016 was the first thing Wizards fans wanted to talk about when they found out that Oubre and Durant were buddies. Between this fact and the Wizards adding one of Durant’s high school coaches to the staff last summer, they should just start selling #35 jerseys in red, white, and blue right now.
If Kelly Oubre somehow lures KD to D.C., then Ernie Grunfeld is a genius and I will eat my hat. If Kelly Oubre is what he appears to be, and he doesn’t have mind control over Kevin Durant, then he will likely end up being yet another installment in the long line of failed projects Grunfeld has brought to town. Nothing against Kelly Oubre — knowing the Wizards he would probably flourish elsewhere in the NBA — this is a statement against Ernie Grunfeld.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and review the best and worst of the Grunfeld Era to decide Oubre’s fate.
The Best (this will be brief):
John Wall (Pick #1 – 2010) – A no-brainer #1 overall pick. Your grandmother would have picked John Wall. Thank you, John for making us almost forget about Kwame Brown.
Bradley Beal (Pick #3 – 2012) – Beal is arguably the best draft pick of Ernie’s reign. While it doesn’t take a basketball savant to find talent at the #3 pick, Grunfeld resisted his affinity for size and completed the backcourt of the foreseeable future by taking a slightly undersized 2-guard who became an immediate contributor to the much-maligned Zards. No more injuries, Bradley.
Otto Porter, Jr. (Pick #3 – 2013) – By all accounts Porter looked like he was headed for bust status after his rookie season, but he turned the corner in the 2014-15 season and became an essential part of the rotation in the 2015 playoffs. The Wiz will need Porter to continue to develop if they ever hope to escape the second round. Porter’s development gives a glimmer of hope for Oubre’s fate — it shows that the Wizards aren’t completely clueless in converting size and athleticism into serviceable NBA talent.
Jordan Clarkson (Pick # – 2014) – Grunfeld is more disrespectful of the 2nd round of the NBA Draft than Rick James was of Eddie Murphy’s couch. When Ernie isn’t trading away his future 2nd round picks to move up a few spots he is selling them for cash — How is that even legal? Who gets this money? Ted? Anyhow, after Clarkson was sold like an old iPhone on EBay he went on to make the all-rookie team for the Lakers. Fortunately the Wizards weren’t in need of backcourt depth this year or anything.
Jan Vesely (Pick #6 – 2011) – Let’s just say Ernie is not the R.C. Buford (Spurs GM). The Wizards have never been successful at drafting talent from overseas. Vesely is already out of the NBA and let’s just take a look at some of the folks Ernie passed over in this drafted: Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler….sorry I just threw up a little. You can find a full list here, hopefully you have a stronger stomach than I do.
(Pick #5 – 2009) – That blank line over there represents what the Wizards gained by trading the #5 Pick in the 2009 Draft. You can also refer to that blank line as the ghost of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Although we can’t be too depressed about this terrible decision because it yielded one of the worst Wizards teams of the 21st century and the next year we received the #1 pick, John Wall. Fate has a way of working out in the end — like meeting your wife in the hospital after falling through an open elevator shaft. That’s the Grunfeld way. Steph Curry went #7 in this draft, for those of you counting at home.
JaVale McGee (Pick #18 – 2008) – JaVale’s career with the Wizards was essentially a three year blooper reel with a few NBA Jam style dunks mixed in. He came to the Wizards as an athletic, 7-foot, 20 year-old and the Wizards did little to hone his potential. When he left the team for Denver, via trade in his fourth season, he seemed like a player that might flourish in the right environment. His numbers improved slightly in Denver but he never became the game-changer that Grunfeld thought he would be. Grunfeld has never had a knack for finding talent in the middle of the first round — sorry, Oubre.
Nick Young (Pick #16 – 2007) – Nick Young scores a lot of points. Nick Young will tell you that Nick Young is one of the best players in the NBA. I will not insult Nick Young any further. If you mock Nick Young, Nick Young will find you — ask ESPN’s Robert Flores.
Oleksiy Pecherov (Pick #18 – 2006) – A 7-foot pile of hot and steamy garbage. This cat was out of the league before any of us figured out how to properly say or spell his name. At least it seems like Ernie has finally learned that drafting overseas talent is not his strong suit. Oh wait, now our American draftee is planning on playing overseas? Poor Ernie can’t catch a break.
Hindsight is 20-20 and many other NBA GMs can look back on their decisions to pass on the Klay Thompsons and Steph Currys of the world with regret but Ernie Grunfeld’s draft ineptitude is legendary and unchanging — and he still has a job.
Will Kelly Oubre’s potential pan out? In recent years, the Wizards have shown more promise in their development of young talent which plays in Oubre’s favor, however, Grunfeld’s history drafting outside of the top 5 picks doesn’t exactly make me want to pre-order my Oubre jersey — I will take one of those #35s though.
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