WASHINGTON (AP) — After winging it with their perimeter depth late in a trying season, the Washington Wizards decided they needed more. A mature 18-year-old from Las Vegas with a winning game and a modern style convinced them he was the right call.
The Wizards selected Oregon swingman Troy Brown Jr. with the No. 15 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.
The 6-foot-7 Brown provides the Wizards with needed wing depth, a versatile defender and a potential playmaker for their second unit. He averaged 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists during his lone season with the Ducks.
There were multiple meetings between Brown and members of the Wizards organization during the pre-draft process. They talked during last month’s NBA Combine in Chicago. Brown visited Washington for a June 11 workout. It took little convincing that the former 5-star recruit was the right choice.
“Easy,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said about the decision. “This is a guy that we’ve been targeting.”
Team president Ernie Grunfeld said the workout on the Wizards’ practice court was just a piece of the evaluation process. Brown clearly helped his cause. The session included standard basketball drills along with a chance for the mature player to reveal his cerebral side.
“We asked him to draw up a last-second play and he drew up several,” Grunfeld said after Washington’s first draft choice in any round since 2015. “So, he has a good understanding of all those things and he’s a skilled basketball player.”
Brown had a good feeling about the Wizards entering the draft.
“I was really excited. My workout went very well with the team. I was just very happy,” he said during a teleconference with local reporters. “It’s a lifelong dream to make it to the NBA. You work so hard to make that dream come true. To finally hear my name especially with a team that I felt like kind of hit it off with at the workout, with the interview, I was very excited.”
Enthusiasm was in short supply for Washington last season. After falling a game shy of reaching the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, the Wizards finished 43-39, entered the playoffs as the eighth seed and lost in the first round to Toronto in six games.
In 2015, the Wizards drafted Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant 19th overall before shipping him to Atlanta for forward Kelly Oubre Jr., the No. 15 selection. Washington also tabbed forward Aaron White in the second round.
Minutes for Brown will come behind All-Star guard Bradley Beal and small forward Otto Porter. Oubre served as Porter’s primary backup last season. Jodie Meeks handled that role behind Beal, but he has 19 games remaining on his 25-game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug program.
Depth became an issue for Washington last season. Porter dealt with a lingering hip injury throughout and missed Game 6 against Toronto after undergoing minor surgery on his lower left leg. Five-time All-Star point guard John Wall missed 41 games with various injuries. Meeks’ suspension hit as the playoffs began.
Beyond last season’s issues, the NBA game’s move to more small-ball lineups puts a premium on versatile pieces.
“It’s very important. You have to have a lot of versatility (and) you have to have players that can play multiple positions,” Grunfeld said.
Now the Wizards have one more.
Washington selected another 18-year-old, Ukrainian Issuf Sanon, with the 44th selection. Grunfeld said Sanon will remain overseas for at least the 2018-19 season.
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