Roundtable: What Do the Wizards Do If They Pick 1st?
Amid Caps Fever, and on the heels of a forgettable 19-win season, it's been relatively easy for the Wizards to fall off the radar screen. But with less than 10 days left before a drawing that could drastically alter the franchise's future -- or hardly alter it at all -- Wizards Insider realized it's time to get to speculating. So we assembled a roundtable with four of our favorite Wizards sites to ask the question, "What would the Wizards do with Pick x?" TruthAboutIt.net, Wizards Extreme, Bullets Forever and WizzNutzz join us this week for a look at the possibilities.
Keith McMillan's Take:
We know the Wizards will have a pick no worse than fifth. But there's a pretty big difference between having your choice of prospects at No. 1, and wondering who'll be left at No. 5. For the Wizards, that could be the difference between picking a franchise-changing player or not picking one at all.
Over the course of the week, we'll ask our panel what the Wizards should do with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th picks, should they get each one. On the 19th, the NBA will hold the drawing that determines which pick the Wizards have, and then we can focus our speculation on a particular draft slot.
If you can't wait until the 19th, you can always try ESPN's draft lottery generator, a tool that predicts how the draft will go based on the available players and the liklihood of teams landing particular draft slots. But if you have grand hopes, beware. I tried it nine times in a row several weeks ago, and the Wizards ended up with Ricky Rubio at No. 2 four times, UNC's Ed Davis -- who is no longer in the draft pool -- at No. 3 four times and Davis at No. 4 once. I did it five times a few days ago, and while the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers each ended up with the top pick, the Wizards got Rubio at No. 2 three times and James Harden at No. 5 twice. I just ran it once more right now, and it was Hasheem Thabeet at No. 3. (I'm having a hard time getting my mind around Griffin in Kings purple).
But the Wizards need their combination of ping-pong balls to come up only once, and they have a 17.8% chance of getting the top pick. And if they do get it, the dilemma isn't much of one. With a later pick, they might be forced to look at several options; at No. 1, it's draft Oklahoma's Blake Griffin or trade the No. 1 pick for someone who can help the Wizards win now.
The Wizards are one of the only teams in the league not freeing up cap space for the mega-free-agent class of 2010. With team and player options, as many as 10 Wizards are already under contract for 2010-11, including more than $10 million each per season for Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas. But their salary situation isn't dire two seasons from now -- less than $54 million would be committed to those 10 players. It's next season, with almost $76 million committed to a virtually full roster, that they run the risk of paying the luxury tax. And while it's easy to say because they aren't spending my millions, it seems like a small sacrifice to pay it for one year in exchange for three, six or maybe 10 years of Griffin.
While the fact that Etan Thomas and Mike James will be the Wizards' fourth- and fifth-highest paid players this season if Ernie Grunfeld can't (or won't) trade their expiring contracts is good reason to consider trading the pick, unless the Wizards can get immediate help at the talent level of, say, a Carlos Boozer, it doesn't make much sense to pass on Griffin's potential.
If the Wizards pick 1st, they should: Draft Blake Griffin.
The Wizards' Possible Reasoning: Despite potentially having to pay the luxury tax for a season, Griffin would give the team some more muscle and lineup flexibility, and possibly a fourth scorer in the starting lineup.
Michael Lee's Take: Based on his talent, his ability to contribute right away and the Wizards' need, Blake Griffin is the perfect fit at No. 1 for Washington. Most NBA scouts and league executives have rated this as a one-man draft, and even with the recent addition of Ricky Rubio providing some intrigue, Griffin remains the player most ready to help the moment he steps on the floor.
Griffin would immediately provide the rugged, physical presence the Wizards have lacked for some time. He got knocked around his sophomore season at Oklahoma, with teams unable to stop him otherwise, but he also regularly inflicted punishment on the opposition with his angry-at-the-rim dunks and emotionless, double-double destruction. While he might not develop into a franchise cornerstone, like a Shaq or LeBron or Tim Duncan, he won't have the pressure of carrying the Wizards right away with the team built around the talents of three all-stars in Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. He may also benefit from learning the ropes under Jamison before eventually sliding into a starting role.
Griffin's ceiling could be a hybrid of Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer, but he still needs to work on developing a consistent low post move and reliable jump shot. The son of a basketball coach, Griffin already has a good basketball IQ and one skill that usually translates from college to the NBA -- his ability to inhale rebounds. Though Griffin may turn out to be closer to 6-feet-8 than his listed 6-10, his aggressive (some would say reckless) playing style should mesh well with the talent already on the roster. Griffin easily could've been a top 10, possibly top five, pick as a freshman, but his decision to stick around helped him emerge from out of the shadows of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love. He served as the face of his university and college basketball overall, never cowering under the immense pressure and scrutiny.
If Washington gets the No. 1 pick, another minor question is if the Wizards give him Michael Jordan's No. 23. Griffin told me that he'd be willing to change numbers out of deference to the player regarded by many as the best to ever play the game. But following Jordan's acrimonious departure, a team source told me that the organization would have no problem giving Griffin the 2-3. We shall see if that becomes a concern.
Coming Tuesday: TruthAboutIt.net on the 2nd pick
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