Photo by Reggie Hildred for The Sports Capitol

NBA Mock draft: Wizards options, hopes with lottery set

BY BEN STANDIG | MAY 16, 2018

The NBA Draft Lottery occurred Tuesday night. The Washington Wizards were spectators along with about half of the league. One difference between the Wizards and those other watchers: Location.

Washington owns the 15th pick in the June 21 draft — otherwise known as the first selection after the lottery choices. There’s a nose-pressed-against-a-window element since the Wizards won’t have a chance at elite talents like Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley Jr.  At least this year they actually might make a pick — in either round — for the first time since 2015. Washington also holds the 44th overall selection.

Some thoughts on what the Wizards are looking for, plus insight from league sources below. First up, a lottery mock draft.

1. Suns — Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

Devin Booker’s elite shooting skills mesh with virtually all potential teammates. Adding enough steady pieces around him is the issue. Phoenix allowed the most points per game last season, so adding a 7-foot physical force like Ayton makes lineup sense. He is also the best prospect in the eyes of many after averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds during his freshman season. Whether Ayton is the right man for new coach Igor Kokoskov is interesting. Kokoskov coached Luka Doncic on the Slovenian national team.

2. Kings — Marvin Bagley Jr., PF, Duke

Sacramento could easily justify Doncic, but they already have Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox holding down the backcourt slots along with Buddy Hield. That doesn’t mean pass on a potentially special shooter with its first top 3 pick since 1991. It could mean looking hard at one of the top big men in the draft to round out the lineup. Bagley averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds while sinking 39 percent of his 3-point attempts for the Blue Devils.

3. Hawks — Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

Atlanta didn’t just power down the roster after 10 consecutive playoff appearances. Head coach Mike Budenholzer moved on for a better spot after the 24-win season. The Hawks filled the coaching vacancy with 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce. What they still lack is a difference-maker on the court. Enter Doncic, who had the NBA world making trips overseas with impassioned regularity. Curious how much location factors into situation after playing last season with Real Madrid. Atlanta isn’t New York City, but it’s not Sacramento either.

4. Grizzlies — Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

This should be revamp time on Beale Street. However, that would mean moving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Considering the hefty contracts involved that won’t be easy. Memphis may also think this pick plus those two All-Star level players puts the Grizzlies back into the playoff discussion. The 6-foot-11 Jackson’s combination of impressive length, lateral agility and 3-point shooting (39.6%) makes him ideally suited for the modern NBA. One source touted Jackson’s ability to guard four positions. The son of the former Georgetown standout turned 18 in September.

5. Mavericks — Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas    

Dallas’ transition from NBA champion to lottery team back to a contender is taking longer than hoped. Even having a stud coach like Rick Carlisle cannot overcome a talent gap. That shrinks some after grabbing a dunking point guard (Dennis Smith) and center with an unreal 8-foot wingspan in back-to-back drafts.

6. Magic — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma    

Must sting the central Florida franchise to watch one of their former building blocks, Victor Oladipo, raise the Pacers to five-seed while Orlando remains stuck in lottery limbo. One move that could possibly boost the win total and Q-rating is tabbing Young, whose Steph Curry-like game captivated college basketball fans. Great shooting range, but his draft range varies greatly according to league sources. How the 6-foot-2, 176-pound guard gets off his own shot and defends are among the questions.

7. Bulls — Wendell Carter, C, Duke

Chicago added more from the Jimmy Butler trade than many projected thanks to scoring forward Lauri Markkanen’s impressive rookie season and point guard Kris Dunn taking advantage of his second chance. Adding an interior presence to that tandem works. The 260-pound Carter averaged 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 27 minutes per game for the Blue Devils to go with 13.5 points and a 41.3 3-point percentage. Center Robin Lopez is entering the final year of his contract.

8. Cavaliers — Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Keep the pick fearing another LeBron James departure? Deal for immediate help? Hold with the idea of adding a rookie capable of joining the rotation rather than one needing more time to develop? With the draft coming nearly two weeks before free agency and James, not one to tip his hand, the answer is an obvious yes. What’s clear this season is Cleveland lacked viable point guard options in the post-Kyrie Irving world. Sexton turned into a clutch performer for the Crimson Tide and rose up against better competition. Should receive more love from teams than the current level.

9. Knicks — Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

The 6-foot-10 forward entered his freshman season with No. 1 overall pick potential. Then came back surgery before he ever suited up for the Tigers. The playmaker potential on both ends of the court is what stands out. One front office source pegged his range from six to outside the lottery depending on the outcome of his physical at this week’s Combine.

10. 76ers (via Lakers) — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

More help for “The Process” with another lottery pick joining Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Based on those two franchise-altering talents, a perimeter threat like Bridges would receive open shot after shot. He sank a ridiculous 43.5 percent of his 3-point tries for the national champion Wildcats last season.

11. Hornets — Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan St.

Charlotte joined the group of teams that jettisoned its head coach when it moved on from the likable Steve Clifford. Adding Dwight Howard worked, but the Hornets remained outside the postseason for a second consecutive year. This Bridges might not become an All-Star, according to one source, but his supreme athleticism, strength, and work on the glass will make him an asset.

12. Clippers (via Pistons) — Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M    

DeAndre Jordan may opt out of the final year of his contract which is why using one of their two lottery picks on a replacement plan seems logical. Those hoping Washington selects a center should probably hope this doesn’t happen.

13. Clippers — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Contracts for Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley end after the 2018-19 season and going with a one-and-done Kentucky point guard seems to work. The 6-foot-6 Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 assists while showing off his 7-foot wingspan on the defensive end.

14. Nuggets — Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky

Another 18-year-old forward. Denver failed to make the playoffs despite winning 46 games so the idea of a player not immediately ready for primetime might not be appealing. The long play makes the 6-foot-9 forward worth of lottery love though his 3-point shot did not show at Kentucky.

Now, the Wizards are on the clock.

  • There is no need vs. best available debate. Washington’s roster requires an infusion of youth. That can happen at any position. Yes, even point guard as long as the player has the skill set needed — shooting — to play alongside John Wall. Besides, if Scott Brooks doesn’t view Tomas Satoransky as a point guard — the ease in which he removes Satoransky from those duties suggests he doesn’t — then the Wizards need one of those.
  • One league source told The Sports Capitol that when it comes to the prospects, the Wizards are all about shooting. Washington made its 3-pointers last season — fourth with 37.5 percent. It just didn’t try enough. Washington ranked 23rd in attempts (26.5) and tied for last in the playoffs with Minnesota at 21.5. Neither of their centers has range. Mike Scott provided 3-pointers in bunches, but the upcoming free agent might do that for another team next season. Jodie Meeks finished strong from distance — 42.6 percent post-All-Star break. He will open next season finishing off the remaining 19 games of his league suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
  • Perfect world Washington uses 15 to acquire a mobile, rim-protecting power forward or center with range either with the pick itself or as part of a larger salary-shedding trade. Think a wing should be the top consideration especially with Meeks set to miss nearly a quarter of the regular season because of the suspension? No arguments. Meeks wasn’t good enough overall last season so adding another guard option behind Bradley Beal works regardless. Again, basically, everything should be in play.
  • In the second round, the Wizards should be focused on need. Part of this season’s issue involved lack of roster flexibility. Insert your five-point-guards joke here. Those last 3-5 spots on the 15-man roster for any NBA team should be about players who can do specific tasks. That is what Washington ideally aims for over pure upside. This is especially true during an offseason in which the Wizards have no salary cap space. Maybe Devin Robinson graduates from the G-League to the real roster and provides Brooks and Wall with an athletic 4-man. That would still leave other needs. Someone who can defend wings. A big man with 3-point range who isn’t Jason Smith. A guard who can get to the rim on the bounce and perhaps run the offense.

As for options at 15 not already mentioned above, here’s a look at one from each of the traditional positions potentially in play:

Power forward — Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State. Not the tallest at 6-foot-7, but the 235-pound forward and reigning Big 10 Player of the Year has the game for the modern NBA. Averaged 19.8 points and shot 36 percent on 3-pointers while pulling down 8.7 rebounds and blocking 1.6 shots.

Small forward — Troy Brown, Oregon. The 6-foot-7 swingman enters the league more guard than forward, but he has enough size to cause problems on both ends. Considered more of a blend guy than a take-charge talent. Intangibles, ball-handling and defense put Brown in play.

Center — Mitchell Robinson. The 7-footer with impressive athleticism and shot-blocking skills sat out last season, which means extra emphasis on his pre-draft workouts. ESPN ranked Robinson No. 11 overall prospect in the 2017 class.

Point guard — Jalen Brunson, Villanova. Probably just intrigue at this position if Sexton or Gilgeous-Alexander falls outside the lottery. Brunson, selected as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, would offer a chance for some immediate help. More likely in play with a trade down into the final 10 picks of the first round.

That leaves…

15. Wizards — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Another player whose draft stock hinges on his Combine physical. Walker tore the meniscus in his right knee in July, but had surgery and played in Miami’s regular-season opener.  The 6-foot-4 guard’s stats over 32 games won’t wow the casual researchers: 11.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 27.8 minutes per game. He shot 41.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc. The knee injury likely played a part in the depressed numbers; Walker scored fewer than 10 points in five of his first six games. His work improved throughout the season. Walker had 25 points against Louisville, 23 versus Florida State and went for 12 or more in six of the final seven games. The No. 13 overall recruit in the 2017 class per ESPN arrived at Miami with a solid shooting stroke and electric moves off the dribble. Factor in a 6-foot-10 wingspan and ability to finish at the rim and Walker could check off numerous boxes for the Wizards. Now let’s see about that physical — and whether those lottery teams decide they can’t pass him up.  

Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.

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