Photo by Brian Murphy for The Sports Capitol
Source: Wizards' Aaron white eyeing NBA next season
BY BEN STANDIG | MAY 17, 2018
The NBA world, even those in Chicago for this week’s Draft Combine, has eyes on events halfway around the planet. The EuroLeague Final Four begins Friday in Belgrade. Luka Doncic, potentially the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, is the headliner.
The Wizards have no shot at landing the Slovenian sharpshooter barring a massive trade. There is still at least one other reason for Washington fans to tune in. His name is Aaron White and he might be ready for a return stateside
Yes, that Aaron White, the last player selected by the Wizards in any round of the draft. That occurred with the 49th overall pick in 2015. Since then the power forward whose teammates call him “Highlight White” played for three teams over three years. His current squad, Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas, qualified for the prestigious EuroLeague. That’s the basketball equivalent of soccer’s Champions league where top professional teams from across Europe compete.
Zalgiris Kaunas, coached by former Maryland guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, plays in Friday’s first semifinal matchup (Noon) against Turkey’s Fenerbahce — and their star forward Jan Vesely. The event concludes Sunday with a consolation and championship game.
From there, destination unknown for the 6-foot-8 White. The next move may lead him to the NBA. One league source who tracked White closely overseas told The Sports Capitol “I believe White plays in the NBA next season.”
The Wizards hold White’s rights. They need more athleticism and youthful depth in the frontcourt. Roster space is available. The stretch-4 aspect works. Washington is thought to be pleased with the former University of Iowa star’s progress and potential, according to a league source. The organization will have at least one member of the front office in Serbia, The Sports Capitol has learned.
White averaged 9.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 22.6 minutes in 34 EuroLeague games this season. He shot 39 percent on 3-pointers and made plays above the rim.
None of this means White ever plays for Washington, however. The Wizards have other roster decisions. They own the 15th and 44th overall selections in next month’s NBA Draft. Free agency follows. Trades could occur without warning.
With Mike Scott entering free agency, Markieff Morris is the lone power forward with any experience currently under contract. Morris is entering the final year of his deal as is starting center Marcin Gortat. Forward-Center Jason Smith is expected to exercise his $5.4 million player option for 2018-19, The Sports Capitol confirmed. Lengthy forward Devin Robinson may graduate from the G-League to the parent club.
The net result of their planning could have the Wizards thinking there is no room for White and thus prefer he remains overseas for now.
White’s camp can force the action. The Wizards must tender White a training camp invite to maintain his rights. To this point, White passed up that opportunity. International teams are locking up players at White’s level for six-figure contracts well before NBA training camps conclude. Therefore, White would take the risk that he gets cut in October and misses out on a large overseas payday.
However, if the Wizards waive him, they lose the rights to a player soaring in his first EuroLeague action. The kind who might qualify as the type of “athletic” big man John Wall desires.
“Some of the guys says ‘Highlight White’ because he gets all the dunks,” said Zalgiris point guard Kevin Pangos, who played for the Wizards’ Summer League entry last year.
No matter what level White reaches in Belgrade, he and every other player in the Final Four will be overshadowed by Doncic. The 6-foot-6 guard with deep range and a flair for passing leads Real Madrid into their semifinal meeting with CSKA Moscow. His next frontier is the NBA. Seemingly every big board projections slots Doncic as one of the top two prospects in the 2018 class along with Arizona’s Deandre Ayton.
Yet he told reporters in Belgrade on Thursday that no decision about his next move has been made. That the small market Sacramento Kings own the No. 2 overall selection may spook Doncic from committing. Though the money is better in the NBA, time is on the side of the 19-year-old.
White turns 26 in September. He needed time to develop his game coming out of Iowa. Three years have passed. The former All-Big 10 performer put in the work. NBA opportunities are not available often. White’s may be on the horizon.
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.