Photo by Ben Standig for The Sports Capitol

NBA mock draft 2.0: Identifying the Wizards' plan

BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 14, 2018

The NBA Draft tips off next Thursday. The 2018 class oozes potential at the top and extends just beyond the lottery picks. Based on several conversations with league sources, this group is liked, but not loved. That’s because for all the star-studded hope, there is a lower floor than desired.

Many in this class aren’t just one-and-done prospects, but young even for early entrants. It’s why so much of this year’s process is eye-of-the-beholder stuff.  Projecting long-term outcomes for human beings is scary stuff. For this class we’re talking horror-movie level fear. There’s also the exhilaration that comes with putting in the homework and coming out alive — or at least with a long-term starter.

Washington owns the 15th pick, 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

(Prior: Ayton)

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.

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

(Prior – Bagley)

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.

  1. Hawks — Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

(Prior – Luka Doncic)

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. 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 turns 19 in September.

  1. Grizzlies — Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

(Prior – Jackson)

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. Enter Doncic, who had the NBA world making trips overseas with impassioned regularity. The 6-foot-8 guard (presumably) capped off his professional overseas career by being named EuroLeague MVP.

  1. Mavericks — Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas  

(Prior – Bamba)

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 a 7-foot center with an unreal 7-foot-9 wingspan in back-to-back drafts. Bamba’s potential is just as lengthy, especially defensively. Concerns on the other end of the court are the scary part.

  1. Magic —  Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

(Prior – Trae Young)

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. Lottery teams are stuck weighing Porter’s significant potential with a concerning back injury that virtually eliminated his freshman season. 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. It’s why he may crack the top-3 despite some physical issues that caused issues just a week before the draft.

  1. Bulls — Wendell Carter, C, Duke

(Prior – Carter)

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.

  1. Cavaliers — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma   

(Prior – Collin Sexton)

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. Young, whose Steph Curry-like game captivated college basketball fans, is the ideal hedge. His shooting prowess should make James happy. His popularity offers fans an attachment should James bolt. 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.

  1. Knicks — Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

(Prior — Porter)

Anybody who watched the freshman cut into a deficit during a game when the Crimson Tide played 3-on-5 knows he’s a competitor. Sexton turned into a clutch performer for the Crimson Tide and rose up against better competition. New York drafted Frank Ntilikina last season, but he isn’t an ideal lead guard candidate.

  1. 76ers (via Lakers) — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

(Prior – Mikal Bridges)

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.

  1. Hornets — Kevin Knox, PF/F, Kentucky

(Prior – Miles Bridges)

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 isn’t a rebuild, but this situation does allow for long-term play in the 18-year-old Knox,  The 6-foot-9 forward’s 3-point shot did not show at Kentucky. His exciting attributes did during workouts.

  1. Clippers (via Pistons) — Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan St.

(Prior – Robert Williams)

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. Instead of going with inconsistent Texas A&M center Robert Williams, Los Angeles adds this Bridges. The combo forward’s supreme athleticism, strength, and work on the glass will make him an asset.

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

(Prior – Gilgeous-Alexander)

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. Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is in play with one of the Clippers’ two selections.

  1. Nuggets — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

(Prior – Knox)

Slotting Walker at the end of the lottery could look foolish as reports put the 6-foot-4 guard in the 9-10 range. Walker’s stats over 32 games won’t wow the casual researchers. His 6-foot-10 wingspan, shooting touch and athleticism on the other hand are rather impressive. He tore the meniscus in his right knee in July of 2017, but had surgery and played in Miami’s regular-season opener.

  1. Wizards — Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

(Prior – Walker)

(SPECIFIC INSIGHT AND SOURCING ON THE WIZARDS’ SCENARIO PLUS NBA DRAFT BUZZ INCLUDING TRAE YOUNG, MARVIN BAGLEY, ROBERT WILLIAMS AND MITCHELL ROBINSON IN OUR MEMBERS-ONLY NBA DRAFT NOTEBOOK)

  1. Suns — Jerome Robinson, PG, Boston College
  2. Bucks — Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
  3. Spurs — Troy Brown, SG, Oregon
  4. Hawks — Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland
  5. Timberwolves — Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
  6. Jazz — Donte DiVincenzo , SG, Villanova
  7. Bulls — Elie Okobo, PG, France
  8. Pacers — Keita Bates-Diop, PF, Ohio State
  9. Blazers — Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia
  10. Lakers — Mitchell Robinson, C, N/A
  11. 76ers — Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
  12. Celtics — Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
  13. Warriors — Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane
  14. Nets — Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech
  15. Hawks — De’Anthony Melton, SG, USC
  1. Wizards — Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas

Could Graham be the Wizards’ answer to Fred VanVleet? The 6-foot-2 senior shot 41 percent on 3-pointers during his final season with the Jayhawks while averaging 17.3 points and 7.2 assists. If Brooks doesn’t buy into Satoransky as a backup point guard, then they need one.

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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