Beal and Barnes seem likeliest picks at No. 3
While the Wizards didn't win the NBA Draft Lottery on May 30, they basically ended up with the next best thing. With the third pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, they're still guaranteed to get an elite player from the tier immediately below Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, whom the New Orleans Hornets are certain to take No. 1 overall. After finishing with last season's second-worst record, anything worse than the third pick would have limited the Wizards' choices.
Washington will choose from a group of five players, all of whom worked out at Verizon Center over the past two weeks: Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson and Connecticut center Andre Drummond. By process of elimination, the Wizards' options narrow considerably. The biggest complication could be what happens right before them with the second pick owned by the Charlotte Bobcats.
"We've still got to maintain talent level, continuing to increase that," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "We're going to have an opportunity with our pick to have a guy that's going to come in and have an opportunity to play right away with who we're looking at, who we've seen and brought in and worked out."
|When » Thursday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.|
|TV » ESPN|
|The Examiner predicts » With the third pick, the Wizards will select Harrison Barnes from North Carolina. If he had come out last year, Washington might well have taken him. The 6-foot-8, 228-pounder from Ames, Iowa, is more NBA ready than likely No. 2 pick Bradley Beal or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and his perimeter scoring ability fills a massive need for the third-worst 3-point shooting team in the league last year.|
That playing time likely won't come in the frontcourt. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said last week's acquisition of center Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza from the Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick didn't affect the team's draft plans. With Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker already on the roster, there's no indication that the Wizards are considering adding Robinson, a D.C. native, or Drummond.
Filling holes on the wing, however, is a much more pressing need, and Grunfeld and Wittman both professed that there will be a competition for a starting spot. But Ariza's experience and defensive ability make him a front-runner to start at small forward -- the position that would have been best suited for Kidd-Gilchrist.
That leaves Jordan Crawford as the only Washington starter on the perimeter without an assured future, even after he seemed to lay claim to the starting shooting guard role next to John Wall. Beal would be seen as Crawford's long-term replacement, but so could Barnes.
A number of teams reportedly covet Beal, and the Bobcats, with pressing needs at nearly every position, could trade down for multiple picks. But no matter who chooses second, it will eliminate only one player from Washington's draft board. The Wizards also will make the second pick of the second round (32nd overall).
"I think we have some very good choices, and I think we're going to get a player that's going to be with us for quite some time," Grunfeld said, even though his expectations may be slightly less than Wittman's. "I don't think we're depending on a rookie to come and play 40 minutes a night for us, either."