This is a special guest post by my friend and fellow DC resident Jon Wallace. Jon is a Duke grad and a Wizards fan, but we try not to hold that against him. Below, he discusses the Wizards’ situation in the upcoming NBA Draft.* – Patrick J
A View of the NBA Draft from DC
by Jon Wallace
A Wizards fan finds him or herself in an interesting position this offseason. The team finished another year without reaching 30 wins, yet there is more than just guarded optimism for the future. After John Wall’s return from injury, the ‘Zards played good to excellent basketball to close out the year.
With the full(ish) complement of players, Washington played well enough to have the fan base thinking playoffs next year and potential deep runs in the postseason in following years. In an admittedly small sample size, the Wizards were 17-7 with Wall, Beal, and Nene on the floor at the same time. They were 24-24 with just Wall and Beal. Projected out over a full season, these data points have Wiz fans excited about April and May basketball in 2014.
All this optimism – a distinctly weird emotion for Wizards’ fans to experience – was augmented when Washington jumped five spots in the NBA lottery to obtain the third overall pick.
Our cup runneth over.
But which prospect would most help the Wizards as they look to end an era of lottery teams and move into an era of playoff basketball?
The crew at Bullets Forever had an excellent discussion of the two most likely prospects, Otto Porter Jr from Georgetown and Anthony Bennett from Canada (by way of UNLV). Porter, a small forward with great basketball IQ, midrange game, and a local fan base; seems to be, if not the consensus choice, a growing favorite. Bennett, an undersized 4 with long arms, vertical explosions and range out to 3-point range, has a smaller, but vocal, set of boosters.
It’s not hard to understand why people feel that Porter is such an excellent fit for Washington. With Wall and Beal already in the fold, Porter doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make plays. His above average defense also lends itself to immediate impact on a playoff team. (Eds. note: And Porter, *ahem*, attended G’town and is a local hero here in The District.)
Otto Porter Jr Scouting Video
But this pick is not just about next year, it is about the 3 or 4 or 5 years. If the Wizards can stay reasonably healthy, this is the last time they will be in the lottery for a while, and they won the #3 pick to boot. Whomever they pick needs to be the kind of player that fits in the Wall and Beal, not just as a role player, but as a third star that makes the Wizards’ roster comparable to those at the top of the Eastern Conference. Because it is not enough to just make the playoffs every year with a solid squad (ask the Hawks how that is going). It’s about building a team that can compete consistently to win the conference.
Anthony Bennett is the player in this draft that has the potential to be that third star for Washington. His scoring punch is unmatched by anyone else in this draft (at least in the frontcourt). At UNLV he displayed great range on his jumpshot, rebounding prowess, and the ability to score without having the ball in his hands a lot (with Kaitin Reinhardt, Mike Moser, and Anthony Marshall, Bennett did not take nearly as many shots as he should have). While a bit undersized, he has a 7’1” wingspan and rebounded at an excellent rate at UNLV. Most importantly, he is a superlative offensive player. You can see these qualities on display in his DX scouting video.
Anthony Bennett Scouting Video
Bennett can shoot the 3 from the power forward position, spacing the floor for Wall and Beal to create offense in the lane. In addition, he finished more than 70 percent of his shots at the rim in college, meaning he could thrive as a recipient of dump-offs after Wall has drawn the defense. Offensively, he could be a perfect complement and scoring threat as a pick and pop and pick and roll threat. For a Wizards team that struggled on offense, he could be a godsend.
Admittedly, Bennett’s defense still needs work. His effort on that end of the floor was terrible at times. Though he may be a little short for the 4, he certainly has the wingspan and girth to hold his own down low against many of the NBA’s power forwards. On a team with veteran leadership (how weird is that to say about a Wizards team, but it’s true), I’m hopeful the defensive effort can be improved.
One final note about the Porter v. Bennett debate. In the current market, it is going to be easier to find a 3 and D small forward to play with Wall, Beal, and Bennett than it is to find a stretch 4 to play with Wall, Beal, and Porter. To find a stretch 4, you could overpay in a trade for someone like Ersan Ilyasova or you could hope to strike gold with someone like Erik Murphy, James Southerland or Ryan Kelly in the 2nd round of the draft. In the meantime, Martell Webster (who shot over 40% from 3 last year), can be re-signed for a portion or all of the mid-level exception. If not, Trevor Ariza is still on the roster as well. Small forward is already well stocked. If the Wizards wanted to look outside the organization, Mike Dunleavy is an unrestricted free agent as well.
Imagine the space on the floor with a lineup of Wall, Beal, Webster, Bennett, and Nene. That would be a fun team to watch and one that would play to the strengths of the teams superstar (and hopefully max player) John Wall. That is the kind of team that can be in the top 2 or 3 in the East.
* (Eds. note: It’s refreshing to know that we Wolves fans aren’t the only ones obsessing over the Draft.)