The Washington Wizards, still working through their perpetual rebuild, entered last month’s NBA draft lottery in the eighth slot, needing a minor miracle to move up into the draft’s top three.
Mathematically, they had a 12.3 percent chance of moving up into a coveted top-three position. To put things in more of an on-court context, it was like seeing the Wizards trailing by a point in the game’s final second with Jan Vesely trembling nervously at the free-throw line. Expectations were not terribly high. Fifteen minutes into the impossibly arcane process, all of the Ping-Pong balls used to determine the draft order bounced the right way, and the Wizards were guaranteed one of the earliest picks.
In the end they wound up with the third overall pick, which could mean so much to the team, even if this draft class is not the strongest. The move took lame-duck general manager Ernie Grunfeld out of a position where he’d be picking at leftovers and put him into a prime spot.
So what will he do with this sudden windfall? These are the various scenarios I could see playing out, arranged in order of likelihood.
With the third pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . Otto Porter (forward), Georgetown University.
There’s nothing complicated about this pick. Porter is clearly one of the top prospects in the draft, he plays a position of need, and he is already a beloved figure in DC following memorable years at Georgetown.
He does a little bit of everything, and he fits into the defensive mentality the Wizards established last season. His game is so complete that rival coach Jim Boeheim said he may be the best all-around player in Big East conference history.
With the third pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . Nerlens Noel (center), University of Kentucky.
Noel has been the presumptive number-one pick all along. And yet every indication out of Cleveland is that they’re looking for a way to not draft him with the draft’s first pick. If Noel does slip to the Wizards, he might be too promising to pass up, especially if Porter is already off the board.
With the third pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . Anthony Bennett (forward), University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Bennett wouldn’t be the choice if fans had their way, but a lot of experts believe the Wizards should take a long look in this direction. Bennett is a burly scoring machine. Unfortunately he’s a bit undersize to play power forward in the NBA, and the word “disinterested” appears in his scouting report more often than you would like. Still, the Wizards need scoring, and that is something he is both capable of and interested in doing.
We have a trade to announce. The Washington Wizards have traded the third pick to Team X.
The Wizards need to improve sooner rather than later, and some feel that trading away the opportunity to add a young player for someone a bit more seasoned makes sense. Unfortunately, the Wizards are simply not going to get the kind of impactful player they can afford in exchange for this pick and some spare parts off of their bench.
With the third pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . Victor Oladipo (guard/forward), Indiana University.
Another player with local ties, Oladipo is a Prince George’s County native who played high school basketball at DeMatha. This pick is my own personal pipe dream. He essentially plays the same position as Beal, though many believe he could be the best player in the draft. If the Wizards agree (and Porter is gone) a case could be made for a high-character guy who is constantly improving, and can already defend like a pro.
With the third pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . anyone else.
Alex Len? Too much of a project. Rudy Gobert? One hundred percent too French. Drafting either of these guys that early would be the ultimate troll move from Grunfeld, a talent evaluator who is often criticized for selecting European projects who haven’t worked out. See: Vesely, Jan.