It’s that time of year again, the time of hope, desperation, and everyone’s favorite — speculation. For Wizards fans, it’s something to look forward to. Despite the notably bad reputation General Manager Ernie Grunfeld has seized in the past few years; we always fight through and do our due diligence in acting as talent evaluators. Wednesday night was another step in the right direction. Washington came in as the second most likely team to win the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, and managed to fall to the third spot in the draft, much to the pleasure of Wizards fans everywhere that were anticipating the dreaded fifth pick. With Ted Leonsis abruptly shooting down reports that his team would look to deal the pick, the pressure shifts to Ernie Grunfeld, as always.
As the phenomenon is every year, the premature — yet captivating mock drafts — were inevitably released proceeding the draft lottery. The consensus among writers around the league was that if Michael Kidd Gilchrist fell to the third pick, he would be drafted by the Wizards. What’s not to like? He has the prototypical frame of an NBA small forward, he was the leader of the National Champion Kentucky Wildcats, and has a nonstop motor paired with an unmatched tenacity on defense. However, all of those attributes are reasons for the Wizards not to pick him.
Sure, the dearth of small forwards on this roster is probably the worst in the league, but the philosophy of drafting based on need has never particularly panned out in the NBA. In 2004, the Toronto Raptors drafted Rafael Araujo over the likes of Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith for the sole purpose of pairing Chris Bosh with a legitimate center. The problem with that logic is you’re looking at your teams’ situation now and making a decision based off it, rather than stockpiling good talent and believing the situation would resolve itself in due time.
It’s imperative for any team in the Wizards position to accrue as much top, young talent as possible, regardless of position. Sure there are exceptions, you wouldn’t take Marquis Teague in the first round with John Wall already locking up that position, but that is the only exception. You don’t worry about need when you have a total of one foundation player on your roster. You gain talent and worry about “need” later.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Kidd Gilchrist will have a productive NBA career. He could end up being a valuable starter on a championship contender however, does that warrant all the hype that surrounds him? He’s the quintessential “glue guy,” but does he have enough of an offensive game for defenses not to sag off of him in the half court? I could understand him going high in the draft if a playoff contending team like Houston or Portland jumped to the top five in the lottery, but if you’re Charlotte or Washington, you cannot draft him and expect for him to produce as the first or second option.
His half court offensive game is limited to cuts and hard drives to the basket, with the occasional post up. And sure, given his motor, he will score every now and then, but don’t expect him to overpower his opponents as he did in college. Many believe he has the work ethic and desire to become great, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will magically fix his jump shot, which has a lot more to do with completely reconstructing his mechanics. Typically, top draft picks don’t go through that phase, and if they do, it takes years for them to finally have a jumper that’s reliable. The Wizards cannot afford another project, not now.
Let’s not forget, the Wizards are still hoping Chris Singleton, the former ACC player of the year in 2011, can become the “3 and D” player for the team. Many scouts projected Singleton to be the best defender in the draft last year, over Kawhi Leonard. Hell; I’d venture to say he was the better defender in college over a longer period of time than Kidd-Gilchrist himself. He under-performed due to our somewhat high expectations of him coming out of college, but you could argue that his task night in and night out is just as, if not more difficult than the majority of his peers. The fact that he’s being thrown into the wolves despite not having much upper body strength isn’t a cause for concern as much as it is a justification for his struggles. It wouldn’t be completely fallacious to expect Singleton to have a “Seraphin-esque” jump in his second season.
The Wizards could go about the offseason in a number of ways. They have the ammunition to trade for a starting small forward and they also have the ammunition to possibly acquire a second lottery pick. Amnestying Andray Blatche and buying out Rashard Lewis appears more and more likely as the days pass, –which opens up two roster spots for free agents. We could be looking at a starting lineup featuring two new starters, which likely sends Chris Singleton and Jordan Crawford to the bench where their deficiencies aren’t as magnified.
This is the offseason to bring in high impact players, the front office cannot afford to stay patient and bring in more projects.