The anticipation for the NBA Draft is long gone and the Washington Wizards got the guy they wanted all along. With the third overall pick in last night’s NBA Draft, the Wizards snagged Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown, who was deemed the best fit at that position.
With that said, there are still tons of questions which need to be addressed following the draft. Ward Watkins and Nithin Kuchibhotla joined me in helping shed some light on questions regarding the Wizards draft.
1) Most of us had the Wizards taking Otto Porter third overall. Did it come as a surprise since Nerlens Noel, who was projected to get picked first, was still on the board?
Ben Mehic: Since Anthony Bennett got picked first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, I immediately suspected a shakeup in Washington’s draft board. Nerlens Noel was still on the board after the Orlando Magic opted to take Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, but I still had a feeling Porter would be their guy. Ernie Grunfeld has taken chances in the past which haven’t necessarily panned out successfully, so he decided to take the safe route. Grunfeld must be on a tight leash, which could’ve caused him to take Otto Porter instead of Noel, who certainly had some risks coming into the draft. Porter fits a need and will continue to change the culture around, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when Washington passed on the former Kentucky Wildcat.
Ward Watkins: A little, but I was still happy that Otto was the pick. I know there’s a big gamble in skipping Noel, but it seems somewhat mitigated by him falling to sixth. Still, I was surprised. And a little reticent, to the point that I was really hoping that the Wizards would slide back into the first and grab Gorgui Dieng. I hope we find out down the line what made Noel drop the way that he did, and then get traded, at that! I’m all in on the Kool-Aid, but I really think that the team had Otto at the top of their draft board the whole time.
Nithin Kuchibhotla: Over the last two years, the Wizards have been on a mission to uproot and destroy the culture that was prevalent in the previous four seasons. The first goal was to rid the roster of knuckleheads that might clout John Wall’s progression as a player and a professional. The second was to bring in veterans who could teach the roster’s young players how to play the right way. Finally, management wanted to build through the draft with high-quality, high-caliber talent who would fit in with the new movement. Otto Porter fits that mold to a T, and for good measure, fits one of the team’s biggest weaknesses as a versatile, multi-skilled forward who also excels on the defensive side of the ball. Although there was some chatter about opting with Anthony Bennett, I believe that Porter was going to be the selection all along, despite what decisions Cleveland and Orlando made beforehand. Noel presented a tantalizing prospect but was coming off a torn ACL and could not offer the immediate help the team was looking for. I am not surprised that Ernie Grunfeld passed on him, and I feel confident he made the right decision in doing so.
2) What are your thoughts on Washington’s decision to trade both their second round picks to acquire Glen Rice Jr. from the Sixers?
Ben: Even though Grunfeld and Randy Wittman had previously stated that they didn’t anticipate having three rookies on the roster next season, I immediately overreacted after hearing of the trade. I thought the Wizards were going to target a backup point guard or a possible stretch 4 with their second round picks, but they decided to trade both their picks to the Philadelphia 76ers for Glen Rice Jr. I’ve honestly never took the time to read up on Glen Rice Jr. , but I have heard of him through the draft process. Washington desperately needs a scoring punch off the bench and they may have gotten that with Rice. I dislike the fact that they’ve taken a chance on a guy with prior off-court issues, especially since they’ve worked so hard to change the culture in Washington. It’s essentially a low risk- high reward type of deal, and at the end of the day, I don’t have a problem with it.
Ward: I personally didn’t have a problem with the trade for Glen Rice, Jr. I actually liked it. I know that there was all of the talk that the team didn’t want to bring in three rookies. I guess you certainly could make the gripe that they were locked into that mindset and didn’t look at who was available, but it sure seemed like they coveted Rice and pounced on the opportunity. I’m pretty excited about him, to tell you the truth. I had been reading about him prior to the draft anyway, and I was definitely intrigued. He killed it in the D-League once he was inserted into the starting lineup, and went nuts in the playoffs, averaging 25 points, 10 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Somebody made the insightful statement that nobody else in the draft played against as high a level of competition last year as he did. I hope that really means something. I know Rice has the checkered past, but he seems to have gotten himself together, and I think he may have just been going through some entitled, rich kid phase. I want to believe that the D-League stint, and even being relegated to not playing there before injuries, really humbled him and made him see that his dream wasn’t going to be handed to him. He has first-round talent, and that is often difficult to find in the second round. VERY worthy gamble, if you ask me. I actually Rice could be a steal for us, and a valuable commodity down the line.
Nithin: Although I do think the Wizards could have just waited till the 38th pick to take Glen Rice Jr., giving up the 54th pick in the draft seems like an extremely minimal price to pay if that was the guy they wanted (not to mention, fans like us just watching on TV have no idea whether the 76ers were serious about taking Rice before the Wizards picked). I loved this pick because it finally represents a change in style with how Washington normally uses the 2nd round (drafting Europeans for stashing purposes, selling the picks for cash, etc.). No, the success rate for the second 30 picks isn’t high, but swinging for the fences on a non-guaranteed contract is exactly what each team should do. Rice is an elite athlete with a great jump shot, and really showed that he matured last year in the NBDL after a tumultuous start to his basketball career. I have no problem with the trade, and really believe that Rice can contribute as soon as next season.
3) Does the acquisition of both Porter and Rice affect Martell Webster’s future in Washington?
Ben: Unfortunately, I think the acquisition of both Porter and Rice could potentially affect Webster’s future with the Wizards. Grunfeld has stated repeatedly that the outcomes of the draft won’t affect Webster, but there are certainly ways it could. Both Porter and Rice could play small forward, and with Trevor Ariza returning next season, Webster might look for more of an opportunity. Of course, a player as versatile as Webster could play shooting guard, but we still have to see how everything plays out. Is Webster worth the full mid-level exception? Probably not. I definitely want Webster back in Washington, but the Wizards may not go out of their way to bring him back to the nation’s capitol.
Ward: This has been on my mind quite a bit. As much as Grunfeld and the team says it won’t, I’m not 100% certain. I do genuinely believe that the team wants Webster back, but I’m not quite as bullish on them using the full MLE to do so. In hindsight, maybe I just overestimated his value to begin with, but the full $5.15 million doesn’t seem as certain to me now. Maybe the acquisition of Porter and Rice puts pressure on the team to trade Ariza for other needs (backup PF, stretch 4, rotation big). I’d like to believe that last night’s draft has no impact on Webster, but I do think it will play SOME role, right or wrong, in contract negotiations.
If anything, I think the person most immediately impacted by last night could be Chris Singleton. Maybe he wasn’t in the team’s long-term plans anyway (team option of $2.5M on his contract after this upcoming season), but this maybe iced his cake. I know last year he played the four in certain situations, but when we – or I, at least – thought about the glut at the ‘SG/SF/stretch 4 in a pinch’ position, I forgot about Singelton.
Nithin: Those who read Martell Webster’s comments in light of last night’s draft have to be feeling a little uneasy about the potential return of one of the feel-good stories of this past season. He mentioned that Porter was the right pick, but ultimately he just wants to feel wanted (something he may not be feeling currently after the selection of two swingmen). However, I think the writing on the wall may be clearer for Trevor Ariza than Webster, who has a tradeable contract with just 1 year/$8 million left. Webster should be brought back because it’s unlikely that Rice will be able to step up right away as a potential 6th or 7th man off the bench. I disagree with giving him the full mid-level exception, as a ‘steal’ in last year’s free agent class would suddenly be re-classified as overpaid. But at the right price and for the right length of contract, Webster would be a great add to a depleted and underwhelming bench.
4) What are your overall thoughts on the draft? Give us a letter grade to sum up Washington’s decision making.
Ben: I thought the Wizards got what they wanted, so I’m certainly happy to see that happen. Otto Porter fits right in with the cast of characters they already have, and since he’s played at Georgetown for the past couple years, Porter’s transition with the Wizards should be seamless. In fact, the decision to draft Porter third overall is very reminiscent of the Bradley Beal selection. Both Porter and Beal have the type of games tailor made for John Wall and company. Porter does all the little things which make him a successful basketball player, which could certainly translate to the NBA right out of the gate. He seems like a great person off the court, which only adds to the excitement he’ll continue bringing to Washington. Needless to say, I’m excited for the young trio the Wizards will showcase for years to come. I’ll give them an ‘A’.
Ward: ‘A’- Draft grades are so unfair for players that haven’t even set foot on the floor as professionals, but I was thrilled with the draft. The Wizards got the player that seemed like such a perfect fit for the direction and culture of the team in Porter, and also added a potential gem in Rice. I think Rice, if nothing else, can be a good scoring option off the bench. They also added versatile players, guys that can play multiple positions, which I think is increasingly important in today’s NBA. A great start to the offseason, hopefully our last one as a lottery team for a while. I’m anxious to see these guys tear it up in summer league play, but also to see who the other team invites will be. There appeared to be some decent undrafted talent. Also, with the Webster situation, two big expiring contracts, and a couple of expendable bench players, It’ll be very interesting to see what happens once free agency begins.
Nithin: For once, it’s enjoyable to not have any real criticism of the way Washington ran operations last night. Porter was always the marked man, and the Wizards plucked him up quickly after they were on the clock. He’ll fit in seamlessly next to John Wall and Bradley Beal and his ability to play off the ball is paramount with two ball-dominant guards in the backcourt. The next step is to determine how to handle the nearly $22 million in expiring contracts between Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Okafor and Nene were dominant defensively, leading the team to 5th in defensive efficiency last season, but were a train wreck on offense. Moving one to the bench or via trade, while adding a stretch 4 will give Wall/Beal/Porter the room they need to operate inside the 3-point line. But free agency and other transactions can all weigh on our minds starting July 1st. For now, we can enjoy a good night of decision making by the Washington Wizards. It’s been more of a rarity than a routine; let’s hope the script is finally flipped.