Washington Wizards Almost Drafted Klay Thompson, Settled For Jan Vesely

Last night I wrote about Ernie Grunfeld‘s fascination with international players. It was reported that Nikola Radicevic is going to work out for the Washington Wizards before this month’s NBA Draft. Of course, that immediately caused some to have flashbacks of Grunfeld’s failed picks throughout the years.

Grunfeld’s biggest failure was perhaps his decision to pick Jan Vesely sixth overall in 2011.

Vesely came into the league with virtually no skill-set and he was destined to become a bust.

Really, it was extremely tough to make a case for him going that high in the draft.

I’ve always wondered if mock drafts play a factor in teams’ decisions to pick players, and it’s evident they certainly do.

Vesely struggled to adjust to the NBA game and never became good at anything, to put it bluntly. His length and jumping ability made him a better fit on a volleyball court than on a basketball court.

The Airwolf was eventually traded for a 50-something year old Andre Miller. The Denver Nuggets opted to let Vesely return to Europe, where he currently plays in Turkey. Four seasons and nearly four points per game later, Vesely is out of the NBA and will probably never return.

That horse has been beaten to death, though. After teams draft busts, it’s normal for the fans to look back on players they passed on. Klay Thompson was picked 11th overall in 2011.

Washington needed to address plenty of needs, so Thompson would’ve been a good fit. But, did the Washington Wizards ever consider taking the sharpshooting guard?

According to Flip Saunders (via Grantland), who coached the Wizards at the time, they did:

Thompson had blown Saunders away during a pre-draft workout in 2011, when Saunders coached the Wizards. The Washington brain trust considered reaching for Thompson with the no. 6 pick before going the safe route with a big man — Jan Vesely, who ranked higher on most draft boards but is now out of the league. “We toyed with it,” Saunders says, “but heaven forbid you go out of the box and pick someone you’re higher on than anyone else

(H/T Umair Khan)

Vesely was considered the safe-route because most mock drafts had the Washington Wizards taking him sixth overall. That obviously turned out to be an awful decision.

Despite having predraft workouts and interviews with other players, it was clear that Washington was going to take Jan Vesely. He was Ernie Grunfeld’s guy, and somehow, these ridiculous mistakes haven’t caused him to lose his job. That’s mind boggling.

I’m not necessarily surprised that Grunfeld opted to draft Vesely, even though some within the organization knew that it was going to be an awful pick.

I personally had conversations with someone with a lot of influence on the Wizards at the time, and I remember talking to him about potentially drafting Kawhi Leonard, who was considered a player with a lot of upside as well. Instead, they took Jan Vesely, who’s out of the NBA.

Several years later, Bradley Beal landed in Ernie Grunfeld’s lap. Beal is nearly four years younger than Thompson, so they still have one of the best young guards in the NBA. Obviously, it would’ve been nice to Klay Thompson over a bust.

Washington has the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft. It will be really, really tough to botch that one, but then again, Ernie Grunfeld.