2020 NBA Draft: Grading both Washington Wizards draft picks

Washington Wizards Cassius Winston. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Cassius Winston. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The 2020 NBA Draft is in the books. Let’s grade the picks the Washington Wizards made.

The Washington Wizards entered the 2020 NBA Draft with high expectations. After missing the playoffs for the second straight season, the Wizards’ front office has the tall task of building a contending roster for Bradley Beal and the returning John Wall despite little cap flexibility and few — if any — coveted assets outside of Beal and Davis Bertans, both of whom they’d like to keep.

As a result, this year’s draft, in which the Wizards entered with the 9th and 37th overall picks, was crucial. So, did Tommy Sheppard and company get it right on draft night? Let’s take a look at how it went down.

Washington Wizards first-round pick: Deni Avdija (9th overall)

Was anyone expecting this? Not many people had the Israeli phenom Deni Avdija dropping to the Washington Wizards at #9. Most projected him to be a top-five pick. However, he started falling, and when he was still there when the Wizards were on the clock, GM Tommy Sheppard said selecting the 6’9, 19-year-old wing was a “no brainer.”


Looking at who was, and who wasn’t, available at nine, it makes even more sense. Onyeka Okongwu was gone. Isaac Okoro was gone. Patrick Williams was gone. But Deni Avdija was still there, and at a great value.

Avdija is not a household name in the U.S. (yet), but he’s been playing professional basketball for years, and he has the resume to prove it. Avdija is a multi-time champion in the Israeli Premier League with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’s helped Israel win gold at numerous FIBA tournaments. He’s won multiple MVP awards at Basketball Without Borders camps. At nearly every level, Avdija has been a winner.

The Wizards are hoping that winning continues when Avdija brings his unique blend of size and skill to the NBA. The 6’10 Avdija is a textbook point forward. He is an incredibly versatile big, a skilled ball-handler, and possesses great court vision, especially when running the break. But his shooting is inconsistent. Avdija struggled from the foul line and the three-point line, which makes his fit a bit questionable, especially next to Rui Hachimura, who also struggles form three. And although Avdija is not a defensive liability and shows high IQ on that end, he does lack the lateral quickness and athleticism to stay in front of quicker opponents in man-to-man.

This pick hinges on Avdija’s jumper. If he can figure things out there, he could end up the steal of the draft. However, there are legitimate concerns about his shooting consistency and his defensive ability, but his work ethic, high IQ, and ability to move off the ball will help him excel as he works on his weaknesses.


Washington Wizards second-round pick: Cassius Winston (53rd overall)

The Washington Wizards came into the draft with two picks. However, the always-active Sam Presti hit up the Wizards for a draft-day deal and the perpetual asset-piler swapped second-rounders with the Wizards.

Here’s what happened: The Wizards drafted Vit Krejci with the 37th pick. Then, Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Cassius Winston with the 53rd pick. The teams then swapped their two newly acquired prospects and Oklahoma City sent Washington a future second-round pick, as well.

Winston is a great get at 53 and probably would have been a fine pick 16 spots earlier at 37. In Winston, the Wizards are getting a smart and sound basketball player. He was a four-year starter at Michigan State, led the team to a 2019 Final Four appearance as the starting point guard and leading scorer, and he currently holds the record for career assist in the Big Ten.

In his final season at MSU, Winston averaged 18.6 points and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 43.2 percent from three (5.6 attempts/game). He takes care of the ball, too, and finished his collegiate career with an assist to turnover ratio better than 2:1. Over the course of his final three seasons – in which Winston started all but one game – the Spartans went 85-21.

Winston might not have John Wall-level athleticism, but he’s an incredibly reliable point guard. He’s a floor general that can comfortably orchestrate an offense and has a history of winning. After four years in college, Winston is coming out polished and should be able to contribute immediately.

Also, he adds some additional security for the Wizards. Wall will be seeing lighter minutes this season as he eases back into an NBA workload during a condensed season. Winston can help take some weight off Wall’s shoulder as an additional ball-handler and playmaker in the backcourt that can hold it down while Wall is on the bench. However, his arrival probably means either Ish Smith or Shabazz Napier won’t be back next season.