Drafting is hard. There are no guarantees for success when evaluating teenagers and projecting their path in the NBA. So, it may not be fair to blame front offices for missing out on draft picks in hindsight. However, the drafting track record of former Washington Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is so poor that it does make you wonder where the Wizards could have been if a different administration had been in charge of the recent drafts.
Since 2019 until Michael Winger and Will Dawkins took over this summer, the Washington Wizards have selected Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, and Johnny Davis with their first-round picks. All of these draft picks were in the top half of the first round. The Wizards’ future could have looked much brighter if they nailed these selections.
In 2019, drafting Hachimura with the 9th pick was defensible. He was already 21 and didn’t have too high of an upside but he showed he could be a starter in this league. The real issue was the Wizards’ complete failure to develop him and losing him for a couple of second-round picks.
Not landing Tyrese Haliburton or Jalen Williams hurts for the Wizards
In 2020, the Wizards drafted Deni Avdija with the 9th pick. Like many teams drafting in that range, Washington completely whiffed by not selecting Tyrese Haliburton. One of the most productive players in college, Haliburton was dominant at Iowa State as one of the best shooters and playmakers in the nation. He is already an All-Star and one of the brightest young point guards in the league. Not recognizing his potential and passing on him was a major failure for the Wizards.
In 2021, the Washington Wizards drafted Corey Kispert with the 15th overall pick. Kispert is also a defensible pick as he has proven himself to be a rotation-level player and an excellent shooter in the NBA. However, he is going to turn 25 next season and his limited athletic and physical tools limit his upside. One pick after Kispert, Alperen Sengun was drafted. Sengun is not only three years younger than Kispert, but he is also one of the most talented and productive young centers in the league. He is an offensive juggernaut with his scoring and passing and has the upside to be an All-Star-level player.
The 2022 Draft was perhaps the most egregious mistake of the Tommy Sheppard era. The Wizards selected Johnny Davis with the 10th overall pick. The next seven selections were Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams, Jalen Duren, Ochai Agbaji, Mark Williams, AJ Griffin, and Tari Eason. Washington would prefer to have any of those seven over Davis now, but especially imagining Jalen Williams in a Wizards jersey hurts. Williams doesn’t only play a similar role to Johnny Davis, but he was also the second-best rookie last season and demonstrated that sky is the limit for him.
The Wizards could have had one of the best young cores in the league
On top of Bilal Coulibaly, who was drafted this summer, Washington could have had Tyrese Haliburton, Alperen Sengun, and Jalen Williams on their roster.
A core four of Haliburton, Williams, Coulibaly, and Sengun would immediately catapult Washington into the conversation as the best young core in the league.
Failure to draft a single player with All-Star upside in four drafts stings. It makes the Wizards’ rebuilding attempts that much harder when you don’t have that strong building blocks.
The toughest challenge in front of the new front office is to improve the drafting track record of the Washington Wizards. It’s the only way to accelerate the rebuilding process.