In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and the Wizards trading away their first round draft pick. – Anonymous
For the third time in the past four years, the Washington Wizards will enter the NBA Draft without a first round draft pick. This year they sent their pick to the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, a move that now leaves them with the 52nd pick as their only selection in the upcoming draft.
Not many fans get excited over second round draft picks, but this year’s crop of talent is fairly deep which means the Wizards should have a number of intriguing options to choose from when their pick rolls around. Additionally, the players that are projected to be available in the Wizards range offer the exact skill sets that the team needs for their bench unit. The key for Ernie Grunfeld and Company will be deciding what area they need to address the most and choosing the prospect that best fills that need.
Take a look at the players that the Wizards should be targeting come draft day:
Alpha Kaba | PF | International
NBA Comparison: Larry Nance Jr.
French big man Alpha Kaba remains one of the best kept secrets available in this year’s draft because, despite possessing unquestionable talent, he hasn’t been mentioned nearly as much as his international counterparts.
Kaba has played professionally overseas for a handful of seasons now and, although his production has been inconsistent, he has flashed a versatile skill set that should transition seamlessly to the NBA. His versatility is evident when looking at his per 40 averages of 16.7 points, 15.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks as well as his 35.7 three point percentage.
Kaba’s game is fairly raw at this point, especially on the offensive end, but he has all the tools and intangibles of a successful modern NBA big. If the Wizards are seeking a young frontcourt option who can provide the team with a bit of everything on both ends of the floor then Kaba is their guy.
Anžejs Pasečņiks | C | International
NBA Comparison: Alex Len
With all of the frontcourt talent available in this year’s draft, it is inevitable that a handful of talented big men will get lost in the shuffle and experience a draft day slide. This will likely be the case for Latvian center Anžejs Pasečņiks as he will presumably be passed over for more highly regarded frontcourt prospects, leaving him ripe for the picking in the second round.
Pasečņiks is a prototypical stretch five; he is a lengthy, athletic center whose ability to run the floor, protect the rim, and shoot from long range make him a valuable commodity in today’s NBA. His production to this point in his career is severely lacking with averages of 7.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game this past season, but his potential is undeniable.
Pasečņiks will need to add some weight to his frame to be able to hold his own in the paint and he still needs refinement in a number or areas, however, his skill set makes him an ideal long-term option for the Wizards at the center position.
Cameron Oliver | PF | Nevada
NBA Comparison: Richaun Holmes
One word comes to mind when watching Cameron Oliver play basketball: explosive.
Whether he is throwing down highlight reel dunks or viciously swatting opponents shot attempts, Oliver puts his explosive athleticism on display at every turn. On top of that, he plays the game aggressively and boasts a sweet shooting stroke that helped him produce 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season while shooting an impressive 38.4 percent from deep.
Questions linger about Oliver’s focus on the defensive end and ability to consistently produce on the offensive end but his skills as a shooter, rebounder, and shot blocker should provide him a solid foundation that makes him one of the lowest risk second round prospects available.
Frank Mason III| PG | Kansas
NBA Comparison: D.J. Augustin
Since the inception of the John R. Wooden Award in 1977, there has been only one winner (Danny Ainge) that was not selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Frank Mason III will presumably become the second player to join that exclusive group as he is currently projected to be drafted near the tail end of the second round, leaving him in prime position for the Wizards to add one of the most productive collegiate players in this year’s draft class.
Mason had a productive collegiate career as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks, a career that he capped off by averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting a blistering 47.1 percent from beyond the arc during his senior season. His ability to command an offense, push the ball in transition, and shoot the lights out would make him an ideal addition to a second unit that needs help in all those areas.
Mason’s age and size will almost assuredly cause him to fall in the draft but his experience, poise, and basketball IQ should allow him to immediately contribute to whatever team takes a chance on him.
Jonah Bolden | PF | International
NBA Comparison: JaMychal Green
Skilled power forwards are becoming an integral part of the NBA as the league has shifted towards a playing style that emphasizes positional versatility and three point shooting ability. Given the Wizards need for a prototypical stretch four, the team should keep their eye on under-the-radar prospect Jonah Bolden to fill this void in their lineup.
Bolden can simply do it all from the power forward position; he can bring the ball up the court, run the fast break, create for his teammates, shoot the ball from deep, guard four positions, rebound, and even block a few shots if need be. Bolden’s production has yet to catch up to his tools to this point, but he still managed to put up a respectable 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while knocking down 41.9 percent of his triples this past season with Radnicki Basket.
Bolden is not a complete player by any means, however, he possesses an elite skill set and an outstanding feel for the game so it is only a matter of time before he becomes a significant contributor at the next level.
Josh Hart | G | Villanova
NBA Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon
After being selected 36th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Malcolm Brogdon proved that the ‘athletic limitations’ that were supposed to hold him back in the NBA proved to be overblown as he consistently outperformed expectations this season for the Milwaukee Bucks en route to Rookie of the Year consideration. Josh Hart is hoping that he can follow the same path, as he and Brogdon are cut from the same cloth in terms of their skill set, playing style, and mentality.
Hart is leaving Villanova as one of the most decorated players in school history; a significant feat when considering the impressive collegiate players that came before him. He finished his career having scored 1921 points, dishing out 266 assists, grabbing 812 rebounds, and swiping 160 steals while earning a slew of conference and national accolades.
Hart may not have any part of his game that stands out in particular, but his ability to contribute in all facets of the game should make him an important piece of a team’s rotation early on in his career.
Laurynas Birutis | C | International
NBA Comparison: Lucas Nogueira
Drafting prospects and stashing them overseas is becoming a common practice for NBA organizations, as it enables the franchise to retain a player’s rights while allowing them to develop overseas without counting against the salary cap. The Wizards have not employed this tactic much historically, but if they want a player with tremendous upside at their draft slot then draft and stash might be their best option.
Laurynas Birutis is the player they should target should they decide to go the draft and stash route, mainly due to the tremendous upside the 19 year old Lithuanian center possesses. Birutis still has a ways to go as he averages a mere 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game overseas but his tremendous size, fluid athleticism, activity on both ends of the floor, and soft touch inside the paint make him a tantalizing prospect for the future.
Once he puts on additional weight and learns the nuances of his position, Birutis should be prepared to not only crack an NBA rotation but also produce at a high level.
Luke Kornet | C | Vanderbilt
NBA Comparison: Mike Muscala
The adoption of the pace and space offense in the NBA has led to the expectation that players at every position should be able to shoot the ball from beyond the three point line. The Wizards currently don’t have a center on their roster capable of hitting the three with any consistency which is why Luke Kornet should be on their radar.
Kornet brings two valuable traits to the table that all teams need: three point shooting and shot blocking. During his four year career, Kornet displayed significant inconsistency but he seemingly put it all together his senior year to the tune of 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game while connecting on 32.7 percent of his treys.
You would be hard pressed to find a center with a better combination of three point shooting and defensive prowess in this draft, which should allow Kornet to carve out a role early on as a rotational big.
Mathias Lessort | PF | International
NBA Comparison: Tristan Thompson
Frontcourt depth has been and continues to be an issue for the Wizards as they have consistently failed to add quality bigs to their roster throughout the years. This has left the team with an aging frontcourt that is seriously lacking in important areas such as athleticism, toughness, and rim protection. Mathias Lessort is a player that could provide them with all of that and more.
Lessort is a quintessential energy big man; he plays the game with unmatched intensity on both ends of the floor which allows him to constantly make big plays for his team. His production reflects this sentiment, as he put up per 40 averages of 17.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals this past season for Nanterre 92.
Although Lessort figures to be a tweener in the NBA due to his lack of shooting for a power forward and lack of size for a center, there is always a place on an NBA roster for a player with Lessort’s energy and defensive ability.
Monte Morris | PG | Iowa State
NBA Comparison: George Hill
There is no singular definition to describe a ‘pure’ point guard, but it is widely agreed upon that a ‘pure’ point guard is one that is exceptional at orchestrating an offense, is an adept passer, and can pick apart a defense in a variety of ways. In that sense, Monte Morris is perhaps the most ‘pure’ of any point guard in this year’s draft class.
Throughout his collegiate career, Morris displayed an uncanny ability to run an efficient offense as he led an Iowa State offense that never ranked below 12th in offensive efficiency during his career. At the same time, he led the NCAA in assist to turnover ratio three of his four seasons and finishing his career with an astounding 768 assists to just 165 turnovers.
Morris’ ability to effectively run an offense, distribute the ball efficiently, and play intelligent basketball would make him an ideal backup to franchise cornerstone John Wall.
Nigel Williams-Goss | G | Gonzaga
NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
Being a successful point guard at the NBA level starts with leadership; part of a point guard’s job description is the ability to be a coach on the court by orchestrating the offense, communicating with teammates, and ensuring that everyone is in the right position at all times.
Nigel Williams-Goss has developed a reputation as a bona fide ‘floor general’ due to his impeccable leadership skills and ability to communicate on the court. His leadership likely played a large factor in the unexpected success of Gonzaga this past season, that and the fact that he averaged a healthy 16.8 points, 4.7 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game.
The concerns surrounding Williams-Goss are mainly about his apparent lack of athleticism and explosiveness, regardless, the Wizards could do much worse than adding a high character, accomplished player like him to their roster.
Sindarius Thornwell | SG | South Carolina
NBA Comparison: Dion Waiters
Bench scoring was the biggest downfall of the 2016-17 Wizards as they fielded a second unit that only mustered a mere 27 points per game, which was good for second to last in the entire league. If they want to add some scoring punch to their bench, then the front office should look no further than South Carolina standout Sindarius Thornwell.
Thornwell has proven to be a reliable scorer during his college career, but he took his game to another level this past year by averaging 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game en route to SEC Player of the Year honors. On top of his scoring, Thornwell boasts impressive size (6’5″, 214 pounds) that allows him to bully opponents inside, guard multiple positions, and rebound the ball at the rate of a forward.
To take his game to the next level Thornwell will need to improve the consistency of his jump shot, but he should have no trouble contributing right off the bat due to his exceptional scoring ability.