The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. We will continue with the Washington Wizards.
Washington snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed and bounced out of the first round of the playoffs via the Toronto Raptors. They likely would have been a higher seed in the playoffs had John Wall not been out for half of the season after having knee surgery. How much better they could have done with Wall healthy is unknown but they certainly would’ve been more of contenders.
The key players have been the same for the Wizards for the last couple of years. Wall does it all for the team with his scoring (19.4 ppg), assists (9.6 apg) and defense. Bradley Beal led the team in scoring at 22.6 points per game and helped pick up the slack when Wall was out during the regular season. Otto Porter remains the third wheel, who plays good defense and scores 14.7 points per game.
As a team, the Wizards ranked 13th in points per game, 21st in rebounds per game, fourth in assists per game and 15th in points per game allowed. They’ll definitely try to address the rebounding and defense, while Wall being back for a full season should help the scoring and assist numbers.
One of the biggest problems for the Wizards is getting production out of players not named Wall, Beal and Porter. Kelly Oubre has stepped up along with Markieff Morris, but there is not much depth on the team. Marcin Gortat is going to be paid over $13.5 million next season and averaged 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Ian Mahinmi will make nearly $16 million next season after posting 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
In some ways, it is nice to have 10 players locked up with contracts for next season. Unfortunately, some of these players are overpaid and could limit what the Wizards can do this offseason. They will be hoping they can strike gold in the NBA Draft to help the team, as they will not be able to land any big name free agents.
Picks and needs
First round: No. 15
Second round: No. 44
As mentioned earlier the point guard through the small forward positions are pretty much set. If the Wizards want to address the starting lineup they need to get a big man. Gortat and Mahinmi aren’t getting the job done at center, while Morris is below-average as a power forward.
Regardless of position, they need help and depth across the board. Specifically, Washington needs to rebound and play better defense. The problem is that it is hard to get a sure-fire starter and impact player with the 15th pick in any NBA Draft, so they may need to take a player that can help them in one of these specific areas.
Targets and thoughts
Pick No. 15: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
Smith won’t help fill the need of the big man, but taking a big man at this point would likely be a reach. He will, however, help the team in some areas they need to improve.
He was known in college for his highlight reel dunks but he also shot the ball well from deep. The thing that went unnoticed by the masses was his great defense. He had a defensive rating of 95.1 and posted 1.1 steals per game. His defensive abilities may be limited by his surprising 6′ 2.75″ measurement at the combine. He makes up for it with his leaping ability but handling taller players may be more difficult given his height.
His athleticism has also helped him become a great rebounder from the guard position, as he pulled down seven rebounds per 40 minutes. If he can contribute defensively and with his rebounding, he should be able to see floor time and then be able to display his shooting and dunking ability.
While he likely won’t start, he can be a key role player off the bench immediately.
Pick No. 44: Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State
Johnson might be able to help out with the Wizards’ frontcourt problems, although it is probably never a good idea to bank on a second-round pick to have an immediate impact. He scored 15 points and had 11.6 rebounds per game last season.
The Missouri State product was able to show off his unique skills at the combine. In scrimmages, he rebounded and scored well but he also was able to show that he can shoot solidly from three-point range. He will need to develop but presents great value at this pick.
The East is always going to be tough to get through with LeBron James. The Wizards have enough talent to be a top three o four team in the East, but have chemistry issues and need to add a few impact players. With a good draft and Wall being healthy, they are capable of being a real competitor again.