About two weeks ago, “a friend” from 202 met ESPN’s Zach Lowe at a bar outside his apartment in Harlem. Inevitably, “my friend” ruined the mood by touching the Washington Wizards and forcing Lowe to slump. To say it was a mood killer is an understatement. I won’t confirm or deny that I’m the Anonymous Wizards Stan, but that’s beside the point.
But if this is what the mere mention of the Washington Wizards can do to a basketball junkie, imagine how damaging it is to the psyche of an entire generation of city dwellers. It’s enough to destroy even the most stable psyche. This offseason, the Wizards jettisoned the last vestiges of Ernie Grunfeld’s leadership pedigree by firing his former deputy, Tommy Sheppard.
The Wizards have reached their lowest point. Washington is bad this season. They’re playing at breakneck speed with the most immature roster since the locker room showdown between Javaris Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas. Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma shoot at will, leave dents in the rim and play more sloppy defense. While one eye is on Washington’s terrible roster, the eyes of one of the league’s most hopeless franchises are on the lower echelons of basketball.
Unfortunately, Washington is hoping for the wrong draft. Unlike the 2023 edition, the 2024 NBA Draft is missing a generational talent at the top. Shepherd could have sold Beal before the 2022 trade deadline, but he chose to invest a long-term contract in Beal and then waited until he and Kristaps Porzingis helped them win just enough games to end up in the difficult middle landing and missing the play-in AND avoided putting themselves in a position to win the draft lottery. A week after the draft, his replacement, Beal, traded assets to Phoenix, who passed them on to Poole.
Three developments this week cast an even longer shadow over the Wizards than they did over Victor Wembanyama. One was the aforementioned Wembnayama scoring 38 against Phoenix, the other was Washington getting run off the field by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 146-128 loss dropped the Wizards to 1-5, with their only loss coming against the winless Memphis Grizzlies.
The latest was ESPN’s chief draft analyst,Jonathan Govony loses his top 25 ranking of prospects for 2024. Any of the top 10 prospects could end up being the best player in their class. However, that’s the last thing you want to hear if you’re a franchise with a disastrous draft history over the last decade.
Here’s a selection of the clunkers Washington has drafted over the last decade:
Despite entering the lottery several times, Washington’s top picks during this time included Tomáš Satoranský, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Deni Avidija, Corey Kispert, Johnny Davis and Bilal Coulibaly. Aside from Coulibaly, who has only played six games in his professional career, the previous regime’s track record jumps out like damaged vinyl. Shepherd’s final lottery pick, Johnny Davis, resembles a two-way contract bench warmer. The specter of recruiting a stinker a year after leaving the competition for the best two-way perspective in 40 years is very real.
The beauty of preseason rankings is that they have the potential to change. Before the 2018-19 college basketball season, no one would have seen Ja Morant coming. Washington needs a similar draft riser who can stand out from the crowd.
Givony’s top junior, Ron Holland, isn’t even playing college basketball this season. Instead, he will suit up for the G League Ignite alongside Matas Buzelis. And how We’re learning from Scott Henderson’s difficult start, assessing NBA readiness compared to G League competition is a risky undertaking. USC point guard Isaiah Collier could be the first point guard signed, but he doesn’t even have the best name recognition of anyone on their roster. That would be Bronny James, who is known more for his father’s contributions to basketball than his own game.
Kentucky should field one of the most entertaining lineups in a decade. Forward Justin Edwards, center Aaron Bradshaw, DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham are all top-25 bluechippers. Edwards is considered a superior candidate, but he turns 20 in December and could hit his ceiling as the runner-up to RJ Barrett.
Purdue’s Zach Edey is the top returning player, but he’ll also be a 7-4, 22-year-old star next year who is eligible as a second-round pick. There are a bevy of John Does on the Player of the Year shortlist FAMU is more like the inspirational Ted Lasso of college basketball Spin-off as an incubator for high-level individual talent. Alex Sarr could be the big man in 2024, but he plays off Broadway for Perth in Australia’s NBL. I
It would be a shame to spend a year watching Poole throw alley-ups on the backboard in transition double-digit losses just so the wizards can take another sniff. This franchise and its fanbase have experienced enough trauma.
Follow DJ Dunson on X:@Brain sportsex
https://deadspin.com/washington-wizards-jordan-poole-nba-draft-ncaa-1851001043 The Washington Wizards will not win the NBA lottery jackpot this year