ShareBullets: A Wizards/Bullets Draft Lottery Story
NBA Draft Lottery thoughts and links…
The life of a Wizards/Bullets fan has often been predicated on the NBA Draft Lottery. Being a fan of the team since moving to D.C. in 1990, it has generally been ‘the’ highlight of the season… More than the draft itself, more than peddled hope before a season. A simple flip of a card, the bounce of a ping-pong ball and/or the chance of mathematical equation can change the fate of a franchise for years… in just a brief moment. How exciting, right?
In 1992, with the fifth worst record in the NBA, second worst in the Eastern Conference, Washington fans hoped for Shaquille O’Neal, or even Alonzo Mourning. Instead, the Bullets were jumped by the Charlotte Hornets (who chose Mourning with the second pick), and ended up with the sixth pick and Tom Gugliotta.
With the fifth worst record again in 1994, did the Wizards succeed in landing one of three draft prizes in Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd or Grant Hill? Nope. Fifth is where they stayed… begin memories of the Juwan Howard saga.
What about the finishing with the third worst record in 2004? Either Emeka Okafor or Dwight Howard could’ve been the lottery winning targets. Instead, the Wizards dropped two spots to fifth (thanks to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats) and wound up trading the selection, Devin Harris, to the Mavericks for Antawn Jamison.
The gut punch came on May 19, 2009. Coming off a 19-win season, the Wizards had the second best chance to land the top pick, which ultimately became Blake Griffin. Instead, the lottery fate of the team pushed Washington back three spaces to fifth, which led to Ernie Grunfeld trading the pick, Oleksiy Pecherov, Etan Thomas and Darius Songaila to the Minnesota Timberwovles for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Yikes.
Ironically, the Wizards, who were tied for the NBA’s second worst record with the 19-win Los Angeles Clippers at the end of the 2008-09 season, won a tie-breaker to have a better chance at winning the lottery than L.A. But that only led to sincere heartbreak as the Clippers and their awarded less lottery combinations scored the first overall pick.
Then last year… The culmination point of a Wizards/Bullets fan’s conditioning to expect the worst on the day that could be the ‘highlight’ of the season (capped by the Wizards, tied with the Golden State Warriors for the fourth worst NBA record in 2009-10, losing the tie-breaker, giving them the fifth best chance to win the lottery). Dan Steinberg expertly captured this with his “Wizards + Draft Lottery = Disaster” piece on the DC Sports Bog. If any Wizards fan had high hopes for landing John Wall, then those such as Dan and myself were ready to rain on their parade. Not happening, the pessimists insisted.
So there I sat, on the beat up IKEA futon serving as a couch in my old apartment, No. 511, with my blogging cohort Adam McGinnis. No good luck charms, no No. 1 Rod Strickland jersey resting on the floor (as I’d done for the Griffin lottery), no hope whatsoever as the proceedings unfolded. Just a drink and a smirk.
Lo and behold, as you know, the Wizards won the 2010 lottery, subsequently had a crappy 23-win season, and we all complained anyway. So is life, but don’t think for a second that we don’t greatly appreciate that life with John Wall in it.
Adam and I knew something was up last May when Golden State’s card was shown at sixth and then Sacramento’s at the five spot — the Wizards jumped over TWO teams!?! ‘Okay, don’t get excited, don’t lose your head,’ I told myself.
And when it was revealed that the Philadelphia 76ers would be picking second, sealing the first pick for Washington, a rush of draft lottery losing gravy escaped from my cranium. I couldn’t really move, couldn’t react. Adam and I exchanged baffled looks, slapped an awkward high-five if I can remember correctly, and then I just slumped back on the futon, exhausted with the departed anticipation. I took some more sips of my drink and the smirk quickly turned into a genuine smile. Over the next couple of days, I had to keep making myself re-believe that the Wizards had landed the top pick and the rights to select Wall.
Now, tonight, we’re ready to do this all over again. Yet, the hope is dead, or just close to dying. Maybe it’s been killed by a looming NBA lockout via an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement. Perhaps it’s been killed by a very weak draft class mostly due to that hanging CBA issue. Maybe Wizards fans can’t help but to continue to be pessimists. Enjoy what you got last year, because it ain’t happening for another 20 years (much less the anguish that surrounds even thinking the team will be in lottery contention over a majority of the next two decades).
The beginning, the past… The good luck charms, and the folded arms in refusal to believe in luck… Does any of it matter? I’d like to think that it doesn’t… but there I’ll be nonetheless, watching the lottery unfold on ESPN at 8:30 pm with Adam again, a refreshing adult beverage in hand (but on a couch, not a futon … and in apartment No. 601, not 511… same building though), and ready to root for an 11.9-percent chance like it’s nobody’s business.
“It’s horrendous. Every year we always talk about how bad the draft is. This year we really mean it.” -some Western Conference GM via Yahoo! Sports
Adi Joseph of NBA-Draft.net says that Arizona’s Derrick Williams would mesh well with JaVale McGee and Nick Young, and would be a good replacement for Andray Blatche. I’ll take it!
[SB Nation DC]
Pretty cool tool from Ian Levy at Hickory-High.com… it compares prospects in this year’s draft to collegiate players selected in the first round of the draft since 2001 across a number of statistical measurements. For instance, Kenneth Faried of Morehead State, whom many fell in love with during the Eagles’ first round NCAA tournament upset over 4-seed Louisville, which led to a second round loss to Richmond, compares favorably to the likes of Emeka Okafor and Taj Gibson. The 6’8″ Faried totaled 17 rebounds and 12 points against Louisville and 13 boards and 11 points against Richmond. A senior, Faried is currently mocked by Draft Express to go 17th to the New York Knicks (the Wizards pick 18th, courtesy of Kirk Hinrich and the Atlanta Hawks). Want a player who will relentlessly hustle after 50-50 balls? Faried could be an option. Check the tool at Hickory High for more good comparisons.
Andray Blatche vs. Kevin Garnett, a fun GIF.
[Super Cool Zs]
In 1977 Woody Allen wrote a piece about Earl Monroe for Sport Magazine. It’s pretty much a must-read.
If you haven’t heard the story about the greatest deal in pro basketball ever (or perhaps all of sports), then why not? In any case, read up on how the Spirits of St. Louis netted a couple of Latvian brothers millions.
Should Washington, D.C. allow for taller buildings? Maybe… I’m not sure.