In the 2016 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards Select…
The Washington Wizards do not have a pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. But the thinking of team brass isn’t limiting itself to the formality of officially selecting players. As recently as 1988, when the Association had 25 teams (including two expansion teams for ‘88-89 in Miami and Charlotte), the NBA Draft had three rounds (and an astounding seven rounds in 1987). A mere two rounds today is why some player agents prefer that their lower-tier clients not be drafted at all—second round contracts are not guaranteed—so they can better target the right fit. The Wizards are hoping they are the right fit, and more importantly, that their eye tests and analytics evaluations are worthy. This tactic du jour is no less of an experiment.
So with the theoretical 61st, or 62nd, or 63rd pick, or however popular Washington will be amongst undrafted free agents, the Wizards will select (sign) someone after the official 60-player draft rights jamboree is announced from New York City. And the Wizards do figure to be popular with the camps of fringe free agents, rookie or veteran, with a plethora of roster spots, a new coach, and a keen interest in getting back on course—more in winning but also in gem-finding and player development. Dole out some partially guaranteed free agent contracts and let the takers fight for a roster spot, goes the thinking of management.
Plan B could be for the Wizards to buy into the draft. These NBA teams don’t have draft picks this summer, either: Miami (LeBron James trade/salary dumps), New York (Andrea Bargnani/Carmelo Anthony trades/salary dumps), Oklahoma City (Dion Waiters trade/salary dumps), Cleveland (salary dumps to get LeBron), and Portland (Arron Afflalo/Allen Crabbe trades). With Washington’s past strategies including selling picks and factoring cost in coaching decisions, don’t count on the team to chunk down $2 or $3 million just to get on the deputy commissioner’s breath late into Thursday evening (even if there is value in owning a player’s rights while they develop overseas; see: Tomas Satoransky or Aaron White, or teams that have actually executed in this regard).
Which kind of puts trading what turned out to be 2016’s 13th overall pick to Phoenix for Markieff Morris at last February’s trade deadline into perspective. The Utah Jazz on Wednesday gave up the 12th overall pick to acquire 30-year-old point guard George Hill. The Celtics have recently tested the waters for trading the third overall pick (in a two-player plus a crapshoot draft) for veterans like Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), or Jabari Parker (Bucks), but are apparently getting rebuffed. Not to say those players don’t provide more future value or upside than Morris, but getting Morris for a end-of-lottery pick in yet another so-called weak draft, and being a team desperate to compete now (like Brad Stevens’ Celtics), the Wizards could have done a lot worse.
Still, not having a pick at all understandably burns in the hearts of franchise followers, even if most could at least admit that trading the 2014 first round pick (Tyler Ennis, 18th overall) to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat worked out. Not having any sort of draft pick has essentially never happened in team history, even if in 2009 the Wizards sold the rights to their only pick, second rounder Jermaine Taylor, to the Rockets and their lone pick in 1996, second rounder Ronnie Henderson, never played for the team (or in the NBA). Washington does not have a 2016 second round pick (nor a 2019 second round pick) due to the trade to acquire the rights to Kelly Oubre from Atlanta on draft night 2015.
Let’s take a breeze through the times in Wizards/Bullets history when the team did not have a first round pick whatsoever and examine the return they got for the sale of such:
1972: This pick was forfeited because in 1971 the Bullets decided to take Phil Chenier in the supplement hardship draft, which was a result of college underclassmen being allowed to enter the league after the Spencer Haywood case. I think this one worked out for the best. (The Bullets drafted Kevin Love’s dad, Stan Love, with their official 1971 pick.)
1979: The Bullets acquired the rights to one Steve Malovic, fifth-year college senior, from Phoenix in the days leading up to the ‘79 draft in exchange for their first round pick, which the Suns used to select my namesake, Kyle Macy, 22nd overall out of Kentucky. According to an old AP report, Malovic injured his back diving on the floor for a loose ball in the very first exhibition game and later severely injured his ankle in another exhibition game. He only played one regular season game (six minutes) with the franchise before being traded to the San Diego Clippers a year later for a 1982 second round pick. I’m totally shocked that this disaster has not been further cemented into #SoWizards/#SoBullets franchise lore.
1982: The first rounder this year ended up in Cleveland’s hands, who selected John Bagley 12th overall, via compensation sent to Detroit for signing Kevin Porter as a free agent in July 1979. Porter was one of the more productive point guards in Washington franchise history.
1990: This pick was traded to Dallas before the 1986-87 season in exchange for Jay Vincent, who played just 51 games with Washington before being shipped out about a year later. The same Jay Vincent who was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2011 for being involved in a fraud that scammed around 20,000 people out of $2 million. Washington’s 9th overall pick in 1990 was ultimately used by the Heat to select Willie Burton.
1996, 1998, and 2000: Washington did not have rights to its first rounder these three years because of the trade to acquire Chris Webber from Golden State in 1994. The ‘98 pick became Vince Carter and the 2000 pick became Chris Mihm. The ‘96 pick conveyed to the Warriors (Todd Fuller) was actually one that Washington acquired from Orlando, along with Scott Skiles, in a 1994 trade. The Bullets’ own ‘96 pick was sent to Cleveland (who selected Vitaly Potapenko) in the 1995 deal to acquire Mark Price.
1997: The Bullets surrendered this pick in exchange for David Stern allowing Juwan Howard to re-sign with Washington after the NBA found his free agent deal with Miami to be in violation of league rules. There was simply one less first round pick in the NBA draft in 1997. (It totally happened! You can read the full history of that ordeal here.) In the second round of ’97, the Wizards drafted a man by the name of God Shammgod.
2005: Washington’s first rounder this year, which turned out to be Julius Hodge, 20th overall, was traded away in 2001 to Orlando along with Laron Profit in exchange for Brendan Haywood. The 2005 draft did, however, provide the franchise with second round Andray Blatche, who was a first rounder in the hearts of so many.
2009: Mike Miller! Randy Foye! Ricky Rubio! Oleksiy Pecherov! Etan Thomas! Darius Songaila! Steph Curry! The memories! They still burn! (Need I say more?)
A checkered past, for sure. But not a future without inklings of promise, even if Washington sits this draft out, technically, while the team hopes to truly find the next diamond in the roughest of roughs: free agency.