Yesterday's Washington Wizards exit interviews featured a couple lines that have been scaring me since I stared at them late tonight. You may recall John Wall expressing his desire to sign more veterans, even if it means not using the lottery pick the Wizards will get.
"I really don't want to worry about the draft. We're going the right way with winning, so we need to keep going with veterans and not keep going to the draft and get younger," Wall said, "but that's how I feel. It's not my decision. It's upstairs and I think they'll do a great job."
That was on Tuesday. Now, we hear this from Martell Webster.
Webster on #Wizards adding depth with a young 1st rd pick: "I don't think they've got time for that. It's gotta be now."— Craig Stouffer (@CraigStouffer) April 18, 2013
And there's this from Michael Lee's Friday story.
The Wizards will have another lottery pick in the NBA draft, but Wittman and several of his players, including Wall, all felt that Washington needed to add another veteran rather than focus on developing another prospect.
Finally, when Ted Leonsis was asked about the draft during Wednesday's broadcast, he quickly deflected to talk about free agency.
I don't like this. I don't like not using the draft pick.
Now, I understand, on some level, why the players feel the way they do. To them, another rookie equals Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, et al. Roster flotsam that has not developed and won't help the team win next year, if ever. The fear of throwing away another year to "develop" that guy makes sense on some level. The Wizards certainly don't need another Jan Vesely.
But to assume the pick will be another Jan Vesely before making it is exactly what gets teams in trouble. It's why the Nets regret trading Gerald Wallace for the pick that became Damian Lillard. To put this closer to home: this is the same attitude that caused the 2009 trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye when Stephen Curry was still on the board. You can always find rookies that can contribute right away and later grow into franchise pillars. You just have to actually try to look.
This is also a cost issue. The seventh pick in the draft will be locked in for four years starting well under the mid-level exception. Filling his spot with a useful veteran will likely cost more unless you can keep recycling Martell Websters. For a team that won't go over the luxury tax, wants to give Webster a raise and has a big extension for Wall on the horizon, that matters. Would you rather have Terrence Ross locked in for his price or Courtney Lee at his? I still like Courtney Lee, but Ross is much better for your franchise going forward.
I hope this is just typical end-of-season talk, because I can't envision very many scenarios where trading the draft pick is a good idea.