Just one day before the draft, debate rages on regarding what the Wizards should do with the No. 3 overall pick. How can Washington best use what might be its final lottery selection for the next few years? Satchel Price and Thomas Pruitt argue two possible scenarios that could ultimately benefit the team.
It sounds crazy, but bear with me. The Wizards already have Bradley Beal, a guy who's scouting report is basically the same as McLemore's. While BMac (is anyone calling him that?) would fit perfectly with John Wall and could only play spot minutes next to Beal, so there's really not a place for him in the Wizards' rotation. That said, he could become a valuable enough asset that, for the long-term health of the franchise, he could work.
Almost every player that should be available in the top three of this year's draft has a couple of serious red flags. Otto Porter isn't a natural scorer -- good wing scorers almost always score more frequently and more efficiently as college sophomores -- and Anthony Bennett might not be big enough to pull his weight on defense. Victor Oladipo's old (although the same reasons I'm giving to consider McLemore could apply to him, too), Dario Saric's out of the draft, Alex Len's not all that good and Trey Burke looks like a decent point guard in a league where almost everyone *coughSactowncough* has a decent and/or promising point guard.
McLemore could be an inch or two taller, but considering that the typical shooting guard these days looks more like Jason Terry than Joe Johnson, that shouldn't be an issue. Furthermore, elite shooters with good quickness, hops and defensive potential rarely fail. It's impossible to say for certain in all but the most extreme cases who will be a star at the next level, but McLemore has as good a chance as anyone in the draft.
Now, even if McLemore wouldn't be a good long-term fit playing alongside Beal, is there any reason Washington couldn't play the two together for a little while, see who's more promising, and then flip one of them for a player that's a better fit for the roster? Just because Washington drafts someone doesn't mean the team needs to hold onto them forever. McLemore was more accurate from deep and the line than Beal in college and should be one of the top three point shooters in the NBA. Considering how rare elite shooters are and how many great young point guards have shaky jump shots, McLemore could turn into a highly sought-after commodity who would make sense for any team in the NBA. He could work next to point forward types like Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala, next to ball-dominant twos like Tyreke Evans and Rodney Stuckey, with a pure point guard without a jumper like Ricky Rubio or Rajon Rondo, or even just on any team that could use a scorer who doesn't need the ball in their hands (LA, Toronto, really everywhere). The potential trade partners are endless.
Ben McLemore video scouting report
There are two drawbacks to bringing him in: It could disrupt Washington's chemistry due to a rivalry with Beal and he could underperform if he plays significant minutes out of position. Derrick Williams is a good example of what can go wrong when you bring in a high lottery pick who plays the same position as a highly-valued teammate. He came into the NBA with a great reputation, but dedicated his practice time to playing a position that he really had no business playing. He never got to play to his strengths, was probably not thrilled to have Kevin Love ahead of him and never makes it into "best young player" discussions. That said, just because Williams didn't work out doesn't mean that Washington could do a better job of managing McLemore's ego and finding a way to let him play to his strengths.
I'm curious, how different do you think his performance would be if he wound up in Washington as opposed to, say, Orlando? There are a dozen different potential trade targets (Kevin Love, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins) who could be available if Washington can put together and attractive enough package of youngsters, picks and contracts. If Washington really wants to think long-term, wouldn't it be worth it to make a draft pick with this in mind as opposed to simply taking the guy who fits best with the players currently on the roster?
Satchel Price: It seems like the whole idea of Washington taking someone like Oladipo or McLemore is to recoup as much long-term value as possible, but I'm not entirely sure such a move positions the team to do that. The Wizards already have to pay big money to John Wall, Nene and Beal in the future, so finding quality contributors on super-cheap contracts is especially important. And while the team may hit on someone like Martell Webster every once in a while, it's ultimately paramount that Washington finds effective players on rookie contracts who can help suppress payroll.
Drafting someone essentially as an asset to be used in future trades leaves me uncomfortable-Satchel Price
With all of that said, drafting someone essentially as an asset to be used in future trades leaves me uncomfortable, for two reasons.
One, drafting someone as a trade asset requires everything to pan out to some degree -- the player needs to succeed despite a less-than-ideal role, other teams need to have interest and the right pieces to find a deal.
Two, even if all of those things happen and you find a solid trade, it's highly likely you'll be acquiring someone who needs a major contract extension soon. The guys you listed (Love, Favors, Cousins) will all command eight-figure salaries in the near future. I'm just not particularly excited about the idea of our best-case scenario being a trade of multiple key assets for another expensive big man.
That's why keeping the pick and selecting one of the big forwards makes more sense to me. It's not necessarily a knock on the guards, as I believe Oladipo and McLemore could both be great players. However, what the Wizards really need in their backcourt right now is a guard capable of running the second unit. Oladipo certainly can't fill that role, while McLemore brings more possibilities but a good deal of risk. I'd prefer to select someone who could be a long-term fit next to Beal and Wall while on their rookie contracts. The added flexibility of avoiding a fourth huge deal could be really huge.
Thomas: You make a good point about the looming salary bumps for Wall and Beal, one that could blow up in the team's face in a few years when Nene's about to expire and Wall and Beal are on max deals. That said, as important as having players on their rookie deals is, there's still no guarantee that the current core of the team is kept intact. Sure, a Wall-Beal-Nene-pick core could do pretty well, but if the recent history of the NBA is any indication, Washington's best shot at making the finals will be to trade away at least one or two future stars for a top -five player to pair with the remaining core, then fill out the roster with vets and minimum salary types.
Look at the Clippers. Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon probably could have never played significant minutes together due to their size, yet that didn't stop the team from acquiring Bledsoe in 2010. Three years later, he looks like one of the steals of the draft. Oladipo could be similar.
Trading assets for a crazy expensive big man doesn't sound enticing when you think of Love, Favors and Cousins, but I think that's because they still haven't peaked. The Celtics made out all right after the KG deal, after all. Sure, right now, Favors isn't someone you'd want to break the bank to get, but what if he's the best defensive player in the league and can average 20 a game off of dunks and free throws? Ditto for Cousins if he ever gets it together and becomes some kind of weird combination of Bynum and Sheed. These players haven't arrived yet, but it'd be worth it to be in a position where the team can make a run at one of them should they start to blow up while the team around them falls apart.
Washington needs a power forward who can shoot pretty desperately, but that's only right now. Even though the team is in a good position to make the playoffs next year, these guys are still light years away from being capable of beating a team like Miami or even Indiana in a seven-game series. It just isn't worth it to make as major a decision as who the team drafts with what will likely be their last top-five pick (and good chance at landing a future All-Star) for a few years based on his ability to transform a 40 win team to a 45 win team. I'd rather be OK this year and have the flexibility to bring in a truly elite player to pair with Wall in a year or two than be slightly better than OK and have to hope that everything can click and the team can steal a title almost out of nowhere a la the 2011 Mavericks.
Do you think that Bennett or Porter have a realistic shot at becoming a top 20 player in the NBA? Unless someone on the team can somehow bring one in or develop one, it's hard to see John Wall ever playing in the finals.
Satchel: I agree with the premise that Washington needs to add another high-level player, I'm just not convinced that player comes through a trade. Drafting players is almost always the best way. Assuming Oladipo plays well as a rookie and has big value next offseason, it's still questionable to assume some team will give up a star-level player to get him.
Umair and Thomas argue about Otto Porter vs. Anthony Bennett.
Sure, Bennett and Porter aren't guaranteed stars, but neither was someone like Kawhi Leonard or Damian Lillard, and things look awfully different a year later. I'd rather take a risk on a top-3 draft pick who won't make more than $5-6 million for four years than someone closer to his ceiling who commands major cap space, particularly when it means adding other assets to get that deal done.
Given everything that would need to happen for your scenario to pan out -- Oladipo playing well, some team having an available young high-level player AND that team wanting to make a deal -- I'd rather simply take Bennett or Porter, put him in the best position to develop in D.C., and hope he emerges. This isn't really like the Bledsoe situation, where the Clippers gambled on a high-upside guy with the No. 18 pick and saw him pan out. The Wiz can't afford to make the same gambles at No. 3.
Meanwhile, why couldn't the Wizards draft Bennett or Porter with a trade still possible? Unless you believe Oladipo or McLemore is a definitively better prospect, isn't it possible some teams might prefer to get a talented young forward to replace the big guy we're dreaming of acquiring? Just because Washington drafts someone who fits well doesn't mean he can't be traded. It just means that, if he pans out, trading him wouldn't make any sense.
And that ultimately gets to my central point: drafting Oladipo or McLemore in order to land a talented forward seems to ignore the option of simply drafting a talented forward right now. Get the guy in the organization as fast as possible, let him build some camaraderie with Wall and Beal. You would have to be convinced that the guards in this draft are utterly superior to the big guys, and I'm just not.
Thomas: That's the thing, though -- while Porter and Bennett have their upside, they're both far from sure things as pros. Oladipo and McLemore, while far from sure things per se, look like they'll be better NBA players than Porter and Bennett.
Oladipo and McLemore, while far from sure things per se, look like they'll be better NBA players than Porter and Bennett.-Thomas Pruitt
Obviously, if they were all equally good, Washington would want to take the one who makes the most sense for the team, but I don't think that's the case here. Oladipo looks like he could be one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA one day, while McLemore shares uncanny similarities to Ray Allen. Both should be very good pros and, at a minimum, starting caliber shooting guards.
Players on rookie deals are usually underpaid, sure, but so are elite players. A typical max player makes, what, $15 million? That might be fair for someone like Chris Bosh or a healthy Nene, but the kinds of players who Washington would look to trade a bunch of assets for would likely be better. A top 15 or even top 20 player making that much is going to be underpaid in the exact same way that John Wall has been while on his rookie deal.
The thing is, there aren't a lot of guys who were major contributors to a title winner while on their rookie deals. The best example I can think of is Rondo, and even he was only the fourth best player on the 2008 Celtics. Players tend to peak in their late 20s, a little earlier for point guards, a little later for bigs. Even if Bennett/Porter (Pornett?) becomes an All-Star, we won't be getting his best years until his rookie deal has expired, at which point he may have to be traded anyways a la Harden.
The drawback to drafting the best player available and eventually packaging him with picks and other assets in a trade for a superstar is that it would mean a shorter window. Considering that guards with Wall's physical profile peak early, is that necessarily a bad thing? My big fear here is that Washington turns into a team like the Hawks were for years, where they have a really capable core but lack that one elite superstar to put them over the edge, condemning the team to 45-50 win purgatory for half a decade. Even if Wall becomes a top-10 player, unless the team gets really lucky with a low salary free agent or Beal finds an extra gear that no one knew he had, I don't see how Washington gets over the top. Sure, they could strike out in the draft or spend years holding onto assets waiting on a deal, but I'd rather shoot for the moon and miss than play it safe and have faith that an elite team can be built strictly through the draft.
"That's the thing, though - while Porter and Bennett have their upside, they're both far from sure things as pros. Oladipo and McLemore, while far from sure things per se, look like they'll be better NBA players than Porter and Bennett."
That quote alone clarifies where we split in this debate. At this point, a few days before the draft, I simply don't believe those two guards are markedly better prospects than Porter and Bennett. Draft Express currently has all four players ranked in the No. 3-7 range, behind the big-man duo of Alex Len and Nerlens Noel. The two guards are rated higher, but realistically, that margin is so small I would prefer to almost ignore it. Oladipo and McLemore might be slightly better prospects, but in a basketball world where nurture is often as important as nature, I'd prefer to take the guy that's 98 percent of the talent but a significantly stronger fit for the organization.
Considering the Cavaliers still don't know who they're picking first overall, it's pretty clear there's not a consensus top tier beyond those top 6-7 guys.
Considering the Cavaliers still don't know who they're picking first overall, it's pretty clear there's not a consensus top tier beyond those top 6-7 guys.-Satchel Price
When do you realistically expect this Wizards team to compete at a super high level? Two years? Four years? If recent superstars have given any indication, Year 3 is typically when the best players prove that at the game's highest level. D-Rose, Harden, Paul George, etc. Typically, a team will know whether it has a real gem in the first few years. Kawhi Leonard looked just fine in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. If the Wizards manage to hit on that kind of player with Porter or Bennett, you're talking about a guy that's only one year behind Beal and a couple years behind Wall -- ultimately, those three guys will determine whether Washington becomes a real title contender, which is a plan I'm comfortable with.
Your determination on landing an elite player through trade seems to ignore a changing NBA landscape that makes such deals more difficult. Guys will be motivated to stay put and get their max deals, so you're talking about (A) drafting a player who doesn't fit perfectly in the hopes that he'll break out (B) Finding a great player on the cusp of superstardom, a la Harden, who is available in trade (C) That star needs to be good enough to deserve building around, but flawed enough the team will trade him (D) Both teams need to want what the other is selling -- just because a team is selling a star and Oladipo is well-regarded doesn't mean the two sides will agree. It's just the kind of pipe-dream scenario that I'd rather avoid when you factor in everything involved.
Look at the best restricted free agents next year: Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors. That's about it. Is Indiana trading George? No way. How about Cousins or Favors? Sure, they're good, but do you put together a year-long plan requiring multiple developments in order to position yourself for a guy who has never won or a guy who has never even been a star yet? That's a lot of hopeful projection.
I'd prefer to simply take Porter, Bennett, Oladipo or, if he's somehow available, Noel with the third pick. Try to foster as much development as possible from the beginning, and hope you've found a third piece that can learn in time to complement the greatness of Wall and Beal.
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