Two things are certain with this fanbase during the draft: falling in love with one prospect and completely overreacting to the Wizards second-round selection. The former I get -- I've fallen victim to it plenty -- but the latter is just foolish. The realities of a second-round pick, namely the non-guaranteed nature of their contracts and the idea that they have to work to receive that paycheck bodes well for a player in Glen Rice Jr.'s situation.
And yes, he does have a track record. He was unceremoniously dismissed from the Georgia Tech basketball team last season after violating several of the team policies that resulted in suspensions and benchings. But at that time, Rice Jr. was on no NBA teams' radar, as there was much made about his off the court red flags as well as his inconsistent play on the court. There was virtually no point in transferring to a new school, as he would likely have been forced to sit out the year, so with the guidance of his father, he turned to the NBA Developmental League to get his life back on track.
There is no "right" path to the NBA. Some players take the traditional route of going to college -- some are one and done while others stay longer. Some go overseas rather than going to college so they could provide for their families or gain a better understanding of how to be a true professional. For Rice Jr, the D-League was a wake-up call to get his head back on straight. He was removed from the college lifestyle of partying and drinking and relegated to the life of long bus rides and zero notoriety.
Up until about February of this year, Rice Jr was used sparingly by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, but got his chance to start due to injuries. He never looked back, earning a starting spot for the rest of the season while becoming a key cog in their championship run. The more you watched him, the more you saw just how much his situation at Georgia Tech caught up to him. He had to create almost every scoring opportunity on his own, as he was at the end of the list in assisted shots and proved to be one of the better finishes at the rim despite not having guards to get him the ball in easy scoring situations.
He adjusted to the 24-second clock on the fly as well, learning to attack quicker and with more aggression. His copious amount of free time served him well, using his unlimited access to the gym to add more muscle mass to his body as the season progressed. This hurt him in some ways too, as he was forced into guarding the larger forwards. He got beat up on the block a lot, which clearly had an effect on him getting back up the floor and exerting more energy than he already had to. Still, just like he had done at Tech, he showed off his world-class athleticism and instincts to come up with blocks and steals to ignite fast breaks.
He upped his three-point shooting percentage from 33 percent in college to 38.5 percent in the D-league from a couple feet back. He's always been regarded as a shooter, even through his struggles, but his success with the Vipers is evidence that this part of his game can translate. He showed the ability to stroke it from deep, off screens and occasionally off the dribble. He has a very nice feel for the game, though he was often passive and indecisive at times.
He does come with his fair share of faults. Without the threat of his jumper, he will disappear from games. He's implemented a nice escape dribble on hard close-outs, he can get to the rim and finish with explosiveness, but he also possesses an average first step for a wing and struggles to get by defenders in isolation settings.
Still, he turned a path to relative obscurity into a possible guaranteed NBA contract. He has an edge over most rookies, his adjustment to the NBA game will be a lot quicker than prospects taken way before him and also has a shooting ability that could translate immediately. This is a player who can supplant Cartier Martin at the end of the bench fairly easily, and if he proves to be a knockdown shooter, he could find minutes early on at the two position.
It's easy to look at who the Wizards could have picked, but on the other hand, Rice Jr could very well have been the highest-rated player on their big board. The assertion that this team could have used a third guard or a project big man to develop behind Emeka Okafor is menial in the grand scheme of things. The second round presents a world of opportunity to teams. This is a chance to swing for the fences without losing much, an amenity the Wizards have repeatedly ignored in years past.
Could Rice Jr. relapse and fall flat on his face as he gets enraptured by the NBA lifestyle? Sure. But management postulates that it's a small price to pay for an non-guaranteed contracted player.
This draft looked the part of 2012's. The front office got the guy they wanted all along, and were planning on staying put with just that. As we started to hit the late 20's and eventually the early 30's, we continued to see talent fall. It was the perfect opportunity to buy a pick (hell, Portland moved up to get Allen Crabbe at 31 for two future second rounders). Yet the only signals we received from the team was Randy Wittman downplaying these picks suggesting it were highly unlikely the team would bring in another rookie, unless they fell in love with a player.
That player turned out to be Glen Rice Jr. While Ernie's track record doesn't inspire much hope, it's thrilling that the team finally made a conscious effort to use the second round to tool the bench. A cost-effective method with very little room for error? Who knows, maybe this is the pick that sets a new standard for future drafts.