It's a cliche to say that you can't truly grade a draft the day after it happens. In the case of the Washington Wizards and the 2013 NBA Draft, that is especially true.
Nobody, much less myself, blames the Wizards for taking Georgetown's Otto Porter. Porter was the massive pre-draft favorite of everyone here -- including myself -- and the projected alternative, UNLV's Anthony Bennett, went No. 1 in a huge surprise to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Randy Wittman is going to love being able to slot Porter into so many different kinds of roles. The Wizards are going to benefit from having a do-everything wing like Porter; if not right away, then certainly by the end of his rookie season. In the new NBA, players like Porter are so valuable.
So, I should be happy.
But all that was assuming the projected No. 1 pick, Nerlens Noel, would fly off the board. Once the Orlando Magic took Victor Oladipo, the Wizards were presented with a pivotal choice. Stay the course and pick the man they clearly wanted all along, or go for the upside pick that they never thought was possible. Ultimately, they didn't take long to decide that staying the course was the right thing to do.
Now, it's time to see if the Wizards were right. Truth is, we don't know right now, and that's nerve-racking.
On the one hand, there's a reason why the Kentucky product was atop all three of our draft boards. (mine, Umair's, the community). Noel started the season raw, but came on by the end of his freshman year before tearing his ACL in February. He posted absurd block/steal numbers, changed many games with his defensive quickness and saw his offensive game develop a little bit from being a non-entity early in the season. There's a possibility that Noel becomes one of the league's great defenders and rim protectors, something any team will want no matter how limited their offense is.
By the same token: it would be foolish if the Wizards took Porter because they were thinking only about who would help them next season. Porter is young, too, but Noel has the kind of upside Porter can't touch. The Wizards have the veteran frontcourt to withstand not being able to see Noel play right away. This should have been a long-term pick, so it'd be a shame if it was made with short-term interests exclusively in mind.
On the other hand ... the injuries. Noel supposedly was given a clean bill of health, but he has a torn ACL already and also had a growth plate in his knee as a sophomore. Negative medical reports rarely become public, and teams grade injuries differently depending on their doctor. If the Wizards have reason to believe that Noel's body type is unlikely to stay healthy, they may have dodged a bullet here. (And yes, I know this organization hasn't exactly inspired confidence with health diagnoses in the past).
And by that same token, it's not like the Wizards were the only team that passed on Noel. The Suns, Bobcats and Magic, three teams not in any hurry to win, all passed on Noel too. (And, hell, we can include the Pelicans, even though they got Jrue Holiday in the deal and balanced their roster). Maybe they, too, think Noel has injury issues. Maybe they just don't think Noel's that great. Maybe everyone's wrong. Maybe everyone's right. But the argument that the Wizards only passed on Noel because of short-term interests must at least acknowledge that three of the leaders in the Andrew Wiggins tanking sweepstakes also passed on Noel. The Bobcats took Cody Zeller ahead of him!
I just don't know. Nobody really does until we see how Noel's body holds up. And it's especially nerve-racking because the Wizards clearly got the guy most people wanted in Otto Porter, someone who many, including myself, think will be a terrific player. Time to cross your fingers and hope that, as Gob Bluth always says, the Wizards didn't just make a huge mistake.
A quick thoughts on Glen Rice Jr. before we go. I don't know much about him -- The Dream Shake has a great profile that's worth reading -- and it's a little odd that the Wizards elected to get another wing instead of filling their needs, but if you accept the idea that the Wizards weren't using both second-round picks, packaging them and moving up to select a guy who clearly has first-round talent is a great idea. So, I'm happy about that scenario, even if I don't know much about Rice himself.