While it's still incredibly unclear who the Wizards will take with the 16th pick in the draft (don't be surprised if they trade down, by the way), there will be another promising youngster on the roster next year: Oleksiy Pecherov.
Pecherov worked out for the team a couple days ago (I'd know, because I was logging that tape for Comcast), and I have to agree with Ivan Carter. He looked pretty damn good.
When the Wizards drafted him, he seemed like a scrawny, soft European. He was 6'10'', 230, which is incredibly light for a big. Yesterday, he showed up as a 7 footer weighing a solid 245. It's clear the year away from the team has helped his strength. (Note to Detroit: this is what you should have done with Darko).
More importantly, his added weight doesn't seem to be a hindrance. As Carter says:
-for starters, Pesh has obviously been in the weight room since last summer. His calf muscles were strong when I saw him a year ago but now they look like footballs and his upper body is bigger and more sculpted than last year. Still, he moves smoothly around the court with none of the awkard, funky-looking steps associated with some 7-footers. This kid's an athlete.
If Pecherov really is that far along, it'll soften the sting of the impending Brendan Haywood trade. I've always been concerned about trading the only 7 footer on a poor defensive team away, but if Pech is as good as advertised, it might not matter. He might be able to play center in this league after all, kind of like New Jersey's Nenad Kristic.
The better news is that he gets along well with Andray Blatche. Those two make up the future of this frontcourt, and they seem to complement each other well, both on and off the court. A tandem of Blatche/Pecherov at the 4 and the 5 might lack bulk, but they'll potentially make up for it with their speed.
The bigger question, however, is how much Pesh can contribute this season. The 4/5 position is crowded already, and that's even if either Haywood or Etan Thomas leaves. Pesh is going to have to compete for minutes with Antawn, Darius Songaila, Blatche, and, potentially, Thomas and Haywood. Judging from Eddie's frontcourt rotation last year, which didn't exactly give Blatche many opportunities, I'm worried he'll have the same treatment for Pecherov. This is why I don't get the Songaila signing last offseason. Why not just develop Pecherov instead?
Granted, we still need to keep this into perspective. Pecherov hasn't played a single regular-season game for this team, and we're judging his improvement based on one workout. Still, I'm wondering what you guys are expecting from him this season. Is it realistic to expect Pecherov to contribute 15-20 minutes or more per game next year? Do you think he's ready for it?
I'm not sure, but I hope Eddie plays him decent minutes. The only way to find out is by playing him.