The Wizards came into last night's NBA Draft lottery with a 70.2 percent chance of staying put at No. 8. We all hoped for the best, but expected to be picking at No. 8 in June. We all read mock drafts and researched prospects that we thought would be around at No. 8. We all had it in the back of our minds that Ernie Grunfeld could trade our pick if he didn't like any of the prospects left on the board.
So much for all of that. The Wiz defied every semblance of pessimism surrounding the team the past month, and with the help of Bradley Beal, vaulted into the top three of the draft. Now, things are looking brighter, the franchise has a real chance of securing our three building blocks for the future and the doors have opened up on some very intriguing potential roster moves.
Take that, ESPN mock lottery machine.
Now the rumors and smokescreens will begin to surface -- if they haven't already -- and we will all begin to agonize over what the Cavaliers will do with the No. 1 pick. Cavaliers GM Chris Grant plays things incredibly close to the chest and will continue to send mixed signals regarding who he's leaning toward, which only he would uncommonly do with the first overall pick in the draft.
The obvious factor here is the health of Nerlens Noel, and whether the Cavs are willing to wait on him and risk suffering through another losing season with Kyrie Irving. That's probably a bit of an overstatement given the cap room and flexibility of the roster, but it's safe to assume Dan Gilbert and co have their eyes set on the 2014 free agency class, and most notably, LeBron James. Anderson Varejao, in the midst of all the injury concerns, is entering the final year of his deal (has a team option in 2014), and the team has to look long-term to solidify their frontcourt and snag a defensive anchor for the foreseeable future.
Yet, rumors have already began to surface that the Cavs have deep interest in Otto Porter, and could also look into packaging the first round pick in order to yield a top level talent to make their playoff push this coming season. Should we call Chris Grant's bluff or could there be some truth to it? On the surface, picturing Porter going No. 1 is a bit of a stretch, but Cleveland's not averse to sticking with their draft board in spite of public perception, and Porter would fit in with Irving and Waiters like a glove.
So where does that leave Washington?
They're relegated to the waiting game, for better or worse. As noted before, Porter is the best-case scenario for the Wizards. His understanding of the game, maturity and defensive instincts encapsulates what the front office is building toward, and he has the skill-set and freakish athleticism to mesh well with John Wall and Beal. From there, the team has an interesting decision to make. Should they keep Trevor Ariza, knowing that Porter isn't equipped to handle the assignment of guarding the opponents best perimeter threat on a nightly basis? Or is the three point proficiency of Martell Webster, along with his strong locker-room leadership, worth bringing back on a possibly full mid-level exception? This opens up a world of opportunities.
But this is the Wizards we're talking about here. Nothing comes easy for us. Even Bradley Beal, who seemingly fell into our laps a year ago, didn't come without fans sweating and anxiously praying that his name wasn't called before the third pick. In the event that Porter's destiny doesn't draw parallels to Beal's, it's vital for the front office to stay true to their draft board and selects the best player available. A common misconception is that this is a two- or three-player draft; but I'd probably stretch it to four with a possible five lurking in Trey Burke.
Victor Oladipo is the wildcard here. It may seem a bit overhasty taking him in the top 3, but if he absolutely wows the team in predraft workouts like I expect, they could look to trade down -- especially to a team eyeing Burke -- and select him. Or the team could outright select one of either McLemore or Noel, both of whom I have advocated for strictly on a best player available basis.
No draft speculation is complete without the trade angle. There will undoubtedly be those that bring up a Demarcus Cousins or Danny Granger, but to them I ask, why go through all that trouble? Both players are at a crossroads in their careers. One has to suppress his anger and mature his style of play, while the other is making over $14 million to rehab a very serious knee injury. There are three level-headed players that can impact the team immediately on rookie scale contracts and another who can man your defense for the next 10 years.
For now, we can all go to bed each night knowing the Wizards are in good shape and that they're poised to bring along another exciting young talent to the Nation's Capital.