Every year we gather our writers together to make predictions about the upcoming season for the Washington Wizards.
In the first part of our series, we’re discussing what we think the Wizards will do with their 2018 first round pick. Given Washington’s recent track record, it wouldn’t be surprising if the team moved their pick. They’ve traded their first round pick in three of the last four years as the team’s focus has shifted from building for the future to taking advantage of the present.
Will they keep it up this year and try to add a piece to put them over the top, or will they try to add a young piece to reinvigorate our team?
Tony East - There are essentially two trains of thought with the first round pick; keep it and draft a player, or attach it to some bad salary for cap relief. The Wizards need prospects and a modicum of future upside, so one would think that they would keep the pick and use it. However, given that the team is in the luxury tax, I would not be surprised to see the team use the pick to get off of some money to stay under the tax this season. Both choices have pros and cons, but I would lean in favor of keeping the pick.
Chris Grenham - I would love to see the Wizards keep their 2018 pick, solely because I forget what it feels like to watch a first round that includes the Wizards. It’d be ideal for them to make a forward-looking move and draft a player that we can look towards for potential upside, but let’s be real here: They’ll most likely trade away the pick in some form of a salary dump.
Lyndie Wood - Doing my best Ernie Grunfeld impression: “We consider Jeff Green to be our first round pick this year…” Okay, that isn’t actually likely because Green would have to consent to the trade and I think maybe everyone finally realizes that he isn’t worth a first round pick. More realistically, I think we could see a similar situation to last year, where the Wizards make a trade that gets them a little short-term help but is really a salary dump (Jason Smith is my bet - I don’t think Mahinmi is movable).
Jake Whitacre - The Wizards are good, but they don’t have many ways to get better or create flexibility without leveraging future assets. So trading the pick seems like the move here unless the Wizards get into a really great rhythm and they get worried about disrupting chemistry, similar to what the Hawks did during their 60-win season.
If the Wizards go for a salary dump, I wouldn’t be shocked if they try to make a deal with the Bulls. They’re the rare team with some stranded win-now assets on a rebuilding team with cap space. Trading Ian Mahinmi and a first round pick to Chicago for Robin Lopez seems like a deal that would make a lot of sense from Washington’s perspective: They get younger and slightly better at center, they lower their tax bill this season, and they clear long-term salary as well.
That said, I don’t know if we should just assume trading the first round pick will be about dumping salary. First rounders can be used to add real talent too. A late first-rounder by itself may not be enough to get DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, or someone of that ilk, but it can certainly get you an upgrade somewhere.
Marcus Atkinson Sr. - I think the Wizards will do something similar to what they did last year, they will package one of their contracts they want to move with the pick and then try to get a star player in return. They will do it because a) they obviously don’t value the draft considering they traded out of what was considered a deep draft and b) because they are going to convince us this is like a free agent acquisition.
Kyle J. Andrews - Truth be told, the Wizards will most likely use this pick to move a bad contract. The first contract that comes to mind is Ian Mahinmi. Moving him will allow for Washington to be bigger spenders in free agency next offseason. Now, I’m not going to sit up here and say that DeMarcus Cousins is coming to Washington with certainty, but the possibility becomes larger with more money to spend. So by all means, begin the #DC2DC talk.
Matthew Gilpin - Washington will probably trade the first round pick if it goes along with Ian Mahinmi for a salary dump or with Jason Smith for a more enticing package. If that happens, I don’t expect to get much in return. Personally, I’d rather they keep the pick and just develop some younger talent.
My fear is that Sam Presti will convince Ernie Grunfeld to trade the Wizards first round pick to Oklahoma City for a grilled cheese sandwich. #GCS2DC
Albert Lee - The Wizards are in “win-now” mode, even if it looks like they are still not on the same playing field as the Cavaliers and much of the Western Conference. If there is a way to unload a significant contract (like Jason Smith who L.W. alluded to) in exchange for short-term help on the wing positions, then I can see them trading their first round pick away for the third straight season.
That said, I think they will keep the first round pick. Washington will have a G-League team so that changes their outlook on how to develop players. If Washington goes 52-30 like Jake’s prediction says, then that pick, whoever he is, can spend a year or two in the G-League developing his game. He will also probably play in a system that the Wizards are also running now that Washington will also have their farm system in place.
Jesse Lyles - The Wizards will keep their first round pick this year. I can’t imagine them getting off to another 2-8 start and I believe the bench will be solid enough for the team to be a serious threat in the East. Although trading the first rounder with Mahinmi to Chicago for Robin Lopez, as Jake alluded to, is enticing, I think your boy Ernest won’t pull the trigger and keep the pick.
Maybe he drafts a 6’11 international player who’s the second coming of Blake Griffin. Wait, that sounds familiar.