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Former Wizards draft pick Juan Carlos Navarro announces retirement

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Los Angeles Lakers v Regal FC Barcelona Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelona Basketball announced on Friday that Juan Carlos Navarro is retiring from basketball and joining the team’s staff for the 2018-19 season.

Navarro has some unique ties to Wizards history. Washington selected him with the 40th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, but Navarro opted to stay in Spain after he was selected and build up his value. He was named Spanish League MVP in 2006 and decided to make the jump the following year.

Unfortunately, there was one problem: Second round picks don’t have rookie-scale contracts like first rounders; they have to be signed with cap space or an exception. The Wizards lacked both that summer and wound up trading Navarro’s rights to Memphis for a conditional first round pick. The deal allowed Memphis team up Navarro with fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol.

Sadly, the pairing couldn’t save Memphis from its fate. The Grizzlies started the season 12-35 and decided to trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers to kick off a full-scale rebuild.

Despite Memphis’ issues, Navarro had a solid rookie season. He earned Second-Team All-Rookie honors after averaging 10.9 points per game and shooting over 36 percent from deep on over five attempts per game, but he had no desire to continue playing abroad on a rebuilding team. He returned to Barcelona that summer and wound up having a very decorated career in Europe both with his club and with the Spanish national team.

Even though his NBA story ended in 2008, he continued to have an impact on Washington after he returned to Spain.

  • At Barcelona, Navarro wound up crossing paths with another one of the Wizards’ European prospects: Tomas Satoransky. The two of them played together for two seasons in Spain before Satoransky made the jump to the NBA in 2016.
  • Remember that pick the Wizards got back in trade with Memphis? Well, trading Gasol in 2007, the Grizzlies decided they should start stockpiling draft picks. As part of that effort, they made a push to reacquire the pick they had sent as part of the Navarro deal. They wound up working out a deal as part of a three-way trade where Memphis got the pick back in exchange for a rarely-used guard by the name of Javaris Crittenton.
  • Navarro went down as the final draft pick of the Michael Jordan’s underwhelming tenure in Washington, and frankly, you could argue he was the best pick of the bunch. Navarro’s long, successful career in Europe is probably more meaningful than the shorter, less decorated NBA careers of the rest of his picks.