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2019 NBA Draft Preview: The Wizards enter Draft Day with no clear plan for the future

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The Wizards hold the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But beyond that, who knows what Washington will do since they have no permanent front office leadership.

The Wall Street Journal’s Future Of Everything Festival
Ted Leonsis and the Wizards have another big decision on their hands for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Whether they’re ready or not, the Wizards are on the clock.

The offseason hasn’t quite gone according to plan for Washington. After an end to a tumultuous season, Washington fired longtime President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld. But that was on April 2, and today is June 20, and the Wizards have yet to fill that void.

The Wizards moved most of their chips to the middle of the table in hopes of luring Tim Connelly away from the Denver Nuggets. After getting stiff armed by Connelly, the Wizards reportedly tried a Hail Mary play to lure Masai Ujiri away from the Toronto Raptors... only to come out a week later and deny that they ever had interest in him.

Clearly, nothing will be finalized on draft day but the show must go on for Washington and they’ll have no choice but to move forward with Tommy Sheppard calling the shots — a guy who currently has the word ‘interim’ in his title.

How do I watch the draft tonight?

The NBA Draft will be on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. It will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can also stream it on

How important is Draft Day for the Wizards?

With everyone’s attention shifted towards the search and vacancy at the President of Basketball Operations or General Manager position, it’s flown under the radar that this is a very important draft for the Wizards.

The Wizards currently have just six players on their roster for the 2019-2020 season (if the Wizards exercise Jabari Parker’s team option) but those six players carry a payroll of ~$109MM. As it stands, the Wizards are under the luxury tax but are already at the projected salary cap for the 2019-2020 season. So here is an opportunity to get a young and cheaper player — only it’s unclear if the person making the selection on Thursday evening will be in Washington long-term.

Washington has holes all over their roster as John Wall will miss most if not all of next season with an Achilles injury. Ian Mahinmi is effectively unplayable. And Dwight Howard (He’s still on the team?) can’t seem to stay healthy. That leaves just Bradley Beal, Troy Brown, and potentially Jabari Parker as the only players under contract who should expect to see significant playing time next year. That’s it.

With uncertainties at nearly every position except for shooting guard, it’s no surprise that guys like Nassir Little, Coby White, Cam Reddish, and Sekou Doumbouya keep popping up as the Wizards first selection at ninth overall depending on which mock draft you happen to click on. If Washington chooses to keep the ninth overall pick, don’t be surprised if they take one of the aforementioned guys in a classic ‘best player available’ selection.

Some think that this year’s draft is particularly thin and that there’s a steep drop off after the projected top-4 picks in Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, and Darius Garland. So if the Wizards aren’t sold on either Little, White, Reddish, or Doumbouya, why not take a page out of Bill Belichick’s book and trade back?

Year after year, there are always teams looking to trade up to make a selection in the top-10. If Washington isn’t 100 percent sold on the guys available, it might not be a bad idea to trade back or grab an extra pick in a future draft. That is, assuming there’s some sort of plan in place.

What should we expect after the first round?

For their second round selection, the Wizards should turn their focus to guys like... oh... wait... never mind. But seriously, you never know. Maybe they do make a trade to get a second round pick after all?

Anyway, owner Ted Leonsis has gone on the record stating that the Wizards won’t hire a new General Manager prior to free agency on July 1. Without a clear plan in place for the future of the franchise, one would assume that the Wizards will probably just play it safe on Thursday evening.

There’s just too many unknowns for Washington to do something out on a limb. What if the Wizards reach for a guy at the number nine pick but the eventual GM isn’t fond of that player? What if the eventual GM has plans to trade Bradley Beal which leaves a void at shooting guard that could have been filled in the draft? The list goes on and on.

We’d be lying to ourselves if we said we knew what to expect when Commissioner Adam Silver says the most exiting yet nerve-wracking words of the night: “the Washington Wizards are on the clock.” Logic says that they won’t do anything out of the ordinary but the failed GM search looming over the fanbase’s head is there to remind us that anything can happen.

Washington is on the clock with no vision and clear path into the future. You prepare for the worst but hope for the best. That’s because, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen on draft night.