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2019 NBA Draft: The Wizards aren’t “losers” because they selected Rui Hachimura

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You may read that some early NBA Draft analysis pieces are pegging the Wizards as losers. But Rui Hachimura’s selection is also about setting a new team culture in Washington.

2019 NBA Draft
No, Rui Hachimura wasn’t a bad choice by the Washington Wizards, even if they are under interim leadership.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With the 2019 NBA Draft now complete, the draft gurus and NBA analysts out there were quick to give their takes on how well each team did. So far, at least some sources believe the Wizards did poorly when they picked Rui Hachimura ninth overall on Thursday night.

Who thought the Wizards lost on Draft Night?

At least several people gave Washington lukewarm reactions. Here are just three of them.

  • SB Nation’s Matt Ellentuck labeled the Wizards a “loser” — In Ellentuck’s piece he stated that Hachimura is “a scoring forward who isn’t a skilled defender.” Ellentuck also faulted the acquisition of Jonathon Simmons as another move to pick up a not-so-great defender.
  • SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell wasn’t a fan — He gave draft grades for each of the draft picks. He gave the Wizards a “D” for similar reasons as Ellentuck.
  • The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks also gave the Wizards a “D” because he questioned whether Hachimura can score efficiently in the NBA.

Why didn’t the Wizards lose when they picked Hachimura?

It’s easy to read other sites and tweets bashing Washington for the same tired reasons like “Hachimura hasn’t scored efficiently yet for the NBA.” Reasons like “The Wizards have no GM and didn’t visit him!” or xenophobic reasons like “The Wizards picked Hachimura just because he’s Japanese.”

Look, even Zion Williamson hasn’t scored efficiently in the NBA, yet EVERYONE thinks he’s the best player since LeBron James, if not Michael Jordan. Even me!

Anyway, here’s why the Wizards didn’t “lose” last night:

  • We ran the numbers — Kevin Broom wrote his Draft preview on Thursday and stated that based on previous production, Hachimura was in “Tier Three” on his board. The one “Tier One” player is Zion Williamson while the “Tier Two” players were Ja Morant and RJ Barrett. Hachimura was on “Tier Three” with Coby White, Goga Bitadze and Darius Garland. All but Bitadze were drafted in the Top-10. Kevin didn’t say that Hachimura will be an NBA star, but he did say that Hachimura is a solid pick given where Washington is.
  • Coachability matters — Hachimura played three seasons for Mark Few, one of the top men’s college basketball coaches in the country. He did so while taking on an increased role each season AND had to learn English at the same time. Now that the language barrier is out of the way, Hachimura’s development can improve more. Also, take this tweet response by Ricky Kersey into account when it comes to drafting non-Americans. From seeing Hachimura’s trajectory, it certainly seems that Hachimura is a quick learner.
  • Tommy Sheppard may be an interim general manager, but he is running the team into his own image — The biggest punchline on the Wizards’ front office is that they don’t have a permanent President of Basketball Operations. Sheppard, however, doesn’t seem like he wants to act like a lame duck though. He made moves that indicate that he wants a team identity different than Ernie Grunfeld envisioned. Yes, Sheppard was part of Grunfeld’s regime. But until we know this search is coming to an end, it’s important to note what moves he is making, especially those that go against Grunfeld’s tendencies to pick prospects with a lot of athletic and talent potential and a lack of work ethic.

So if you want to consider me a shill for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, fine. But I don’t think the Wizards made poor moves. Yes, there were players who COULD be bigger stars down the line.

But Washington needed a culture change on the types of players who come in. They need players who can contribute right away and still show upside. The Wizards’ picks help set the foundation of that culture, even if they don’t project to be franchise stars down the road.