Matt Babcock, an NBA draft analyst for Babcock Hoops, has been around basketball in virtually every respect imaginable. He played at the University of Arizona, he was an assistant coach for Virtus Bologna in Italy, he worked as an NBPA-certified agent for over a decade, he wrote for Sports Illustrated, and pretty much his entire family tree has worked in an NBA front office.
“He learned the game from his father, Dave Babcock, Director of Player Personnel for the Milwaukee Bucks and his two uncles, Pete and Rob Babcock, both of whom are former NBA general managers. His two cousins, Chris and Nate Babcock, also hold positions within the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks organizations, respectively,” per his bio on Babcock Hoops.
Babcock Hoops is made up of industry veterans and basketball experts who want to provide NBA fans with insider information relating to the business of basketball and the NBA draft. Matt Babcock recently joined the Bleav in Wizards podcast, that Larry Hughes and I host, to discuss who he has the Wizards taking on his latest mock draft.
Babcock believes that the Wizards would be in a tough spot if they stayed at their currently projected draft position. Based on their needs and the depth of this particular draft, staying put at number nine would mean missing out on the prospects that make the most sense for them.
“Yeah, the Wizards are in an interesting situation because I think right now they’re slotted at number nine, if I remember correctly,” said Babcock. “I, personally, have seven guys in my first tier and there’s a lot of parity. And so I think this year’s draft order is going to be pretty crucial for the Wizards. Of course, if they were to move up, that puts them in a new category of guys.”
Given the current roster make-up and the long-term money committed to John Wall and Bradley Beal, Babcock believes they will not be looking for perimeter help with their first-round pick.
“You’ve got to take that into consideration, you’re taking a guy in the mid-lottery, you’d like to foresee him playing a prominent role within the next couple of years,” said Babcock on the idea of the Wizards taking someone to back-up Wall or Beal. “And I think that probably takes them out of guards, that would be my guess. So you know, we’re sort of looking at wings or bigs.”
This is contrary to the recent rumors from Bleacher Report that the Wizards are interested in LaMelo Ball. Sending scouts to Australia to see Ball, as did most teams, simply means the Wizards did their due diligence. It’s also just as likely they were there to see the other top prospect playing in Australia’s NBL, RJ Hampton.
“I think that guys in that range, RJ Hampton comes to mind,” explained Babcock. “He’s got super, super upside. I don’t think he’s necessarily ready to go right away, but he’s a combo guard. I’d like to see him develop his point guard skills. And he’s the guy at nine, I mean, maybe they just say, ‘Hey, this guy’s got too much upside to pass.’ That’s a real possibility, even though he doesn’t really fit positional needs or, you know, imminent needs.”
That’s where falling into the second-half of the lottery complicates things. There seems to be a consensus in the industry that the highest-rated center prospects are James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu. Unfortunately for the Wizards, both seem likely to be selected prior to the ninth pick. The next center on Babcock’s board is University of Washington freshman Isaiah Stewart. According to Babcock, this would be a bit of a reach for Stewart but he still sees him as a good fit for the Wizards.
“I think he’s one of these guys that’s getting a lot of criticism for being sort of a power, brute-type big,” said Babcock. “At Washington, they used him pretty much exclusively as a low-post scorer. Obviously, the game in the NBA is kind of gotten away from, ‘Hey, throw it down and bang it.’”
So why would he make sense for the Wizards?
“I have seen him in the past, he shoots the ball really well, he plays really hard,” said Babcock. “And I still think there’s a value for a guy that does the dirty work and provides physicality and just has a motor all the way around. So I went with him, I think he’d be a nice pairing with Rui, but again, you have sort of a tough pick for that spot.”
It’s not uncommon for teams to leak information, like the LaMelo Ball rumors, to throw other teams off of their trail.
According to Babcock, “You get smokescreens too. I mean, that stuff definitely happens. For example, I think there was, the San Francisco Chronicle came out with a big article saying the Warriors don’t like Wiseman and it was just a total smokescreen, in my opinion. And so, I think, that stuff does happen.”
In a perfect world, Babcock believes the Wizards would like to draft James Wiseman.
“I think Wiseman would be perfect, gives them a big five,” said Babcock. “He could do all of the blue-collar big-man stuff as far as rebounding, rim-protection, rim-running. But he’s also, long-term, a guy that I think is going to be able to develop his skill set to be able to be a guy that can stretch the floor and just kind of provide another scoring punch.”
For more details and other names that would be high on the Wizards’ draft board, be sure to check out the whole interview!