I was recently asked to participate in a group mock draft where each franchise had its own representative. All thirty participants drafted as if they were the General Manager of that franchise. Yours truly represented the Wizards.
The whole thing was organized by Richard Stayman of MavsDraft. Stayman identified a draft writer that covers each team to ensure picks would be made in a way that accurately reflected each franchise’s needs.
He used Tankathon to fairly simulate the draft lottery and decide the order. Based on those results, the Wizards were slated to draft tenth in the first round. In a draft that isn’t particularly top-heavy, I wasn’t wild about the prospect of picking that late in the lottery.
Earlier that same day, we had interviewed Gilbert Arenas on the Bleav in Wizards podcast and he made what I found to be a convincing argument for drafting the best player available. In his opinion, too many times the Wizards drafted less talented players to fill a need and avoid positional redundancy.
Arenas and Larry Hughes both felt like players are better able to figure out any perceived positional overlap than they get it credit for. Plus, you can always trade someone after if you have to. Arenas also spoke quite highly of USC center Onyeka Okongwu, who was already off the board by the time it was Washington’s turn.
With that notion in mind, I decided that if there was someone still on the board that I believed to be more talented than the rest of the people left I would take them regardless of position. That ended up being timely advice because it’s exactly how our mock draft played out.
Picking tenth, I was still hoping that a highly touted center or small forward option would fall to Washington. That almost happened but, unfortunately, Devin Vassell and James Wiseman came off the board with the two picks right before the Wizards.
I quickly considered my available options. Kira Lewis Jr. is one of the more talented point guards in the draft. He has blazing speed that perhaps John Wall could help him harness.
I’m not as high on Tyrese Haliburton as most people but I still see the value he provides on and off the court. And plenty of other teams covet him which at the very least would make him a tradeable asset.
Yes, the Wizards just drafted Rui Hachimura. Yes, they intend to open up their wallets for Davis Bertans. I fully considering all of these factors but 6-foot-9 Obi Toppin out of Dayton just seemed too talented to pass up.
When John Wall is your point guard, you can never have too many elite finishers running the fast-break with him. And while there are certainly some question marks with Toppin, no one can debate that he’s a top tier finisher.
Many draft pundits will tell you that Toppin’s age (22) is a negative. In my mind, it makes him more NBA-ready. In today’s NBA, how many good players sign multiple contracts with the teams that originally drafted them?
It seems like most teams that draft a project end up seeing them leave for another team by the time they develop enough to actually produce on the court. Also knowing the massive improvement Toppin has made since he was in prep school, I would be willing to gamble that he’s a late bloomer and still has untapped potential left.
Maybe he does have “high hips” and plays too upright on defense. Maybe he does have a slow release on his jump shot. I’m choosing to focus on his positives. He’s an explosive athlete with enough feel for the game to fit in well around Wall and Brad Beal. That’s the kind of guy I’m willing to bet will figure out how to help move the needle for this team.
In the second round, with the 37th pick, I was able to steal Precious Achiuwa from Memphis. The 6-foot-9 forward had inexplicably fallen out of the first round where he appears in most major mock drafts.
Achiuwa is another big-time athlete probably best suited to play power forward in the NBA. But in the second round, he had too much upside to pass on. Anytime you can get a player with lottery level talent in the second round you have to take them. And who knows, maybe he can get on the court as a small-ball center off the bench.
Looking at the draft board and who else was available when the Wizards were on the clock, who would you have taken? Anyone I really missed out on?