The NBA Draft Lottery has come and gone and your Washington Wizards ended up with the ninth pick. Sound familiar? The Wizards took forward Rui Hachimura with the ninth pick in last year’s draft. Some of the more high-profile players to go ninth in the last decade include: Gordon Hayward (2010), Kemba Walker (2011), Andre Drummond (2012), Jakob Poeltl (2016), and Kevin Knox (2018).
The minute the lottery ended the internet was flooded with updated mock drafts. I will breakdown a couple of the major one’s and who they identified as likely candidates for the Wizards at number nine. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (formerly of DraftExpress) is one of the more successful and well-known names in the industry. As a 19 year old, he was nice enough to let me contribute to DraftExpress. So while I am clearly a bit biased, his track record speaks for itself.
In the ESPN mock draft, James Wiseman went off the board third to Charlotte and Onyeka Okongwu went sixth to Atlanta. Believing that the Wizards would benefit from selecting a big man, Precious Achiuwa was their choice for the ninth pick. For anyone who may not be familiar with the Memphis freshman, here’s my take on him as a prospect and potential addition to the Wizards’ squad.
Precious Achiuwa, 6’9ish, forward/center
Given his size and current strength level, Precious Achiuwa would probably be slotted as a power forward. At least initially. But he has the length (7’2 wingspan) to bother centers and the lateral quickness to stay in front of people on the perimeter when switched. He averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks as a freshman at Memphis and was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
I don’t love the fit given the Wizards’ existing personnel but if he was the best player on our board at nine, he would certainly add some much needed athleticism. There aren’t many guys on the current roster who could put opposing players on a poster. Achiuwa can do that with big-time dunks or by swatting a shot into the 3rd row.
Long term, his greatest value would be as a small-ball center. That’s assuming he can develop his three-point shot enough to drag opposing centers away from the basket. He shot 32-percent from three but on relatively limited attempts. The form doesn’t actually look too bad but he didn’t look particularly comfortable taking them.
I wouldn’t bank on him ever being a stretch big that scares defenses but I think he could be serviceable enough. He would give John Wall an elite finisher in transition but has to continue to refine his skill-set to avoid clogging things up in the half-court.
Achiuwa’s determination as a rebounder would be a welcome addition. He’s by no means a finished product defensively and gets caught out of position at times. But he defends well in space and can challenge people at the rim, two things the Wizards could use more of. He forced a lot of things offensively and wasn’t necessarily a willing passer all the time. That’s going to have to change to be on the court with Wall and Bradley Beal.
I’ve seen Achiuwa compared to Kenneth Faried and it’s not necessarily a bad comparison based on their athleticism but I think Achiuwa has more tools than Faried. The Montrezl Harrell comparison is the one you probably hear most frequently because he’s a currently relevant undersized center who uses his athleticism and energy to impact the game. I don’t love that comp either because they have different strengths and weaknesses but that is essentially the role Achiuwa would be trying to fill in the league.
Harrell really maximizes his offensive value because he understands how to play off of his teammates (Lou Williams especially) and Achiuwa currently does not. And as active as he is, there are still certain match-ups defensively where the Clippers just can’t keep Harrell on the floor. Achiuwa has a considerably higher defensive ceiling but will have to overcome similar challenges when it comes to guarding the league’s more imposing big men.
Given that Harrell is the gold standard for this particular archetype and he’s still only a situational player, I would be a bit hesitant to take Achiuwa this early in the draft unless he was clearly the best player left on our board. Given Tommy Sheppard’s comments about wanting to add length and athleticism, that may end up being the case.
If the Wizards were picking somewhere around 16th or 17th I would more on board with this potential pick but I’m not sure how practical trading down would be or what it would net you this year. Even though I think taking him at nine is a slight reach, I think the Wizards could certainly do a lot worse and he does help address some legitimate holes.