The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie was recently on the Bleav in Wizards podcast and mentioned a few names that he liked for the Wizards with the 37th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Some of those names I was more familiar with than others. One that got my attention was Mississippi State sophomore wing Robert Woodard II.
Woodard was someone I had read a fair amount about but had yet to do a deep dive on. On Vecenie’s recommendation, I decided to venture down that rabbit hole. Needless to say, I liked what I saw for the most part. Once again, the NBA Playoffs have emphasized the need for 3-and-D wing depth and that’s certainly an area where the Wizards are lacking. Woodard could be just the man they’re looking for.
In his latest mock draft, Vecenie had Woodard going 30th to the Boston Celtics. He described Woodard by saying, “Woodard is 6-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and has displayed some shooting acumen. He’s as a great kid who has gotten rave reviews from teams in interviews.”
Robert Woodard II, 6’7ish, small forward
I realize he’s a wing but he was a legitimate rim-protector for Mississippi State this year. He blocked guys at the rim in spectacular fashion when they tried to go right at him and had several emphatic chase-down blocks. At 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan he has the length to be a real deterrent by stopping penetration and protecting the rim. There aren’t a lot of wings in this draft who can offer that level of defensively versatility.
At about 230 pounds, he already has the bulk to bang with the LeBrons and Kawhis of the world, something sorely missing from most of the Wizards current wings. He may not have the superior quickness needed to stay in front of the fastest guards in the league but not many players do. His lateral movement is more than good enough to guard most wings. He’s a good athlete, even by NBA standards, and I think that will allow him to guard 1 through 4 in the league (maybe even a few 5’s if Houston decides to run it back).
His three-point percentage jumped from 29-percent to 43-percent between his freshmen and sophomore season. Granted it was on a limited sample size (he went 30-for-70) but his shot looks just about as good as several of the wing prospects projected to go higher than him.
He was only a 64-percent free-throw shooter, which is typically concerning, but I have faith in his shooting being for real. He looked really smooth from the mid-range and unlike Rui Hachimura his shot isn’t flat. Not to knock on Hachimura but I think the team has been pretty open about the need to retool that aspect of his jumper. Woodard’s form makes it seem like he will be able to make a smoother transition to the NBA line.
On the downside, I don’t see him ever being a much of a facilitator and he seemed comfortable taking a back seat too much at times this year. I’ve also seen some concerns that his release is slow from the perimeter or that his handle is a little too sloppy. Both of those seem like things that will work themselves out with NBA coaches and more reps. I’m more focused on what he does well: defend all over the court, spread the floor, rebound well for a wing, set good screens, fill open space, and make smarts passes.
And when was the last time the Wizards had a big time athlete who could catch lobs and throw down some nasty dunks? I literally don’t remember. Kelly Oubre at times? JaVale McGee maybe? The current roster is certainly devoid of upper-echelon athletes.
The most common comparison I’ve seen is to former second overall pick Marvin Williams. Williams is a little taller and a little longer but the overall physical profile is similar. During his NBA career, Williams averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 36-percent from the three-point line. He also routinely took on the toughest defensive match-up each night (excluding centers).
Williams never lived up to the hype that got him drafted so early but he still had a very productive NBA career. If Woodard ends up having a similar impact and he’s still on the board at 37, that would be a steal.
The thing that fully sold me on Woodard was listening to a recent interview he did. Tommy Sheppard has had a strict “No Knucklehead” policy when filling out the roster and Woodard is a high-character guy. If the Wizards opt to take a big in the first round, I would be extremely happy if Woodard was available for them to take at 37. Honestly, even if they took a wing in the first round, I’d still be happy if they took him in the second.
His range seems to be anywhere from 25 to 45 depending on how much the evaluator believes in his shooting. For as much talk as there’s been about this being a weak draft, I would feel fully confident in saying I expect Woodard to come in and make way more of an immediate impact than last year’s second round pick. I think he would have a lot more long-term upside as well.