I love the NBA Draft. Most of that stems from how many times the Wizards have drafted in the lottery during my fandom. More times than not, they screwed up those picks but every year the draft was a source of renewed hope and optimism. Now that the Wizards are bad again I can dive back into draft evaluations without feeling guilty. How’s that for a glass half full approach?
With their recent skid, the Wizards currently sit tied for 18th in the draft order at the time of this writing. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games but several teams are pretty close to them in terms of record and recent performance. The Celtics, who are also 4-6 in their last 10, are one game behind the Wizards and have the last pick in the lottery.
Below are just a few of my favorite prospects, so far, that are projected outside the lottery and might actually fill a need for the Wizards. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in an NBA Draft episode of the Bleav in Wizards podcast at this point in the season.
JD Davison, 6-3, point guard, Alabama, freshman
JD Davison is my draft crush so far this season. He’s a crazy athlete, will only be 19 years old on draft day, is shooting 38% from three, and looks fearless attacking the rim. Alabama also runs one of the most NBA-comparable offenses in college basketball which might help him adjust more quickly.
So far, Davison is shooting the ball efficiently from the field. His effective field goal and true shooting percentages are encouraging and he gets to the free-throw line a healthy amount. His turnovers are a bit too high but that’s not unexpected from a freshman point guard playing in a fast-paced offense.
He’s also been pretty clutch for an Alabama team that looks like one of the best teams in the country. Davison had 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a win over Gonzaga. He also helped seal their win against a ranked Houston team with a go-ahead dunk and game-saving block. How many point guards can you say that about?
Even if Spencer Dinwiddie regains his fringe All-Star form, he’s still a bit of a combo guard and the two could play well together. I don’t expect Raul Neto back next year on a team-friendly deal so they’re likely going to be in the market for another point guard. Thus far, the Cassius Winston experiment hasn’t really panned out and I don’t have much optimism that he’s a long-term contributor for this team.
Nikola Jovic, 6-10, small forward, Mega Bemax (Serbia)
I know, I know. A good percentage of you are going to cringe when you see another international name. But Deni Advijda has grown on most people so keep an open mind until you at least see him play, please. What Advija is to defense, Jovic is to offense. He might be the most well-rounded scorer in this class. Picture European Brandon Ingram.
Jovic, who will barely be 19 on draft day, is an oversized wing who can handle, pass, and score. He runs the floor hard, he plays tough, has some attitude, and isn’t afraid to take advantage of smaller defenders. Jovic isn’t very explosive but he moves and cuts well to get to his spots. He isn’t much of a defender at this point but, theoretically, he offers good positional versatility. Plus, his name is really close to Nikola Jokic and it seems worth a shot to see if he ends up anywhere as close to as good of a player.
Rafael Barlowe, one of the hosts of the Locked On NBA Draft podcast, is one of the most well-versed international talent evaluators. He’s probably watched as much of Jovic as anyone.
“Nikola Jovic a skilled oversized wing that can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court with a game that fits the modern day NBA,” said Barlowe. “At 6’10” Jovic creates mismatches all over the floor. He has the size of a center and the skill set of a guard. Although he lacks ideal footspeed he’s finds way to get to the rack by attacking closeouts or using ball screens. Jovic is also a pretty good shot creator that can make defenders pay for going under screens; or break his man down off the dribble and splash a clutch step back 3s like he did vs Japan at the U19 World Cup.”
Mark Williams, 7-0, center, Duke, sophomore
Williams is an imposing presence around the rim. He’s a center in the Daniel Gafford mode but with more size. He rebounds and protects the rim at a very high level. He looked like a grown man in Duke’s win over Gonzaga. That helped show a projectable role for him in the NBA as a lob threat and shot-blocker.
I can’t gauge his lateral quickness well enough to tell how he will defend in space against quicker NBA guards but he should at least be serviceable in that area. He’s pretty raw offensively and I wouldn’t bank on him ever being much of a floor-spacer.
Either Harrell or Bryant (or potentially both) seem likely to be gone next season and the Wizards will be in the market for another center. Taking a shot on someone like Williams in the mid-to-late first round seems worth consideration. There really aren’t a ton of other centers likely to go in that range who seem worth tracking.
Johnny Davis, 6-5, shooting guard, Wisconsin, sophomore
If you want an athletic scorer off the bench, Davis could be your guy. He’s got the ability to create his own shot and score off the dribble. He’s currently shooting around 37% from three and 82% from the free-throw line, which is a good indicator of long-term perimeter shooting success. Davis also has the tools to be a good defender.
The Wizards don’t really have a backup shooting guard at the moment. Beal’s future seems a bit uncertain at the moment with reports of him not being willing to commit. Having a young prospect to groom might not be a bad idea.