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February mailbag answers Part 2 of 3: Who should the Wizards draft, hire as a coach and more

In this part, I’ll answer questions that came in the comments.

Must-see freshmen: Ten intriguing newcomers for the 2020-21 college basketball season
Is Cade Cunningham the best fit for the Washington Wizards if they can draft him?
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Thank you again for the questions in our February mailbag. I’ll answer selected questions from the comments in our original post. If you missed Part 1, click here,


Does Cade Cunningham have Luka Doncic potential? (DCRez)

I don’t. for now.

Cunningham may be the projected No. 1 pick of next year’s draft, and he may be shooting well from beyond three for Oklahoma State. But unlike Doncic, Cunningham is playing against a group of players who are for the most part, not as good as he is at this time. Doncic wasn’t necessarily in that same situation in the Spanish and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for Real Madrid.

That said, he should be a solid contributor for any team he ends up getting on.

If John Wall were still on the Wizards, how good would they be? (GreatWallofWizards)

I think Washington would be about where they are are right now, or 8-17. Like Westbrook, Wall would have missed one game of a back-to-back series for much of this season to date. And I also don’t see the Wizards playing appreciably better on either end of the floor. And I also assume that the coronavirus outbreak would have hit them just as hard.

If Wall were still on the Wizards, the team would still likely have the “Wall vs. Beal conflict” that they have had over the past several seasons. While both guards never hated each other personally, they have acknowledged that their styles of play weren’t necessarily compatible with each other at times. While the Rockets have played close to .500 ball with Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, possibly better than they otherwise would have, I don’t think that the Wizards would be much better than they are right now with Wall as their starting point guard instead of Westbrook.

The Atlanta Hawks need a backup point guard. Would you trade Ish Smith there? (GWOW)

Since Rajon Rondo is currently out due to a back ailment (and I don’t want him in Washington to be honest), it makes sense for Atlanta to want someone like Smith for a deeper playoff push.

But who would they be willing to send to Washington barring a third team getting involved? Unless they let go of Rondo, whom I wouldn’t want anyway, there’s no way such a deal makes sense to me.

They aren’t letting go of their younger key players like Onyeka Okongwu or Kevin Huerter, among others.

Did Tommy Sheppard and Ted Leonsis make a mistake for saying that Thomas Bryant is the Wizards’ future starting center? (GWOW)

It’s a bit early to give a final answer, but I’m leaning toward saying yes. That’s not because of Bryant’s talent though.

It’s because Bryant is out for the season due to an ACL tear and because the team may very well rebuild from the ground up next season if the Wizards overhaul their front office after this season.

If you had to choose between Jonathan Kuminga (NBA G-League Unite) and Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), who would you choose and why? (jayscott)

At this time, I’m leaning toward Cunningham right now because he can play the point guard position which is a more acute need since we know that Westbrook is probably not staying in Washington beyond his current contract. Also, Avdija can play Kuminga’s position and he’s already shown great promise at the professional level before getting drafted.

Can a new coach bring this Wizards team to the 8th seed? Or is it too late? (GWOW)

I think it’s too late at this point because I don’t think the Wizards will fire Brooks midseason barring something very ugly happening in the locker room that involves him. The goal for Washington at this point is to finish in the Top 10 so they can have a shot to make the playoffs in a play-in tournament. Even if they are eighth in the regular season standings, the Wizards will still have to play-in for a spot.

That said, coronavirus outbreaks can affect other NBA teams (ex — the San Antonio Spurs right now) at any time. So it’s possible that another Eastern Conference team or two misses a couple weeks due to COVID-19, like Washington last month.

If so, that should help them given that half of the roster already had the coronavirus and will likely not test positive again. Let’s just hope that everyone follows mask wearing and social distancing to further eliminate the chances of players being quarantined once again.

What should the Wizards look at when considering a possible new leader for their front office? (multiple comments asked this more or less)

I’m not answering this question regarding Masai Ujiri specifically. This is because the Wizards have told me that they have denied looking to hire him (a/k/a the Wizards fanbase’s dream candidate) earlier this month. and told another publication to retract an unfounded report in another publication.

But let’s assume that Sheppard is fired after the season and also look for someone to oversee all basketball player moves for the Wizards alone and no one else, here’s what I would look for:

  • A proven track record of scouting mid to late draft picks who have successful careers on a perennial basis
  • Someone who is quick to fire coaches or let players go if a bigger opportunity comes up or at an early sign of potential instability
  • Someone who is also willing to let young staff members AND players develop if they have potential AND are otherwise showing the right mentality. Even better when there’s a track record of success with these folks as well.

I think every team is looking for someone with these attributes, but again, that’s what I’m looking for in any General Manager, not just for the Wizards.

Thanks again for all of the questions. I’m sorry if I was unable to answer every one.

We will have the third part of our mailbag answers tomorrow.