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Wizards stick to tradition during NBA conference finals

The tradition? Searching for a new head coach and the draft

Turkey v Sweden - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers
Could Turkish big man Alperen Sengun be available when the Wizards pick at 15?
Photo by Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The NBA’s conference finals are well under way, which means the Wizards are engaged in their most cherished traditions: searching for a new coach and evaluating draft prospects.

While many have sought to bring a level of science to each of these pursuits, there are always factors beyond the scope of analysis. My bright idea over the years was to hire someone with a winning history in the minor leagues. A number of winning coaches, including Phil Jackson, had this profile.

But, so did Dave Joerger, whose personality alienated players, coaches, executives and others, and Nate Bjorkrgen, who lost the Indiana Pacers locker room and got fired after one season.

As outsiders looking in, there’s only so much we can know about the relative merits of assistant coaches. It’s unlikely that any team picked a coach they knew would be terrible — even a franchise with a tanking strategy wants player/asset development. The fact that bad coaches get (and sometimes keep) jobs is testament to a) how difficult it can be to determine whether someone will be good at the job, and b) the power of The Old Boys Club.

In other words, the Wizards should leverage Tommy Sheppard’s extensive connections and pick the person they think is right for the job. Even for coaches with a “proven” record, the only way to find out if they’ll be successful in this city is to give them the job.

I’ll be doing much more on the draft in the coming days, because there’s at least an opportunity for more science in the process of selecting players than there is in choosing a coach. Future NBA players compete at lower levels, and their production can be measured, quantified and compared.

There’s more to the process, of course, and teams spend time and money conducting background checks, psychological interviews, and talking with former coaches and teammates. As you’ll read in my musings on the draft (assuming you click on links with my byline), I’ve assembled a stat-based draft analysis tool dubbed Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA for short).

YODA came together as an experiment to see if it was possible to rank prospects using nothing more than publicly available stats and measurements. Turns out...kinda-sorta. It’s surely not worse than how NBA teams have typically made their selections, though it still has its misses (for example, J.J. Redick was one of the lowest rated players in YODA history and he turned out to be a good NBA player).

As usual. YODA’s rankings — which could change based on additional information — differs somewhat from what you may find on draft boards elsewhere. Here’s the current YODA top five:

  • Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey
  • Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga
  • Evan Mobley, C, USC
  • Jalen Green, G, G-League Ignite
  • Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State

When the Wizards pick at 15, it’s likely a good prospect — like Sengun — will be available. Whether the Wizards pick one of those good prospects is another question.

What’s not in question is the Wizards’ strict observance of franchise tradition. When the games are at their most meaningful, Washington is focused on the upcoming draft.