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NBA Draft 2021: Expert analysis on the prospects who should be on the Wizards’ radar

Rafael Barlowe, host of the Locked On NBA Draft podcast and founder of NBA Draft Junkies, joined the Bleav in Wizards podcast for a Wizards-centric draft breakdown.

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Usman Garuba protecting the rim for Real Madrid
Photo by Sonia Canada/Getty Images

Prior to each NBA draft, Larry Hughes and I try to have at least one NBA draft analyst on the Bleav in Wizards podcast to help fans gain a deeper understanding of all the prospects who the Wizards could potentially be considering. Two years ago we had Matt Babcock of and last year we had Sam Vecenie from The Athletic.

For this year’s draft extravaganza, we were joined by a real up-and-comer on the NBA Draft scene, Rafael Barlowe. Barlowe runs his own draft coverage website called NBA Draft Junkies as well as a successful YouTube page by the same name. Barlowe is also one of the hosts of the Locked On NBA Draft podcast and a frequent collaborator of Chad Ford, who is also on the Locked On Podcast Network.

If you can’t see the embed above, click here to listen to the episode.

Given that Tommy Sheppard told reporters at his postseason media session that he would like to add athletic wings who can shoot and defend, we asked Barlowe about potential 3-and-D candidates who might be available at 15. Moses Moody and James Bouknight were two names that he liked for Washington but didn’t think would be available after the lottery.

Michigan sophomore Franz Wagner, who is younger than a lot of the freshmen in this draft, was another name Barlowe thought made sense for the Wizards and could possibly be available on draft night. He sees Wagner as a “jack of all trades, connective tissue” type of player.

“It just depends on are they looking for high upside or someone who can come in and contribute right away,” said Barlowe with regards to the Wizards’ likely direction. Based on that, he finds the Wizards to be the toughest team to predict when preparing a mock draft.

Stanford freshman Ziaire Williams would certainly qualify as the high upside option and could be available at 15. He’s a 6-10 wing with potential as a shot creator and defender. Barlowe is finding Williams to be a difficult prospect to fully gauge as he had a reputation as an elite high school prospect but his collegiate production didn’t really support that.

Stanford was an especially difficult environment for a raw player as they were forced to live out of hotel rooms and play on the road for the majority of the season during the pandemic. This also limited his time to work on his game and even practice with teammates. With more structure in an NBA setting it’s certainly possible that Williams could make a massive leap over the next year or two.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Stanford
Ziaire Williams after hitting a 3 for Stanford
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Duarte, a senior out of Oregon, was Barlowe’s example of a more NBA-ready prospect.

“He’s a little older, I think he’ll be 24 on opening day,” said Barlowe. “I think he’s someone that you can plug in right away, that can come in and play and knock down shots.”

Given that Tommy Sheppard broke from traditional consensus when he selected Rui Hachimura at 9 (he was in the 20’s of a lot of draft boards), I wanted to know if there were any prospects that made sense for the Wizards but were projected later in the first round. Trey Murphy out of Virginia is a prospect who could fit that 3-and-D mold for the Wizards but Barlowe believes he would be a considerable reach at 15. He did like Murphy’s shooting ability as a 6’9 wing.

Several prominent mock drafts have linked the Wizards to power forward and center prospects, specifically Usman Garuba from Real Madrid, Alperen Sengun who was MVP of the Turkish League, and Isaiah Jackson from Kentucky. Barlowe was highest on Garuba and felt he could end up as the best defender in this draft.

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Alperen Sengun shooting a free throw
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We also talked about several other prospects who might make sense for the Wizards at 15 including Australia’s Josh Giddey, Duke’s Jalen Johnson, Tennessee’s Keon Johnson, and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert. Of those four, Barlowe seemed to like Kispert’s potential as an additional floor spacer next to Russell Westbrook.

Barlowe also provided insight into the prospects the Wizards have worked out so far. At the time of our recording, the Wizards have brought in: Greg Brown of Texas, Charles Bassey of Western Kentucky, Isaiah Todd from the G League Ignite, Jay Huff of Virginia, Colbey Ross of Pepperdine, Blake Francis of Richmond, Troy Baxter Jr. of Morgan State, Obadiah Noel of UMass Lowell, Jamorko Pickett, and Devontae Shuler of Ole Miss.

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Isaiah Todd shooting a jumper in the G League bubble
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

We also covered where Deni Avdija would have gone in this year’s draft, what teams learn from working prospects out in person, how much Westbrook and Bradley Beal are paying attention to this draft process, advising Kwame Brown on focusing on the defensive end, and how much of a disadvantage the Wizards might be at by working out players before selecting a coach.