We’re back for the latest installment of Broom & Rubinstein converse — a running series of written conversations between Bullets Forever writers Kevin Broom and Yanir Rubinstein. This time we are starting a new subseries dubbed Broom & Rubinstein reminisce, which means they go so deep into Wizards history they need an excavator. If you like nerds discussing hoops — this one’s for you.
YANIR RUBINSTEIN: The historian in me really wanted this one.
KEVIN BROOM: As long as you don’t hog useless historical comparisons. That’s my move.
YR: It’s really about establishing the legacy here of two of the Wizards’ future Mount Rushmore carvees.
KB: That’s not a word.
YR: Not even in Canadian?
OK, so let’s get on with business. We’re going to grade each draft pick the Wizards made under GM Ernie Grunfeld and do the same for GM Tommy Sheppard. Then we’ll be able to quantitatively compare GM Ernie to GM Tommy and see who was the superior drafter.
KB: It’s kinda tempting to say “both bad” and move on to useless historical comparisons...
YR: I’ve had better ideas. But you said yes, so it’s also on you.
KB: Before we start talking about draft picks, there’s another topic we should kick around: whether it’s fair to assess GMs using hindsight. I have some thoughts, but what do you think?
YR: I mean if we do it for all GMs in the same way then its fair, since the goal here is really to compare two GMs and not study one GM in an absolute sense.
KB: To me, it’s completely fair, and I don’t think it makes sense to just say “well other GMs missed too.” At the GM level, the NBA is a prediction game. In the draft, each selection is a bet that the player you select will be better for your team than any of the other options. There’s some luck involved, of course, but the competition between GMs is literally about predictions.
YR: Well, to a large extent, yes. To some extent, it comes down to the GM, luck, and the development department. Not sure how it splits between these three factors.
By luck one could mean a lot of things, including injuries, situational things (like a young guy that suddenly develops thanks to a starter getting traded, say).
By development department, I mean the quality of the player development in the team. To some extent that is on the GM and the head-coach to hire those guys, so I guess this comes back to the GM.
KB: So I guess we agree. Next up on our agenda, resolving the Ukraine-Russia war...
YR: Stop using ChatGPT, Dr. Broom.
KB: Back to reality, I do think we should include a “what was known (or should have been known) at the time” factor in analyzing selections. Like, it’s tough to ding a GM for missing on Alex Caruso or Garrett Temple — guys who had nondescript college careers. It’s something else entirely to pick Deni Avdija over Tyrese Haliburton, for example.
YR: How should we do this then — chronologically or reverse chronologically?
YR: Sure, I’m going with the flow.
KB: Don’t worry, readers, we’ll have some kind of chronological something at the end.
So...Grunfeld took over the Wizards after the 2003 draft, and Sheppard replaced him in 2019.
YR: I remember it like it was yesterday, I mean the Grunfeld firing press conference, before the season ended.
KB: Followed by hard target search for a new GM that included a search firm and dozens of clandestine interviews...all to hire a guy who’d been in the building for Grunfeld’s entire tenure.
So we’re looking at drafts from 2004 to 2022.
YR: That leaves Ernie about 15 drafts compared to Tommy’s four. But Ernie gave up some picks, so in some years he didn’t draft. We’ll get back to the final count later.
KB: My random number generator says to start with 2017, which is cool because it might have been one of Grunfeld’s best drafts — no bad picks at all!
YR: That’s because the Wizards made no picks.
KB: Well, I mean...yeah, if you want to get stuck in the weeds. To get serious a moment, this was the summer after the disastrous 2016 free agency class. Grunfeld used this pick to dump Andrew Nicholson’s shiny new contract and rent a couple months of Bojan Bogdanovich. The Nets turned the pick into Jarrett Allen.
YR: Other notables selected after this pick — OG Anunoby, Kyle Kuzma, Derrick White, Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Dillon Brooks.
KB: Any of them would have looked better in a Wizards uniform than no one. Even accounting for the benefit that derived from offloading Nicholson’s deal.
YR: Not sure about the last one and all the associated fines... Actually, in the famous “Brooks Who?” fiasco shortly before Grunfeld’s dismissal he did try to trade for Dillon Brooks. But, alas, his genius deal would have netted MarShon Brooks. They would have hung on to Scotty Brooks though.
KB: Back to why they didn’t have any picks: Grunfeld traded their second round pick (52nd overall) for Tim Frazier. Which...you know, fine. Edmond Sumner got picked there.
YR: You still want to stand by that “might have been one of Grunfeld’s better drafts” claim?
KB: Maybe. Probably. Let’s see how the rest of this goes. Next up: 2010.
YR: This was a complex draft for the Wizards. Let’s start with the easiest part.
That was Johnathan Hildred Wall, Jr.
I grade it an A+. Aced it. I don’t see a better player down the board, even in retrospect. Franchise player, five-time All-Star (2014-18) and one-time third-team All-NBA (2017). He’s no longer an NBA player, and not even a EuroLeague player (although there were rumors about Messina recruiting him this summer). But he was the greatest Wizard of the 21st century.
KB: Low bar on that last one, but even with the powers of hindsight, there’s no one in that draft to pick over Wall. The Wizards reportedly thought about Evan Turner, which would have been classic #SoWizards. Wall was an absolute no-brainer pick.
YR: Now to the messier, rest of that year’s draft dealings. First, some facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Washington acquired Kirk Hinrich, the draft rights to 17th pick Kevin Seraphin and cash considerations from Chicago in exchange for the draft rights to Vladimir Veremeenko. The trade was finalized on July 8, 2010, after the new salary cap went into effect and the league moratorium period concluded.
But that wasn’t all:
I can’t really say something intelligent about this sequence of events. Personally, I would have converted Trevor Booker into Trevor Ariza, Devin Booker, and cash considerations. OK, this is a bad joke. Anyway, your thoughts?
KB: In terms of maneuvering, Grunfeld did well. He gave up basically nothing for Hinrich (who was decent) and the 17th pick. He gave up basically nothing to acquire Booker, who was decent when healthy enough to play. Reasonable value for where he was picked. Seraphin was terrible outside a semi-useful stretch in his second season. Kinda the full Ernie Experience — excellent deal-making and crappy talent evaluation.
- Kevin — C+
- Yanir — B-
YR: OK, 2006. This is before I was born, but let’s try. Weird draft. I mean a guy named Andrea Bargnani went number one overall to the Toronto Raptors. He later played in the NBA, scored some points. He also got some rebounds. It’s hard to say he left a mark.
KB: He left a mark on Knicks fans. Masai Ujiri somehow took a meh player who was often injured, and whose performance even when healthy was already in decline, and convinced New York to give him Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a first round pick (who became Jakob Poeltl) and two second rounders. A decade later, Knicks fans are still chapped.
YR: And now let’s analyze the Grunfeldian moves of that critical Draft Night.
The Wizards first pick wasn’t until #18. Do you remember why they had no lottery picks?
KB: Yep — they made the playoffs and lost in the first round to the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Entertaining series. This was Gilbert Arenas’ third season with the team, and he was close to the height of his powers at that point.
YR: They choose Oleksiy Pecherov from Ukraine at #18 and Vladimir Veremeenko from Belarus at #48. That’s it. No trades, no pick sales. I mean, it was a weird night.
Pecherov played sparingly (about nine minutes per game for sixty-ish games over two seasons 2007-09) for the Wizards, leaving the league the next season. Veremeenko never made it to the league.
Guys left on the board: Renaldo Balkman (#20), Rajon Rondo (#21), Marcus Williams (#22), Kyle Lowry (#24), Sergio Rodríguez (#27), PJ Tucker (#35) (incidentally, same draft spot as Draymond, years later), David Noel (#39, I’m just mentioning him because he’s an assistant on the Go-Go now...), Paul Millsap (#47), Ryan Hollins (#50).
KB: Pecherov didn’t turn out well, and still to me the only “misses” were Rondo and Lowry. And Millsap, I guess. I wasn’t a draftnik back then, but I suspect I would have wanted to pick one of them. When I had YODA retrodict previous drafts using only information available at the time, Millsap came out as a top 10 pick in most drafts.
On the other hand, I just ran Pecherov’s pre-draft numbers through YODA, and his grade was consistent with someone picked in the 20s. Maybe a modest reach. I give Grunfeld a little credit because Pecherov was a stretch-four type who could have become a nice complement to Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler. The theory of Pecherov was at least correct. But he didn’t catch up to the NBA game and got bounced from the league quick.
- Kevin — B
- Yanir — C+
YR: Are you sure this list is randomized? Anyway: Nick Young at #16, and Dominic McGuire at #47.
KB: Bizarre draft. Young was thoroughly substandard, and he added immaturity and idiocy to the locker room. And yet, even in retrospect, Grunfeld didn’t miss on anyone who went later. Maybe Wilson Chandler? Jared Dudley? Tiago Splitter? The big whiff was picking McGuire one spot ahead of Marc Gasol. Ugh.
YR: I guess, we can agree on a solid C for that year?
KB: I’ll give him a D. If there are no good players available, at least pick the good locker room guy.
YR: I’ll give Ernie a break on that aspect — it’s hard to foresee those kind of things.
- Kevin — D
- Yanir — C+
KB: The randomizer jumps us to 2011, arguably the worst draft in franchise history.
YR: They picked Jan Vesely at six, ahead of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (who went 15th!!!), and Nikola Vucevic. Then at 18, they chose Chris Singleton over Tobias Harris (19), Kenneth Faried (22), Nikola Mirotic (23), Reggie Jackson (24), Cory Joseph (29), Jimmy Butler (30), and Bojan Bogdanovic (31).
KB: A quintessential display of Grunfeld’s talent evaluation problem.
YR: I’m not sure I agree. I think Vesely could be more a player development problem. I mean do you see Kawhi developing to the All-NBA guy he was in the Wizards? Big maybe.
Do you see Vesely developing into a player better than Zubac in the Spurs? Why not.
At any rate, as we discussed earlier, development is the other side of your responsibility as a GM, so it’s on Grunfeld. I grade this pick as a D-.
KB: So I agree in part that this was a player development problem, but I think fundamentally it does come back to talent evaluation. For some reason, Grunfeld imagined Vesely could be Washington’s version of Dirk Nowitzki even though Vesely never shot it like Dirk. I mean, he never even shot it like Avdija.
At least with someone like Kawhi, they would have been less likely to do something stupid developmentally like try to play him at point guard. They’d have gotten him to work on his shot, and he was doing that anyway.
There was nothing about the Singleton pick that made any sense.
YR: Then at 35, they picked Shelvin Mack instead of players like Chandler Parsons (38), Jon Leuer (40), and the Latvian Laser, a.k.a. the “$80 million man”, Davis Bertans (42).
KB: Don’t forget Isaiah Thomas, who went 60th.
YR: Everybody missed on him. Very undersized, hard to blame Ernie for that.
KB: My early version of YODA had Thomas with a first-round grade, and that was even after accounting for his size. Weird but true: Mack was the team’s most productive pick from that year, and they cut him twice to keep players who were worse.
- Kevin — F
- Yanir — D
KB: It’s hard to keep so many possibilities in your head in the same time, but this is up there with 2011 and 2016 as the most destructive offseasons in franchise history. Then owner Abe Pollin was ailing, and he told Grunfeld to trade the fifth overall pick for veteran help because Pollin wanted to win another championship before he died.
Grunfeld swapped the pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, both of whom were gone after one season. And in an all-in, “just win baby,” scenario, the Wizards went 25-57.
YR: As if we needed a reminder, the trade sidelined the Wizards in a generational draft. They could have picked Stephen Curry (7), DeMar DeRozan (10), even Ricky Rubio (5).
KB: Further down in that draft were Jrue Holiday (17), Ty Lawson (18), Jeff Teague (19), and Darren Collison (21). Knowing Grunfeld, he would have taken Jonny Flynn (6) or Eric Maynor (20).
YR: In round two, Grunfeld sold the 32nd overall pick — picks in the second round that typically yield good player value — to the Houston Rockets, who picked Jermaine Taylor. They could have used the pick to select: DeJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, Jodie Meeks, Patrick “Play-In Fame” Beverly, Chase Budinger, or Danny Green.
KB: The second round is the perfect place to pick someone like Blair, by the way. Insane production with the build of an NFL lineman and not a single ACL in his body (he tore both, never got them repaired, and played high level college basketball while his body absorbed the damaged ligaments. He was decent for the Spurs for 3-4 seasons, kinda meh for the Mavericks for a year, and cratered when he got to Washington.
KB: At 18, Grunfeld picked JaVale McGee. In retrospect, he could have had some better players like Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, or George Hill. But McGee was a swing — a seven-footer with freakish athleticism. If he maxes out his potential, that’s an elite player. Unfortunately, he was immature, and also had ADHD and declined to medicate.
YR: He turned out to be a contributor to three champion teams. It’s especially evident how important he was for the Warriors looking at the undersized debacle of a team they were last season (going on a tangent: as if Kerr didn’t learn from that debacle, he then copied the same failed model to Team USA of Summer 2023 to go medal-less).
KB: Grunfeld sold the second round pick (Henry Walker, 47th) to the Celtics. No one who went later did much in the NBA.
YR: We’re not grading the no-picks, but it is quite frustrating to see what a serial seller Ernie was.
- Kevin — C+
- Yanir — C+
YR: Oh, man, what a nightmare of an offseason (which also included hiring an over-priced Scotty Brooks). No picks. They traded their first (13th overall) to the Suns (along with Kris Humprhies and DeJuan Blair) for Markieff Morris and officially separated the Morris brothers. The Suns picked Georgios Papagiannis. The Wizards used their second rounder to move up in the previous draft to select Kelly Oubre Jr. (more on that later).
KB: Morris was mediocre, but it’s fair to say the Wizards won that trade. They really didn’t miss out on much at 13 — the real value at that point or later came much later with Pascal Siakam (27), DeJounte Murray (29), and Malcolm Brogdon (36).
YR: Also, Morris was key for them developing some sort of character (if not culture), and was solid for several years on a really reasonable contract. He was considered the better brother but later declined considerably and could/would no longer defend, while his brother became a solid rotation player in the Celtics and elsewhere while he became a cheerleader from the bench on a number of teams.
KB: I thought Morris was more faux tough than actually tough, and I thought both he and his brother were different flavors of average at their best.
They traded their second round pick to Atlanta, which drafted someone named Isaia Cordinier, who never played in the NBA.
KB: Grunfeld’s first draft with the team, and naturally he traded the pick — fifth overall to the Dallas Mavericks for Antawn Jamison.
YR: He could have picked Devin Harris (5), Josh Childress (6), or Luol Deng (7).
KB: The trade was still fine. Dallas got good value from Harris; the Wizards got good production from Jamison. In round two, he chose Peter John Ramos 34th overall, which was a terrible pick because Ramos was too slow and unskilled to play in the NBA. But it’s hard to count that as too much of a whiff considering the detritus picked around that spot.
YR: Could have picked Trevor Ariza, who later cost them various picks and Kelly Oubre over the years...
Kevin — D
Yanir — C+
YR: Finally a Sheppard draft — chose Rui Hachimura ninth overall, and then bought a second round pick to select the amazingly named Admiral Schofield.
KB: They “needed” to buy back into the second because Grunfeld traded their pick (which turned out to be 36th overall) back in 2015 to get Oubre.
YR: You keep rubbing it in...
This was a typical Sheppard pick. Not great, not terrible. Not clear at all Hachimura couldn’t have been had closer to 20th. Again, it seems like partly a player development or coaching issue, especially seeing how well he instantly plugged-in with the Darvin Ham—LeBron James Lakers. He also didn’t quite fit in the locker room, and missed half a season due to “personal reasons”.
KB: The only real difference between Hachimura in Washington and Hachimura in Los Angeles was field goals made. In other words, he shot a little better.
YR: Respectfully disagree. In Los Angeles his role was defined much more clearly. He wasn’t expected to do much more than score and show flashes of rebounding and a bit of defense. They maximized his best qualities and benched him when the match-ups weren’t favorable for him.
Anyway, Tommy did did get three second rounders for him, which isn’t bad at all in my view.
KB: It was fine, though it’s kinda telling that the Lakers got three second rounders when they traded Thomas Bryant to the Nuggets.
YR: Right, it seems there has been some deflation in the value of second-rounders league-wide.
Back to the draft, they could have had Cam Johnson (11), P.J. Washington (12), or Brandon Clarke (21)... or... Tyler Herro (13), Grant Williams (22). Sure, but they could have also fallen for Cam Reddish (10), Sekou Doumbouya (15).
KB: At least he didn’t pick Reddish. The idea of Schofield — tough 3&D forward — was fine. The problem: he was too stiff and slow and didn’t shoot well enough to make that work. Basically, not close to good enough.
YR: Coolest name eva though. Which was enough to make Wizards’ fans happy for a minute.
- Kevin — D-
- Yanir — C-
YR: Sheppard’s third draft. At 15, he took Corey Kispert, ahead of Trey Murphy (17), Alperen Sengun (16), and Tre Mann (18). Then he traded the pick that became Isaiah Jackson for Aaron Holiday and the pick that became Isaiah Todd.
KB: I would have been okay with the Kispert pick if Sengun hadn’t been on the board. I had Sengun with a top five grade in YODA. If the pick was either Kispert or Murphy, Murphy should have been the guy (which I would have gotten wrong). The trade was preposterous. Holiday was replacement level. There was nothing in Todd’s season with G League Ignite to suggest he’d be a successful NBA player.
YR: It was as if they tried to correct for the years of going for Euro talent, but what a colossal miss on Sengun. Anybody watching European basketball knew this is a guy to take seriously. True, he never played in the EuroLeague, but he was announced the MVP of the Turkish league a month before the draft. And in fairness, Sheppard did pick another Euro MVP in Avdija, but the Turkish league is way way stronger than the Israeli league.
For me the trade that got them the 22nd pick in the first place from the Lakers was extraordinary. One of the most impressive moves by a Wizards GM ever. But then the use of that pick was indeed infuriating. Even putting aside the Todd pick (there weren’t that many great picks after him), the Aaron Holiday trade was plain stupid. Another undersized guard on a team with a long history of them. Ouch.
- Kevin — D-
- Yanir — D-
YR: a.k.a., Ernie’s last pick.
KB: And it was a doozy — Troy Brown Jr. when Robert Williams was on the board. Also could have had Donte DiVincenzo (17), Kevin Huerter (19), Josh Okogie (20), Grayson Allen (21), or Anfernee Simons (24).
YR: And Lonnie “4th quarter” Walker, IV (18), who basically eliminated the Warriors and gave LeBron his revenge for the sweep in the 2018 Finals.
But, I don’t think Grayson Allen looked that promising at the time. Neither did Kevin Huerter. Donte DiVicenzo — I’m with you on that one, especially after his stellar Final Four performance in Villanova uniform.
KB: I can’t include Walker on a list of misses. In fairness, Brown’s second season wasn’t bad. Plus, Grunfeld was reeling because (reportedly) Jerome Robinson was the guy he really wanted, and Robinson went two picks earlier to...Michael Winger and the Los Angeles Clippers.
YR: Who himself missed on Michael Porter, Jr. (14)! Winger ain’t no saint...
Tommy did bring Robinson for the 2020-21 season. So maybe it was Tommy that wanted him? BTW, that’s a shaky point in this whole comparison: how much of Ernie’s decisions were really Tommy’s...
KB: I assure you that the decision-maker during Grufneld’s time at the helm was Grunfeld. Others had input, especially Sheppard, but the final call was Grunfeld’s. In round two, they picked Issuf Sanon when they could have drafted De’Anthony Melton or Keita Bates-Diop.
YR: Yikes. That was a true OMG pick. Issuf “who?” Sanon. Bunch of good guys after Sanon (44). Sanon would have been acceptable as a late 50s pick... G-d.
KB: Sorry but no — not even in the 50s. Sanon remains one of the most baffling picks I’ve seen, which is saying something. Again. I didn’t even evaluate him before the draft. When I ran the numbers, he graded as one of the worst prospects I’ve ever analyzed.
- Kevin — F
- Yanir — F
KB: This was Deni Avdija at nine, which was about where I had him ranked in YODA. That’s not to say I was okay with the pick based on who was available at the time.
YR: Indeed, the ranking has to be considered dynamic — as a function of who’s left after each successive pick. It’s a hard thing to master, especially as things happen fast on Draft Night. But that’s exactly why a GM needs a top team around. When that team is mediocre the GM tends to fall back on “safe” choices that were prepared prior.
KB: The moment I saw Avdija play, I knew I was wrong to have him so high — no functional left hand, no shooting, not an overwhelming athlete.
My miss on Avdija got me to go back and research how I could better assess the talent level of international leagues. When I did, he dropped to late first or early second round range. Of course, the guy they should have picked was Tyrese Haliburton, who went 12th to Sacramento, made the All-Star game last season, and plays at an All-NBA level.
YR: If it makes you feel better, Kevin O’Connor the draftnik of The Ringer had Avdija top five for several months, and even had him top two for a while.
But, unlike you, I think it’s a player development failure more than a talent evaluation failure.
KB: O’Connor not knowing what he’s seeing doesn’t make me feel any better. At least mine was purely stats. It was my eyes that let me know I was wrong. Explain your player development theory.
YR: The Spurs (10) and the Suns (11) both missed on Haliburton. And for that matter, everybody missed on Desmond Bane (30).
The left hand issue and the shooting mechanics would have been addressed by a much more competent staff like the Spurs, for instance. Avdija was also put in a corner as far as his role for two whole seasons by Brooks and then Unseld. Last season he was let loose a bit. Anyway, let’s not open that box.
KB: Sorry, that box is open. First on Haliburton — this one goes back to what we discussed at the beginning. Other execs making bad predictions doesn’t excuse Sheppard (in this case) making bad predictions too. The Haliburton thing is just weird. Crazy productive. Great kid. The Wizards contacted him before the draft and promised to pick him, and then said “never mind” when Avdija “slipped.” Picking him — especially at nine, especially ahead of Avdija — should have been one of Sheppard’s easiest decisions. He blew it. Agreed on Bane.
Now to player development: Two different coaches and coaching staffs looked at Avdija and put him in a similar role because his basic skills were lacking. They weren’t trying to limit Avdija, they were trying to put him in position to succeed and to help the team. Standing in the corner, setting screens, doing some transition ball handling was what he could do.
Unseld designed sets that put him in position to contribute something in the halfcourt — I’m referring to the pin-downs where Avdija came up from the left side (block or corner), turned the corner across the top of the key, and took a pass from the top or the far wing. That put him at a dead run to the rim on a right hand dribble, and he had some reasonable success with it.
YR: Look, there is a mental side to basketball. As an example of how sometimes coaches here misunderstand Euro talent: Scotty took Satoransky who was a leader in Barcelona and for the Czech NT and treated him as a rookie, sapping his self-confidence, and assigning him for sporadic minutes to stand at the corner and shoot only when wide open. This didn’t make sense given Sato’s great court vision and intelligence. Luckily, Satoransky was 26 years old and very tough mentally, and he proved Brooks wrong and became Wall’s best replacement and at times (much) better than Wall himself.
Avdija was not as tough mentally, and on a team where Beal (and then Kuz and KP) had the green light to shoot from anywhere at anytime, Avdija was usually given a yellow or red light. His self-confidence declined and he needed permission to just play. Sure, he lacked some basic skills, but with better coaching he would have been a bit better.
KB: Brooks and his staff misjudged Satoransky. In fact, they never really liked how he played — even after a successful season as a starter, they still gave the backup role in the playoffs to Ty Lawson, who didn’t even play in the NBA during the regular season.
YR: Thanks for reminding me of that. That was really when I realized Brooks should no longer coach in the NBA.
KB: Hmm. I’ll leave Brooks and coaching alone for now except to say I think he was better than the consensus on him.
I sympathize a bit more with the coaches when it comes to Avdija. It’s tough to carve out an on-ball role for a guy who can’t shoot, can’t functionally dribble with one hand, isn’t an elite athlete, and doesn’t have a ton of craft.
Anyway, back to the draft — in round two, Sheppard traded the 37th pick for the 54th pick so he could dump Schofield’s contract, and then used that pick to draft Cassius Winston, who’s small and slow. Meanwhile, he could have drafted Saben Lee, Tre Jones, Isaiah Joe, or Kenyon Martin Jr.
YR: Cassius Winston is another typical great-name draftee. Sounds like a Nobel prize in literature. Anyway, maybe Sheppard was trying to draft players that wouldn’t intimidate Beal by being taller than him? I DON’T KNOW. Another jaw-dropping choice for an undersized guard with no standout skill.
- Kevin — D-
- Yanir — C-
KB: The Wizards didn’t have a first round pick — they traded it plus Laron Profit for Brendan Haywood back in 2001. Not a bad trade at all. Haywood was better than anyone they might have taken at 20.
YR: I was following cricket more than NBA at the time. So no comment.
KB: In round two, they took Andray Blatche, which was actually a great pick. They got more production from the 49th pick than they had any right to expect. The only better player taken later was Marcin Gortat. Blatche had talent but wasn’t a worker. The Wizards gave away a motivational tool by awarding him long-term contracts.
YR: Hard to believe Gortat went at #57. But again, international talent was evaluated differently then.
The Wizards then paid to get the Polish Hammer eventually.
- Kevin — B+
- Yanir — B
KB: Grunfeld swapped the 19th pick and some second round picks for the pick that became Kelly Oubre Jr. I was okay with this and still am. Grunfeld took a swing on an athletic, long-armed wing who went hard all the time. The hope was Oubre’s hoops IQ would improve (it really didn’t). An Oubre who hit his potential would have been a very good player. He apparently was too into being Wave Papi or whatever. And, it’s not like Grunfeld missed on anyone in that spot.
YR: Yeah. The Oubre pick was brilliant. They gave up two second rounders to move from 19th (Jerian Grant out of Notre Dame) to 15th and snatch the Kansas talent. By the way, Grant did end up with the Go-Go in 2019-20 and briefly with the Wizards, before heading over to Europe, but had an unremarkable career. Oubre on the other hand is still in the league and had some great moments, albeit never really developed into a solid player, unfortunately. True, he is still a free agent, but I have no doubt he will play (for the minimum) in the NBA in the coming season. Hopefully with the Sixers or the Heat who’ll salvage his career (wishful thinking)!
KB: Not sure I can agree with “brilliant.”
YR: Well, again, I think the move itself was really smart. The player development part on the other hand was not successful. I really believe on another team he would have become a really dominant player with his high left-hand release very hard to block, his ability to defend and hustle, his fantastic athleticism that got the crowd wild, and lastly his fit in small-ball lineups.
KB: Maybe. I’m pretty dubious he’d have been much different anywhere else. He didn’t exactly put the work into getting better.
YR: But isn’t that a culture thing? I mean players that came to D.C. in the last 20 years typically didn’t have great role models for that.
Moving on, in the second round, Grunfeld picked Aaron White, who never had much chance of playing in the NBA. That was also true of everyone who got picked after him.
- Kevin — A
- Yanir — A
YR: The third top three pick in four years. Grunfeld chose Otto Porter Jr.
KB: I thought Porter was the right pick, though a few guys who went later turned out much better. It would have taken an unusual degree of foresight and guts to pick Giannis that high at that point in his development. Porter was a good all-around player.
YR: And also, who says Giannis would have become Giannis in D.C. I thought Porter was exactly the kind of 3&D guy Wall needed, and fit very well with Beal, Gortat and Morris. I thought he was a very good locker room guy too.
KB: I think Giannis would’ve become what he is just about anywhere. The defining factor in his growth was his drive to be great. His coaches early on were Larry Drew and then Jason Kidd. He didn’t get Mike Budenholzer until his sixth season.
Back to the Wizards, in round two, Grunfeld traded up to 35 to get Glen Rice Jr. Another swing at a talented but troubled player, another miss.
- Kevin — B-
- Yanir — B
KB: Another year without a first round pick. This one, Grunfeld traded for Gortat, which was at once a good trade and infuriating. I wrote about it at the time, and it’s still up somewhere (maybe my blog?). What rankled was that they spent all their player acquisition assets in the 2013 offseason on wings and left themselves with no depth behind Emeka Okafor in the middle. When Okafor got hurt, the season was in trouble. A desperation move born from a lack of basic planning.
YR: Then in round two, they sold the pick that became Jordan Clarkson to the Lakers.
KB: Sheppard made Johnny Davis the 10th overall pick, and later said Davis was the team’s point guard of the future, which was news to Unseld.
YR: Wait, did he actually say that?
KB: My memory says he did, so it’s possible he didn’t. If someone is still reading maybe they can provide a link in the comments.
Davis was overwhelmed immediately and...
YR: Is there a stronger word in English, like overoverwhelmed?
KB: Hmm. Germanic root — uberwhelmed?
YR: [laughing out loud]
KB: Anyway, he never found his stride. He was a below average player in the G League and had one of the worst rookie seasons I can recall. Which is really saying something.
YR: But then again, it was a good thing, since otherwise Sheppard might have still been GM.
KB: In round two, Sheppard used the 54th pick on Yannick Nzosa, who YODA had rated as the second worst prospect in this draft. Of course, I analyzed only about 130 players for that draft...
YR: [laughing out loud] And recently an article titled “Where in the World is Yannick Nzosa” appeared since nobody really knew where he actually ended up...
- Kevin — F
- Yanir — F
YR: Bradley Beal, third overall pick. Any objection?
KB: No, though in hindsight, the pick arguably should have been Damian Lillard. Yes, even with Wall already in place. Still, Beal became a very good player and came as close to maxing out his potential as any draft pick in franchise history. Low bar, of course.
YR: [laughing out loud] Agree with you. OK, let’s move to the second round.
KB: In the second round, Grunfeld used the 32nd pick on Tomas Satoransky, who was a decent enough player when he got to the league. But the guys Grunfeld missed? The OG YODA hero Jae Crowder (34), Draymond Green (35), Khris Middleton (39), Will Barton (40).
YR: I know you won’t agree with me, but I think that except Middleton, Satoransky was a better pick than all of these guys. Draymond — let’s not go there. He really salvaged the Wizard playoff spot when Wall got injured, and finally brought the Wizards a “team identity”. He also developed a lot in the years he was here. Mostly due to his private trainer (the renowned Stefan Weissenboeck, who later worked for the Nets, and was responsible for many NBA careers). He worked hard on his shot, and in his second season shot 46.5% from deep, which was top 10 in the league. I thought that Sheppard should have used that as evidence to hire Weissenboeck, but he didn’t have the guts or brains to do that (and the Nets snatched him).
KB: You’re correct — I don’t agree with you.
YR: I like the first part of that sentence.
- Kevin — B
- Yanir — A+
SUMMARY OF THE GRADES
Ernie Grunfeld Draft Grades
|2009||no picks||no picks|
|2014||no picks||no picks|
|2016||no picks||no picks|
|2017||no picks||no picks|
Tommy Sheppard Draft Grades
KB: So, based on my calculations, I gave Grunfeld a C overall as a drafter, and Sheppard a D-. You have Grunfeld as a C+ and Sheppard as a D-. I think we’ve conclusively proven that you’re a bit lax as a grader.
YR: Look, I think I wasn’t following much during the early Grunfeld era, so you probably gave more accurate grades for those years.
KB: And we’ve concluded that Grunfeld was a better drafter, though his hits and misses don’t demonstrate a prediction skill much better than just luck.
YR: Thanks to both readers who made it all the way down here!