SNIDER: Wizards don't move needle in draft


It was another ho-hum draft by the Washington Wizards that didn't inch them closer to being a playoff contender.

You remember the playoffs, right? Washington was great in the 1970s and even had a brief moment in the 2017 playoffs. That 2017 vibe was so much fun that Washingtonians remembered it's a basketball town at its core.

Once more, the Wiz went for an international project. Wait, I thought Ernie Grunfeld didn't run the draft anymore? General manager Tommy Sheppard has strong international connections so he went with the best player in Israel in strong forward Deni Avdija that some analysts claim was a steal at No. 9.

After drafting Rui Hachimura of Japan last year, it seems like the Wiz are building a United Nations marketing team. Another Basketball Without Borders. Washington is an international city where foreign players fit well, but two straight first-rounders is a reach. It's probably coincidental, but the great response from Japan last year over Hachimura makes it inviting to take a player that opens markets. Certainly, Marcin Gortat helped the team become popular in Poland.

The Wiz don't really need much help selling tickets, though many visiting fans crowd the arena like FedEx Field. But it looks like another season of empty arenas, at least for a while, so Avdija won't have a marketing night. Owner Ted Leonsis is a big thinker, though. He's not just one block ahead of most people, he's three blocks and pulling away, so taking foreign players grows the game in the age of NBA2K.

Avdija is supposedly a multi-position player, but somewhat of a prospect. Gee, when have we heard that from the Wiz before? There's nothing wrong with depth, but there's also nothing wrong with taking a starter.

This draft seemed lacking in talent overall. Maybe it's because the NCAA Tournament was cancelled so we didn't fall in love with players during March Madness. Having five international picks that no one except die-hards have seen doesn't help.

Too bad the New York Knicks grabbed power forward Obi Toppin at No. 8. He's a perfect fit for the Knicks and the NBA needs New York to quit being miserable, but Toppin would have started for the Wizards. And, maybe Maryland forward Jalen Smith would have been a better move. He was taken No. 10 by Phoenix. Washington needs more muscle around the rim and Smith can also sink a three-pointer.

Washington also rearranged some deck chairs on the Titanic by trading second-rounder Vit Krejci and Admiral Schofield to Oklahoma for the Thunder's 53rd pick, Cassius Winston of Michigan State, and a 2024 Memphis second-rounder owned by Oklahoma. This was an excellent move by Washington. Winston averaged 18.6 points per game for the Spartans and is a polished guard.

This season is all about whether John Wall stays healthy after not playing a full season since 2016 while missing last season. And, can Wall realize it's Bradley Beal's team now and play more of a complementary role?

Are the Wiz better after the draft? Maybe, but not enough to make a postseason move.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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