Bennett, Porter and Muhammed all have upside and could fit in D.C. (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Last year around this time, I started to fall in love with Bradley Beal. Well not actually him, but the way his basketball skills would fit with the Washington Wizards.
Desperately needing a shooter to ease some of the pressure off of John Wall (and eliminate some of Jordan Crawford's billion shots), the Washington front office wisely agreed with me. Beal is arguably the second best rookie from the 2012 draft class, and has posted statistics eerily similar to Ray Allen's first NBA season.
Unlike most basketball writers you will read, I'm highly against the approach of taking the best player available. Many local media members were pushing for the team to select Kansas Thomas Robinson last spring, which I predicted would have created a log jam at the forward position and left the Wizards shooting problems unattended.
I haven't found a Bradley Beal yet in the 2013 NBA Draft class, but I have narrowed down the Wizards needs: an athletic slashing small forward who will free up Beal and Martell Webster to shoot three's or an eventual replacement for Emeka Okafor, who almost 100 percent won't be retained following the 2014 campaign. Obviously guard and center are not needs at this time for Washington.
Here are the candidates I'm eying over the next few weeks of Madness.
Anthony Bennett - 6-foot-8, 240 pounds - UNLV Freshman Combo Forward
16.1 ppg, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 53.8 field goal percentage
His best traits: His physicality, versatility and attitude. Bennett has the strength to bang inside with much larger power forwards and has no problem slam dunking in their faces, and talking smack after the fact. He can outmatch bigger forwards with his midrange jumper. And let's not downplay his three point shooting abilities -- hitting 36/95, good for 37.9 percent.
His worst trait: He's not what you describe as quick or fast, which isn't exactly and ideal fit for the run-and-gun styles of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
What kind of player would he be with the Wizards: Nearly 70 percent of Bennett's points at UNLV came in the paint. If Bennett can be a 12-14 point scoring distraction inside, it will make collapsing on long Bradley Beal jumpers a much harder task for opponents and free up Wall on basket cuts without the ball.
NBA comparison: Larry Johnson. I think it's realistic to believe Bennett can make two all-star games in his career and be counted on in clutch situations.
Otto Porter Jr. - 6-foot-8, 205 pounds - Georgetown Sophomore Small Forward
16.3 ppg, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 48.9 field goal percentage
His best traits: He's the ultimate 'glue guy', excellent isolation player, superb defender. Porter is keen on outsmarting opponents. He's got a knack for scoring timely buckets and forcing key turnovers on defense. Even though he's Georgetown's bread and butter scorer, he's an unselfish, team-first player.
His worst trait: Nothing glaring, but he could definitely improve his ball-handling and add some muscle.
What kind of player would he be with the Wizards: He fits into that James Posey/Lamar Odom/Toni Kukoc guy on winning teams. He won't be called upon to star in the offense. Instead it will be his defense and transition game which could flourish again at the Verizon Center.
NBA comparison: Jeff Green. He's a necessary piece to a playoff team, but won't be counted on to score like he did in college.
Shabazz Muhammed - 6-foot-6, 225 pounds - UCLA Freshman Small Forward/Big Shooting Guard
17.8 ppg, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 44.7 field goal percentage
His best traits: He possesses elite athleticism, pull-up jumper, explosive first step, incredible on fast breaks. Coming into the 2012-2013 college basketball season, he was a consensus number one pick. An injury combined with some early season losses knocked him down a peg.
His worst traits: His strengths are also his weakness. He trusts his game even when being double-teamed and will hog the ball. Also it has been easy for PAC-12 defenses to force him to the right side, which flusters him a tad.
What kind of player would he be with the Wizards: This is my exact problem with drafting the best player available: Muhammed has the most talent on this shortlist, but in my opinion just doesn't fit in with where the Wizards are going. He requires the ball in his hands on most possessions, he plays through double-teams instead of passing, he's a tad short for a small forward (and remember Beal is already a tad short for a shooting guard). Most importantly, how would he respond to being the number two option offensively -- something he's never been in his life. It's easy to ooh and awe about players like Shabazz Muhammed because of their scoring qualifications. I just don't think his scoring alone will make Beal, Wall or the Wizards THAT much of a better team.
NBA comparison: A lesser version of Jamal Mashburn. Many people don't remember Mashburn was a career 19.1 points per game guy, but only made one all-star appearance. He got stuck on some bad 90's franchises (Mavericks, Heat). Still, his me-first game never amounted to much.