The Wizards Have A Chance To Climb The D.C. Sports Totem Pole

9:17 AM, May 22, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- I'll be honest, I didn't watch the NBA Draft lottery. As someone who knows this town's most knowledgeable sports fans are of the basketball variety, it's disturbing that the lottery has become the biggest calender event for the Washington Wizards. 

With the recent resurgence of the Redskins and Nationals -- and the flawed yet above par Capitals -- the Wizards are last on the totem pole when it comes to major D.C. sports teams.

But that may not be the case much longer.

Tuesday night the Wizards struck gold, cashing in their 4.7 percent chance of landing the third overall pick of the draft. Horrific basketball seasons at the Verizon Center might be coming to a screeching halt.

1) It will be kind of hard to screw this pick up

Otto Porter, Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo (although I think he's a tad bit small, generously listed at 6-foot-5, to be paired as a fourth quarter player alongside Beal) should all be available. This trio will bring traits that will make the Wizards a better team immediately. Unlike last year where the consensus in early June was for Bradley Beal, each three of these players have a warranted case for being selected. 

I'm going to go all in for Bennett. Porter would still be a solid glue piece who could do just about everything. It's his frail 205-pound frame which scares me against stronger Eastern Conference forwards. Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Luol Deng could have their way with Porter on the block. And the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls are all opponents the Wizards will have to tackle in upcoming potential postseasons. 

Just because you don't know UNLV's Anthony Bennett inside and out yet doesn't mean he isn't the ideal fit (please watch this incredible highlight tape). Last year's rookie of the year Damian Lillard was relatively unknown from Weber State. If we had a redo of the 2011 NBA Draft, Morehead State's Kenneth Faried likely would go second overall behind Kyrie Irving.

To me, Bennett brings just what the Wizards need: an offensive stretch power forward who will hit three's, clog the lane for open dish outs to Bradley Beal, a fearless attitude paired with manchild strength and an immediate replacement for the aging Emeka Okafor. Bennett's recent rotator cuff surgery shouldn't scare scare the Wizards away from what I think could be a potential Larry Johnson old-school forward.

2) With that being said, Alex Len would be a disastrous move

Michael Wilbon suggested it on the ESPN broadcast. Gary Williams recommended it on CSN Washington. Other columnists will argue in favor of Len over the next month. On paper it isn't all that illogical. Nene doesn't have many productive years left in him. My boy Kevin Seraphin arguably regressed some last season. And Len is a 7-footer with that dreaded basketball word -- potential. 

Here's the thing: many including myself don't think Len will be ready to contribute immediately. It will likely take several years (longer than John Wall) for the Terp to become a forceful NBA center. ACC defenders pushed Len around like a stroller in many games. Intimidating Len is often an effortless task.  

Finally, let's talk about the elephant in the room: because Len is white, because he is of foreign descent, Wizards fans and NBA pundits will automatically link him to Grunfeld's borderline franchise destructive 2011 pick, Jan Vesely. That obviously isn't fair, and it's arguably racist. But it's true. You can probably add Cody Zeller to this list too, but most will agree he shouldn't sniff the top five. The expectations in Washington will be too much for Len to fulfill. Many will want him to fall flat on his face.

3) If the correct pick is made, and the Wizards improve, Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman will both be extended contracts

This may make some disgruntled Wizards fans in favor of Grunfeld messing up the pick. Grunfeld knows his job is at stake and told Draft Express Tuesday night at the lottery "We want to make the playoffs next year." After retaining Grunfeld through five straight ugly seasons under 30 wins, justifying firing the team president for earning the eighth seed will be literally impossible. Same goes for Randy Wittman.

If John Wall and Bradley Beal do stay healthy and each play 70 games, the Wizards are an above .500 team.

4) The Wizards should not trade the pick

Mike Wise has an interesting take, saying none of the players available will make the Wizards that much better of a team right away. As Ted Leonsis of me as this sounds, the lowly Wizards actually finished 23-25 down the stretch, with a myriad of injuries. Most teams picking in the top three are nowhere near as complete of a team as Washington is. If whoever the pick is can have the type of impact like Bradley Beal did, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting, I'd argue it will catapult the franchise to the eighth seed without question.

Some names will definitely be dangled out there for a swap. DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Smith come to mind. And there's a reason these two are always discussed in trades. Amanda Bynes has less baggage than Cousins. Smith, while ultra talented, will turn 28 next season. And remember he came straight from high school, so he's an elderly 28. 

It's more important for the organization to grab a steady building block than a flash in the pan veteran who could disrupt the cohesiveness Grunfeld has finally pieced together on the court and in the locker room.

5) The Wizards bandwagon is about to become significantly larger

Barring anything unforeseen, which is asking a lot coming from Grunfeld, the Wizards are about to obtain a reliable piece to their puzzle. If Randy Wittman can steer the ship and avoid disaster in the early portion of the season, the Wizards should be at or above .500 for most of next season. The Verizon Center should see it's largest attendance numbers since Gilbert Arenas was yelling hibachi. Who knows, maybe Wizards fans can become 65/35 when the Lakers come to town. By 2015, going to a Wizards game will be like attending a Nats game now -- a trendy and happy venue to be.

There were turning points for the Nationals and Redskins during their long and putrid rebuilding processes. For the Nats it was Stephen Strasburg's debut. For the 'Skins, it was the trade with the Rams that guaranteed the franchise RGIII. For the Wizards? It was unexpectedly landing this third pick. The NBA gods were extremely fortunate to Grunfeld and his organization. Making the right pick at number three  SHOULD finally end the misery Wizards fans constantly suffer through.

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