The Washington Wizards didn’t have a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but if they did, who could’ve made an impact on this year’s playoff-bound team?
Last year they didn’t even have a first round draft pick at all after trading it to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic before the trade deadline. Just to add to the craziness, the Wizards haven’t selected a player in the NBA Draft since 2015, when they chose Jerian Grant and immediately gave his rights to the Atlanta Hawks.
Needless to say, the team hasn’t built from draft in the last four years. But suppose they DID have their first round draft pick (No. 22) in the stacked 2017 NBA Draft (which might have been even higher if they didn’t have Bogdanovic for the second half of the season)? Who would’ve been most beneficial to them this season? In a twisted alternate timeline, what rookie would’ve made the biggest difference on this win now Wizards team?
To set a few ground rules, this hypothetical question isn’t asking who the best NBA rookie is left at No. 22. This question is more about fit rather than talent. Which rookie would most benefit the Washington Wizards? Which player is ready to be on a good team and could help plug up some of the holes the team has shown this year? That’s the question.
We also have to discount injuries from this hypothetical. Markelle Fultz, while not the answer to this question, is exempt because we haven’t seen enough of him to play.
With the ground rules in place, it’s time to establish what the Washington Wizards could use help with, and probably most importantly, which starting position is performing the weakest. If we’re looking at plus/minus numbers per 100 possessions for the Washington Wizards this year, the worst starter is Markieff Morris with a -0.5.
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Forgetting about starters for a moment, Morris is actually the second-worst player on the roster in terms of plus/minus behind only Tim Frazier (-2.0), whose plus/minus has dropped significantly with the increase in minutes due to John Wall’s injury.
Morris’ role with the team has changed a bit this year as well. While he’s still the starter, he’s seen his minutes go from 31.2 minutes per game to just 23.2 per game. One of the reasons for this could be the progression of Kelly Oubre Jr. and his increase in minutes for the team.
Regardless of the reason, it would appear at this moment in time that Markieff Morris is the weakest link on the Wizards’ starting roster. What we also know about the team is that they are very confident with their backcourt in both John Wall and Bradley Beal.
In a guard-heavy draft, the Wizards would be looking for someone bigger to help their team out immediately. While you can never have enough wings, the Wizards are also probably happy with what they have with Porter and Oubre behind him. This would leave the center position and the power forward position as the bigger gaps in the roster.
If we look at the 2017 NBA Draft and the current performances of the rookies thus far in the season, the choice is obvious. The player who could’ve helped the Wizards most at the 22nd spot is Kyle Kuzma, who was drafted with the Celtics pick that was swapped to the Brooklyn Nets, who then traded it to the Los Angeles Lakers in return for Brook Lopez and D’Angelo Russell.
Coming in at 6’9″ and 220 pounds, Kuzma has been explosive for the Los Angeles Lakers. In 26 games this season he is averaging 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 3-pointers per game. For reference, Kristaps Porzingis averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 3s per game in his rookie year.
Kuzma has clearly been given the green light to shoot whenever he wants. He’s averaging a solid 4.4 3-point attempts and 12.9 field goal attempts per game, which would only be below Bradley Beal and John Wall for the Wizards. In the Lakers’ eyes, they’ve got nothing to lose. They’re clearly throwing their young players into a trial by fire and hoping they come out stronger.
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So why would Kyle Kuzma be the best fit for the Wizards at 22? Simple: He’d help with multiple problems, the first being their rebounding numbers. The Washington Wizards average 33 defensive rebounds per game, which ranks them 20th in the league. Kuzma, who averages 6.7 rebounds per game, would be a huge help over Morris’ 3.1 per game.
The biggest factor of why Kuzma is the best fit for the Wizards of all rookies is his ability to space the floor and make 3s. The Wizards rank 23rd in the league in 3-point attempts this year, which is something that Kuzma would immensely help their team with. If you don’t think 3-point attempts matter, just consider the top four teams in the league by record are in the top eight in the league in that category.
Obviously Kuzma wouldn’t play exactly like he does in Los Angeles if he was in Washington, but it’s fair to say with the drive-and-dish ability of John Wall, he would be able to get even more open looks than he already does. Morris would slide to the bench to make the Wizards’ second unit stronger and grittier, helping them keep games close while their stars rest, and most importantly, Kuzma would get to coast off of the genius of a John Wall-run offense in his first year in the league.
This is all hypothetical, but how fun would it be to watch a young power forward with a beautiful shot motion drain pick-and-pop 3s with John Wall? Thanks to the ill-fated Bogdanovic trade, Wizards fans can unfortunately only dream…