Even former No. 1 draft pick John Wall’s slick pinstripe suit couldn’t line up the lottery balls in the Washington Wizards’ favor, again. After landing the top selection in last year’s NBA Draft, the Wizards shipped their 2010 prize position to New Jersey for a little luck in this year’s draft lottery. With Wall in waiting, Washington came away with the sixth pick for this summer’s draft, scheduled for June 23 in Newark, NJ.
In what’s been repeatedly classified as a weak class, several mock drafts have the Wizards going international with their first selection. ESPN’s draft specialist, Chad Ford, has projected NCAA Tournament MVP and University of Connecticut guard Kemba Walker to fall to No. 7, right into the laps of the Sacramento Kings. With a lack of star power coming out of this year’s class, Walker’s award-winning resume is one of the few that pumps a little juice into a lifeless crop. So the question was posed and the AFRO Sports Desk immediately went into their war room: Despite having Wall, should the Wizards select Walker with their first pick? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley decide.
Riley: Yuck. That was the first word that came to mind when I saw the final list of eligible prospects for this year’s draft. Where are all the “can’t-miss-superstars” and the highlight reels? You have a truck load of international projects and a Ford Focus load of collegiate stars. Rather than reach for mystery, why not turn to a proven commodity and go with Walker. You’ve seen what he can do and despite having Wall, you can bring Walker off the bench for that mega scoring punch. Expand on the strength of your team and lock down the guard position.
Green: They don't need any more young talent at guard. They have enough of that in Wall and an intriguing combo guard in Jordan Crawford. Don’t forget about Nick Young, who was having a career season before he was sidelined with an injury. Yes, the backup point guard position is a need but not at sixth in the draft. The Wizards need to plug guys in and play; and clearly, they need some frontcourt help. A guy like Kentucky’s Enes Kanter would be great or even going with an international big would be fine. A guy who can score in the low post is on the agenda, not a backup point.
Riley: With Wall’s size, you could effectively play him and Walker together at the same time. Look at what the Dallas Mavericks do with Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Kidd is the ultimate floor general while Terry is the ultimate spark off the bench and Wall and Walker could provide a similar combination. Why reach on a guy like Kanter, who didn’t even play last year due to ineligibility, or an international kid when you’ve already seen first hand what Walker can do? He was the best player in college last year and made huge strides from his first two years to his junior season. He might be just cracking the potential on his talent.
Green: I just can’t see a team drafting the best point guard in the draft in back-to-back years. It doesn’t make sense to me. Kanter or an international big would be the best available at what they need. You talk about Terry but he was just fine as a starter in Atlanta. The only reason he’s not starting now is because Kidd is one of the top-five point guards of all time. I wouldn’t be opposed to trading back so that you don’t use the pick on a player who couldn’t match the value. But I wouldn’t draft Walker at six because he’s not worth top-10 money; not at this point in his career. Six is too high for him.
Riley: No. 6 can’t be too high for the Bob Cousy Award winner (top point guard in nation) and the Tournament MVP. It’s clear this year’s draft isn’t the strongest and reaching on a guy to fill a need is never a good strategy. It’s no different than the NFL when the elite drafting teams go for best player available over need. And because the NBA is so different than the NFL you have to alter your approach. You might be lucky to get four to five solid players with lasting NBA careers out of the first round of an NBA Draft, you can’t trade back and hope somebody that fills a need slips to you. The pickings are slim when it comes to the NBA so why not just go with the best available when you have the chance?
Green: It’s definitely a tough spot to be in if you’re the Wizards. They really don’t need Walker but if they do select him, they could probably use him as trade bait for a piece that they do need. I have my doubts on how they would effectively rotate Wall, Crawford and Young if they do decide to bring in another guard.
Riley: No trades necessary and no doubts needed. Draft Walker and solidify your backup point guard/sixth man position. Put him with Wall and now you can attack and penetrate teams for 48 straight minutes every night. In a draft full of lemons, Washington should make some lemonade and then make the playoffs next year. And don’t forget they pick again at No. 18. They can save the unproven guys for that pick and go with the proven stars with the early selection.