By Stephen D. Riley, Special to AFRO
Despite handing an already athletically-challenged small forward $100-million-plus last summer, the Washington Wizards decided to dive back into the small forward pile and draft Troy Brown Jr. with the 15th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night. Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld lauded Brown’s position flexibility and the ability to play positions from point guard to point forward but on a team loaded with wings, it’s hard to see where Brown will play next season. Most teams drafting in the first half of the first round are searching for starters and talent who can play right away.
NBA draft prospect Troy Brown Jr., right, from Oregon, smiles during a media availability after an NBA pre-draft basketball workout Monday, June 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)`
Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter Jr., Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky make up the wings surrounding point guard John Wall and they all have talent. Adding Brown to the fray should put him sixth in the guard and wingmen hierarchy and third on the small forward depth chart. It would be ideal if he can instantly slot in behind Beal but the 18-year-old Brown isn’t quite ready to hit the Association running, not with a shaky jumper (29 percent from outside last season) and a vertical that might be worse than the aforementioned. It may sound cliché to draft a shooting guard who can’t shoot, but it’s the Washington Wizards; it doesn’t have to make sense.
NBA draft prospect Zhaire Smith, right, from Texas Tech, smiles during a media availability after an NBA pre-draft basketball workout Monday, June 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
With players like Lonnie Walker IV, Robert Williams, Donte DiVincenzo and Zhaire Smith, all rated higher and all selected right after Brown, it was a disappointing night for Wizards faithful. Twitter posts and Wizards’ blogs were on fire on Thursday night with confusion and viral cursing that hopefully Grunfeld, or anyone related to the general manager, didn’t read. The need for athletic bigs and a clear backup point guard can be seen by even a non-basketball enthusiast, but Grunfeld classically shook things up by drafting a position that’s pretty much covered already with players the team likes and players the team won’t even play.
Satoransky already does everything Brown was drafted to do but shoots better, has a handful of professional starts, but still can’t see consistent playing time. Brown’s exact purpose on the Wizards will be a head-scratcher long into 2019. Commenting on prized second rounder (sarcasm) Issuf Sanon as a backup point guard can be saved for another column considering he won’t even play in the states next season or perhaps even the following year. For a team tight-lipped on cap space due to their own overvalued extensions and bloated contracts, acing the draft was a huge priority for the Wizards this summer. Early results so far suggest they botched that test. Rev up the “Fire Ernie” chants for the 16th straight season.