One week after winning fans over with the unveiling of their new color scheme, the Washington Wizards have another chance at winning tonight when the NBA Draft Lottery airs at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN. After landing John Wall last summer with the top selection, Washington faces some stiff history in their hopes of securing another Powerball victory. There hasn’t been a back-to-back NBA lottery winner since the Orlando Magic struck gold in 1992 and 1993 but fingers across the District will still be crossed tonight. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the best chance at winning the lottery at 25 percent followed by Cleveland’s 19.9 percent. Toronto (15.6), Washington (11.9) and Sacramento (7.6) round out the top five.

In addition to their lottery selection, the Wizards also hold another first round draft pick courtesy of a mid-February deal with Atlanta that netted them combo wings Jordan Crawford and Maurice Evans along with Atlanta’s first selection. This year’s draft class isn’t a deep one but if Washington could at least land one of the top three selections, the Wizards’ rebuilding project could receive another huge shot in the arm. Unfortunately for Washington, most of the NCAA’s elite freshmen choose to stay in school for another year (great for them but bad for D.C.). The removal of at least three viable candidates from the top overall selection leaves the pickings slim for the 2011 crop.

If nothing else, the Wizards need to come away with an addition to their frontcourt from this draft. Ever since seeing Arizona bury Duke in the Sweet 16, I’ve been secretly wishing that the Wizards could somehow land Wildcat forward Derrick Williams. A 6-foot-8-inch forward with range and major game, the 240-pound Williams could step right into the Wizards’ three spot and give them another lethal threat to what’s slowly becoming a talented group of scorers and slashers. In any other draft, Williams probably wouldn’t be a top three selection but I’ve seen enough of him to know his athleticism and range would blend nicely in a new red white and blue Wizards jersey.

Unlike most of the teams in this year’s lottery, Washington already has several pieces in place to get a turnaround started sooner rather than later. One more piece to their puzzle could essentially lift them from lottery to lovely but it has to be the right one. That right one, at least in my opinion, is Williams. He can operate in the paint and from distance, which is exactly what NBA teams want from their small forward. Securing Wall last summer was one thing; milking Atlanta for Crawford and a first round pick was another; but if Washington could land a little luck in tonight’s lottery, the Wizards moniker would truly fit the team. Fingers around the city are crossed for tonight.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO