As Wizards players got dressed in the locker room after a 112-98 loss to Milwaukee on Monday, they couldn’t stop from pausing every now and then to look up at the first half of the NCAA national championship game between Kentucky and Kansas on flat screen televisions.
Kentucky alum John Wall had a rooting interest, with his former coach, John Calipari, and former teammate Darius Miller close to reaching a goal he was unable to fulfill in his one season with the Wildcats. But the Wizards had more than a cursory interest in watching Kentucky claim its eighth national championship with a 67-58 victory over the Jayhawks.
They may have also been taking a long look into their future.
The Wizards (12-41) have the second-best odds of landing the right to draft Anthony Davis, who claimed most outstanding player honors after scoring six points with 16 rebounds, five assists and a championship game record-tying six blocks. He joined Carmelo Anthony and former Bullet Pervis Ellison as the only freshman in the modern era to win tournament MOP.
Davis had an off-night shooting (he missed 9 of 10 field goal attempts) against Kansas but remains the grand prize in the upcoming NBA draft – a 6-foot-11, rebounding and shot-blocking big man who has won every national player of the year award.
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino even compared Davis to Bill Russell after a dominant performance in the national semifinal, with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“He’s been playing like national player of the year, the whole year to me. Protecting the rim, blocking shots,” Wall said about Davis. “He’s starting to show his offensive skills, stepping out, making shots. He always did a great job rebounding. He’s just the backbone of their defense, so if you get past them, they’re guards or perimeter players, he does a great job of not fouling and just blocking shots.”
With his size, length and athleticism, Davis would give the Wizards a lethal frontcourt along with Brazilian banger Nene, who was recently acquired in a trade deadline from Denver. Davis will assuredly join Wall as the only player from Kentucky to ever go first overall.
The loss to the Bucks could turn out to be a win in some respects, since it helped the Wizards hold onto the NBA’s second-best worst record behind Charlotte. The Bobcats are just 2½ games ahead – or behind – in the standings, depending on your vantage point.
Charlotte has a 25 percent chance of winning the top overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft lottery on May 30, but the Wizards are right behind at 19.9 percent. New Orleans (13-40) is also making it a tight race for the most ping pong balls, at 15.6 percent.
When the Wizards won Wall in the draft lottery in 2010, they had the fifth-best odds, at 10.3 percent. The last time they finished with the league’s second-worst record was the year before, when they were tied with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Wizards won a tiebreaker to the Clippers but slid to fifth in the lottery as the Clippers shot up to claim the rights to draft Blake Griffin.
Since the NBA instituted the weighted lottery system in 1990, the team with the second-worst odds has won the No. 1 pick three times – in 1992, when Orlando won Shaquille O’Neal; in 1996, when Philadelphia won Allen Iverson and in 2009.