No matter how many mock drafts have been produced for people to mock them, there really is no way to know for certain how the NBA draft is going to shake out. Teams continue to throw out as many rumors/smokescreens/lies as possible to keep their rival executives wondering which direction they are headed.
If the Wizards had landed the top choice in the NBA draft this year, they would’ve taken Arizona forward Derrick Williams and not thought twice. The point guard position is locked up for the foreseeable future, so there was no need to even ponder Duke’s Kyrie Irving. But Williams certainly won’t be there at six and the Wizards will probably need a couple of teams -- or possibly one -- to go with a guard in order for them to get at least one of the other three players that they would like to acquire on Thursday.
The Wizards want to go big, but all of the top rated prospects at center and power forward could be off the board if both Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight and Connecticut guard Kemba Walker slip out of the top five. If Knight or Walker is taken, then the Wizards will be happy to take the next available big that falls to them. If both are taken, then the Wizards can step back and choose the player that they like the most.
So, for the second year in a row, the Wizards’ fortunes in the draft could rest on a point guard from Kentucky. They likely need a team ahead of them to take Knight in order to find the desired big man to pair with John Wall.
Under the assumption that Irving and Williams go one and two, respectively, Utah is expected to go with either Knight or Enes Kanter. Cleveland is expected to take a big man with the fourth pick, which would either be Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas. But with Valanciunas’s buyout situation creating concerns about him not playing next season, the Cavaliers may have a difficult time using such a high pick on a player that it may not come until 2012. Toronto is another team that could make the Wizards antsy, with Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo also reportedly a fan of Vesely. Of course, the concern could all be moot if the Raptors take Congolese center Bismack Biyombo or San Diego State swingman Kawhi Leonard, still leaving a potential target in play for the Wizards.
I’ve heard that the Wizards have Valanciunas rated slightly ahead of Vesely, since the Lithuanian big man is two years younger and has a little more upside and room for improvement. In my story for the paper, a person with knowlege of the Wizards’ thinking told me that Valanciunas ”might be worth the wait” if his buyout agreement forces him to stay in Lithuania for another year.
Valanciunas’s contract situation with Lietuvs Rytas -- the team won’t let him go without a steep financial cost -- is a bit troubling, but with the league appearing to be closer to a lockout with each passing day, it might not be a bad idea to draft him and stash him -- especially if any games are lost because of the labor dispute. The Wizards met with Valanciunas two weeks ago in Treviso, Italy, and he said they had a nice conversation. When asked where he thought he might land in the draft, Valanciunas shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Maybe Cleveland, Maybe Washington.”
On Wednesday, the 7-foot Valanciunas compared himself to Miami Heat all-star forward Chris Bosh and said that he patterned his game after a fellow Lithuanian who went on to become a two-time all-star. “When I was small kid, I was playing and I wanted to be like Zydrunas Ilguaskas,” he said. “Maybe one day.”
Vesely is more of a finished product after being a featured part of an elite team the past two seasons in Serbia, so getting him would hardly be a disappointment for the Wizards. I would be shocked to see either J.V. boy (my nickname for the European duo with the same initials) slide past the Wizards if one of them is on the board -- and that’s even if Kanter is still available. That’s one the reasons why I don’t think the Wizards are willing to sacrifice any valuable assets in order to move up to take Kanter.
Kanter hasn’t hid his desires to play for Washington, but I’ve been informed that Vesely would also like to start his NBA career with the Wizards. Vesely spoke about how he would fit nicely alongside John Wall in an uptempo offense.
“I like to run, get up and down the court. I like to dunk the basketball,” Vesely said, adding that he believes his above-the-rim game will translate well in the NBA. “There’s more chance to run in NBA, more space. It’s faster game.”
If Kanter and the J.V. boys are gone, the Wizards aren’t considering Biyombo at the sixth spot and didn’t bother to attend his recent workout in Spain. Biyombo doesn’t seem to be too keen on Washington, either. So, that means the Wizards may have to settle for either Texas center Tristan Thompson or Leonard. Those aren’t terrible alternatives, but the Wizards will likely get the desired pick if Knight or Walker, or both, are gone by the time it’s their turn.