The Wizards will finally begin to meet candidates for the third overall selection on Wednesday, when UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett will visit with the team for the first time at Verizon Center.
Bennett was unable to meet with the Wizards at the NBA combine last month in Chicago because he was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He won’t work out for the Wizards since the injury – which had been nagging him for the final months of his one season in college – will keep Bennett sidelined through August.
Despite the setback, the Wizards remain high on Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-1 wingspan who has drawn comparisons to Elton Brand and Larry Johnson. Bennett, 19, averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Running Rebels and could fit in Washington because of his versatility, agility and scoring ability.
Most draft boards have the Wizards selecting Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter with the No. 3 pick, but the team remains split on which direction to go, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation. Porter will meet with the Wizards on Thursday and work out the next day.
An Eastern Conference assistant general manager said Porter is the “safest” pick of the two but added that Bennett has a “much bigger upside” while being a “riskier” choice.
“The hard thing for me is not knowing Bennett’s physical since he didn’t take one in Chicago,” the executive said. “But if it’s fine, then I would take Bennett.”
A Western Conference assistant general manager disagreed, preferring Porter over Bennett. The executive argued that Bennett will be a bench player similar to Brandon Bass, Rodney Rogers or Corliss Williamson, while Porter could be a complementary, starting small forward like Tayshaun Prince or Shane Battier for a “dynamic back court” in Wall and Bradley Beal.
John Wall has already expressed a desire to have “a four man that can pick and pop” and Bennett can score in the low block and step out to shoot from the perimeter. Bennett is somewhat of a tweener but he is rated as the best power forward available. He shot 37.5 percent from beyond the three-point line and also averaged 1.2 blocks.
The Wizards already have four young forwards in Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton, but Bennett could create an intriguing front court rotation, along with Nene and Emeka Okafor, who has one year left on his deal.
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Kansas guard Ben McLemore and Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel are also in consideration for the draft slot.