NEW YORK — The Washington Wizards insist that they haven’t wed themselves to any prospect for the third overall pick, and they remain at the mercy of what the Charlotte Bobcatsdo ahead of them — whether it’s take Kansas junior and District native Thomas Robinson or trade down to let another team possibly grab Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal.
But the Wizards have three players they are strongly considering and those options arrived at a ballroom of the Westin Hotel in Times Square with personalities and clothing styles that differed as much as their games.
The unassuming and sharp-shooting Beal wore a plaid shirt that reflected his school colors of orange and blue. The polished and pro-ready perimeter scorer Harrison Barnes of North Carolina wore a navy cardigan with gold stripes on the left sleeve that matched his striped tie. And the defensive-minded and gritty Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky sauntered in wearing a gray sport coat with a blue carnation stick pin and a big grin. He looked around the room, grabbed his lapel and announced, “I’m the flyest one out here.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, the youngest of the trio, expressed a confidence that all three players share when it comes to their respective games, but when it comes to Thursday’s NBA draft at Prudential Center in Newark, there is too much uncertainty to feel comfortable. Kentucky big man Anthony Davis is the only player who knows exactly where his NBA career will begin, with the New Orleans Hornets set to take him No. 1 overall. After that, anything could happen — and so much already has among the teams near the top of the draft.
The Wizards sent Rashard Lewis’s expiring contract to New Orleans for center Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza in a move that created a need for help on the perimeter. And, the Bobcats acquired shooting guard Ben Gordon from Detroit in exchange for Corey Maggette in a trade that could set them up to take a power forward or a small forward if they stand pat at No. 2.
“It’s fun, but it’s long and very overwhelming because you’re ready to see where you’re going to go and right now, nobody besides Davis knows where they are going,” Beal said. “At first, it wasn’t nerve-wracking for me, then all of a sudden it got like this. Trades started happening, then I started hearing teams wanted to trade up — teams I haven’t even worked out for. I’m very curious to see where I’m going to land.”
Beal worked out for Charlotte, Washington and Cleveland, which holds the fourth pick, and left an impression on scouts and talent evaluators in one season at Florida. Some have slated him as the second-best prospect in the draft after Davis, an assessment that catches Beal somewhat off-guard since he was one of the last players to declare.
His ability to shoot and play a shooting guard position that is lacking around the league has put him in high demand. Cleveland and Oklahoma City are among the teams reportedly considering moving up to get Beal.
“I think they see my potential,” said Beal, who turns 19 on Thursday. “Do I have fears [about playing in the NBA]? No. Honestly, because I’m confident in myself. Not arrogant, just confident that I’ll be able to succeed at that level. Being able to make an impact, as much as I can.”
After working out in Charlotte last Thursday, Robinson was under the impression that he would end up with the Bobcats at No. 2. Now, he’s not so sure, with rumors swirling that the Bobcats are seeking to acquire more assets in the draft. “It’s getting to the point where your agent is confused,” Robinson said. “If they’re confused, just imagine how I feel.”
The Wizards have received calls in recent days from teams interested in moving up to draft Robinson, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation, but the team appears set on owner Ted Leonsis’s request to hold on to the draft choice.
Barnes considers himself to be a small forward but said he would be willing to play shooting guard, if necessary, for the Wizards. Even with the recent addition of Ariza, Barnes believes the two of them could play together.
“I guess it’s all based on a coach’s philosophy,” said Barnes, who believes his time under the microscope at North Carolina has prepared him for NBA. “I’m pretty much entering at the bottom end of the totem pole and I have to work my way up and keep my head down. You have to be very humble. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”
Barnes said this time is more relaxing than what he faced when selecting a college. When asked if he felt any anxiety about possibly getting traded on draft night, Barnes smiled and responded, “I haven’t bought any houses yet, so I don’t mind switching hats.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, a New Jersey native who played high school basketball a few miles from Prudential Center, will have about 100 friends and family in attendance to watch him shake hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern. But he admitted that not having control over where he winds up has been stressful.
“It’s a hard feeling for me, because my high school, I got to pick. College, I got to pick. I don’t know where I’m going to go and I want to know, like now,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who turns 19 in September. “I have no clue, but anywhere is cool with me. I don’t really know what’s going to happen [Thursday] night, but I’m going to get drafted.”