Wizards' Draft Plans Are Still Up in the Air

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Wizards hold the 18th and 48th selections in tonight's NBA draft, but in a year that appears to be thin on impact players, the team has endeavored to be ready for whatever happens when things get started at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"This is not like that draft when you had Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, Kirk Hinrich and LeBron James," Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said yesterday, referring to the 2003 draft. "You don't have that kind of a draft. You can only draft the players that are available to you so you may not get that franchise-type player, but there are some solid players."

One prospect Wizards fans should closely watch is forward Cedric Simmons, who entered the draft after two seasons at North Carolina State. The Wizards worked out Simmons last week and are intrigued by his 6-foot-10, 235-pound frame, his shot-blocking skills and his familiarity with the Princeton offense, which he learned at North Carolina State under former coach Herb Sendek.

However, Simmons is projected to go somewhere in the top 12, so the Wizards would likely have to trade up to get him. The Wizards could also move down in the draft or trade their first-round pick to a team that does not have one.

For example, the Milwaukee Bucks do not have a first-round pick but are openly shopping center Jamaal Magloire. The Wizards are reportedly among the teams interested in Magloire, and according to one league source, the Wizards expressed an interest in acquiring Magloire last fall before he was traded from New Orleans to Milwaukee.

The Denver Nuggets also are shopping power forward Kenyon Martin, according to several league sources, but as of yesterday afternoon there was no sign that the Wizards were interested in dealing for the talented but enigmatic Martin, who flourished with the New Jersey Nets when Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was an assistant there.

Of course, the Wizards could remain at their spot and take the best player available, but getting a read on who that player might be has been all but impossible. Nine different mock drafts on Tuesday assigned nine different players to the Wizards at the 18th pick.

Over the course of several weeks, the team has worked out or seen just about every prospect that could be on the board when their turn comes, including center Hilton Armstrong (Connecticut), forward Alexander Johnson (Florida State), forward Josh Boone (Connecticut), forward Paul Davis (Michigan State), point guard Rajon Rando (Kentucky) and shooting guard James White (Cincinnati).

Grunfeld and his staff also have examined international candidates, including projected picks such as forwards Oleksiy Pecherov (Ukraine), Marcus Vinicius (Brazil), Damir Markota (Croatia) and Vladimir Veremeenko (Russia).

The Wizards haven't benefited from the recent pool of foreign talent that has produced such stars as Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Andrei Kirilenko while also turning out such forgettable prospects such as Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Bostjan Nachbar and Maciej Lampe.

The Wizards used a second-round pick on guard Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain in 2002, but Navarro has remained in Europe. The team invested another second-round pick in center Peter John Ramos in 2004, but Ramos remains a project.

One scout who saw the Wizards on several occasions last season offered these thoughts on the team's needs:

"Everyone talks about how they need a low-post banger but in my opinion, in that offense run by Eddie, they could really use a four [power forward] who can step out, set a pick and then knock down that 18- to 20-foot jumper," the scout said.

"None of their big guys can do that -- not even [Jared] Jeffries, and he's 6-11 with some pretty good skills. They need a guy who can play some defense, rebound the ball, set screens and help spread the offense for Gilbert [Arenas], Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Those three are still going to be their bread and butter. This draft isn't changing that."

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