The Wizards Keep Pick, Draft McGee

Wizards first-round pick JaVale McGee said shot-blocking is
Wizards first-round pick JaVale McGee said shot-blocking is "the strength of my game." He averaged 2.8 blocks in '08. (By Brad Horn -- Associated Press)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008

It remains to be seen whether the Washington Wizards got any better with last night's NBA draft, but there is no question that they got a little bit younger and a whole lot bigger.

With their first-round pick (18th overall) the Wizards selected JaVale McGee, a 7-foot, 237-pound center who played two seasons of college ball at Nevada, where he averaged 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and a Western Athletic Conference-leading 2.8 blocks per game as a sophomore last season.

The decision to take the 20-year old McGee came after Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld weighed several options, including attempts to trade up and trade down.

In the end, according to Grunfeld, the selection of McGee came down to what was on the team's draft board.

"We rank our players through a four-, five-, six-week process and the highest-ranked player on our board, we pick," said Grunfeld. "If the best player on our board was a 6-foot-5 player or if one of the point guards slipped down to us, we would have taken them. We looked at all of those players. This is just how the draft played out for us."

McGee went one slot after former Georgetown center Roy Hibbert (picked by Toronto, traded to Indiana) and one slot ahead of former North Carolina State power forward J.J. Hickson, who was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When the Wizards made their pick, prospects such as forward Darrell Arthur (Kansas), guard Mario Chalmers (Kansas) and center Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) were still available.

When asked whether Hibbert would have been a consideration for the Wizards had he slipped past No. 17, Grunfeld responded with a simple "Yes."

"They were all in the mix," Grunfeld said when asked about others who were available at No. 18. "But basketball they say is a big man's game and it's hard to get a 7-footer with a lot of athleticism and the ability to run the floor and a 7-foot-6 wing span. He has all of those qualities."

McGee is certainly raw but he does come from an interesting basketball background. His mother, Pamela, was an all-American at Southern Cal in the early 1980s before going on to play and coach in the WNBA and his father, George Montgomery, played college basketball at Illinois and was drafted in the second round by Portland in 1985.

McGee, who is from Flint, Mich., and attended a high school in Chicago as a senior, made the decision to come out of Nevada as an early-entry candidate once it became clear that he stood a decent chance of being selected in the first round.

McGee was not one of the 61 prospects that worked out for the Wizards but that wasn't due to a lack of interest on the team's part.

"I knew they were going to take me," said McGee, who connected on 52.9 percent of his shots last season. "They were constantly talking to me, constantly trying to get me to work out for them and constantly in contact with me."

The addition of McGee gives the Wizards five players who are 23 or younger.

Last season, the team broke in rookie draft picks Nick Young, a shooting guard selected 16th overall, and Dominic McGuire, a small forward selected with the 47th pick, as well as 2006 first-round pick Oleksiy Pecherov.

Those three are one year older than forward Andray Blatche, who was selected with the 49th overall pick in 2005, but is only 21 years old as he prepares to enter his fourth season.

With their second-round pick (47th overall), the Wizards selected a scorer in forward Bill Walker, who played alongside No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley at Kansas State. They later dealt Walker to Boston for cash considerations.

Grunfeld said he approached the draft weighing several options and as yesterday went along, various rumors surfaced linking the Wizards with possible moves.

One had the Wizards sending the 18th pick and a player to Houston for the 25th pick and guard Luther Head. Another linked the Wizards and Detroit.

"We had a lot of things on the table," Grunfeld said. "We were close and if we didn't have the player we wanted, we did have the ability to move back. We tried to move up also but that didn't happen for us."

McGee will get his first taste of NBA action when he joins Young, McGuire, Pecherov and Blatche on Washington's team in the Las Vegas summer league. The Wizards open summer league play on July 14 and will play five games against other squads filled with rookies and young players.

McGee, who didn't make a start as a freshman at Nevada when he played behind current Dallas Maverick forward Nick Fazekas, won't be expected to make a huge impact right away but he does have confidence in his skills as a shot blocker.

"If I were on a video game right now, my shot-blocking would be a 90," McGee said. "That's the strength of my game."

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