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Washington Wizards hit John Wall jackpot, win No. 1 pick in NBA draft lottery

(Dave Martin - Associated Press)
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What a graceful, glorious exit from the NBA ownership stage after 45 years for the Pollin family, handing the baton off to golden-touch Ted, who also won Alex Ovechkin in a scratch-off game of chance six years ago.

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Now, after a bizarre, sad season ofmassive tumult -- easily the most turbulent in franchise history -- a flicker of daylight, an uber-talented youth symbolizing hope. Really, another kid charged with rescuing another floundering D.C. franchise, with moxie to help mend a fissure between a team and its faith-challenged fans.

If Stephen Strasburg wore high-tops and caught alley-oop passes above the rim before reverse-dunking the ball through the net, he would be John Wall today.

Wall is also someone to help resuscitate Gilbert Arenas's on-court image. He is a special player who brings buzz to an apathetic arena that lost all interest in its puzzling and often putrid 26-win pro basketball team last year.

The No. 1 pick is not just a great beginning to the build under Leonsis; it's a balm for those who endured the bad dream of the past eight months; it's a perfectly-executed handoff from the regal, old-money Pollin family to another young Internet icon about to put his stamp on another league.

What John Wall is not is a shortcut to the NBA Finals. Since the draft lottery was instituted in 1985, just three No. 1 picks in 25 years have won championships. Another sobering stat: Just two of those three won titles with the team they were drafted by (Tim Duncan and David Robinson for the Spurs).

LeBron is not coming to bestow glory this summer. Neither is Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson, the other top free agents available.

The moment Grunfeld parted with Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler a few days apart from each other in February, the Wizards as we knew them in the Arenas era were gone; the long rebuild had begun.

If he follows the same plan laid out by Leonsis with the Capitals, John Wall essentially becomes Ovi in this story. He's the incredible talent who has to bide his time for at least a year or two before his employers decide to spend real money and make a playoff run.

To whet the palate, think Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony next summer. (Kevin Durant is staying in Oklahoma City. Trust my Post colleague Michael Lee: Durant is basically Duncan in San Antonio, happy as pie in small-market heaven. He can't do wrong and his family loves the town.)

Now, for the money game. If the Wizards renounce all their free agents, they would have six players under contract and three draft picks to be paid. They probably would be about $20 million under the salary cap. Given that a max contract comes out to about $16 million a year, they could go after a big fish now.

But that's probably not how their money will be spent. Look for high-salaried, one-year guys to essentially use Wall and the Wizards to build their free agent value. Look for the Wizards to use those players' contracts to get way under the cap next summer and compete for 'Melo. Look for Flip Saunders to keep using his two-guard front to suit the talent of Wall and Arenas.


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