By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2010; D02
Blog excerpt from washingtonpost.com/wizardsinsider
Having the bookend selections in the first round of the June 24 NBA draft has been a blessing and a curse for the Wizards, giving them the chance to take the player they believe is the best available of the entire class, and taking the best player available before the second round.
But with the Wizards expected to take John Wall first overall since the night of the draft lottery, it has created problems for them with regards to scheduling workouts for other players. Wall will be the only player to audition for the top pick this Thursday, but I was informed by a league source that that wasn't necessarily the plan.
According to the source, the Wizards made several inquiries with Evan Turner's agent, David Falk, but Falk was not receptive, convinced that the Wizards would take Wall. He has focused all of his attention on Philadelphia, which holds the second overall pick. Falk told me last week in Boston that he thought the 76ers were a better fit for Turner.
If it seems like Falk kept Turner from going all the way through the process -- a cursory workout for the No. 1 pick couldn't hurt, even if it was just for show, right? -- understand that he started working new owner Ted Leonsis and making his pitch for Turner within a few hours after Irene Pollin's mouth dropped upon hearing about the Wizards' good fortune. Leonsis -- who helped broker the involvement of Falk's longtime client and friend, Michael Jordan, with the Wizards nearly 10 years ago -- may not have told Falk directly what the Wizards intend to do, but he probably gave him a pretty good impression.
The Wizards, however, wanted to see Turner to do their due diligence and also because there is a faction within the organization that really likes Turner and wanted to give him a fair shot (though the decision to take Wall was made pretty much while Ernie Grunfeld was in the back room at the draft lottery).
As for the 30th selection, the Wizards have only been able to work out players slated to go in the late first and early second round, because the representatives for players expected to go anywhere between the late lottery and the early 20s -- such as Texas freshman Avery Bradley or Oklahoma sophomore Willie Warren -- have either backed out or declined workouts, believing that their clients would not fall that low.
While in Chicago, the Wizards met individually with Wall and Turner and several of the top prospects, including Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Cole Aldrich, Ekpe Udoh, Patrick Patterson and Gordon Hayward. So they haven't had Wall tunnel vision. But at this time of the year, agents look to make power moves and establish some control, pushing for their clients to go higher, rarely lower, and refusing to waste players' time with situations that don't seem appealing.
Problem is, the Wizards are focused on more than the first and the last. Leonsis has made it clear that he would like to get another first-round pick. From what I've been told, the Wizards are eagerly in pursuit of adding a pick that falls in range of the high teens and early 20s. Some agents aren't willing to have their clients work out for Washington until they actually acquire the pick, which probably won't happen until closer to the draft or the night of the draft.
With just six players on the roster, the Wizards would like to get another young player to develop from this draft. That could possibly mean forking over $3 million to purchase a pick, but it could also come at the expense of taking back a bad contract in exchange. In 2006, the Celtics traded a future first round pick to Phoenix to get Rajon Rondo (the 21st overall selection) and Brian Grant. The following year, the Suns dealt Rudy Fernandez (the 24th overall pick) and James Jones to Portland for cash considerations. So, that is typically how these sorts of deals get done.
Teams that might be interested in moving a draft pick include the forever penny-pinching New Orleans (at No. 11), Minnesota (which has picks 16 and 23), Miami (which holds the 18th pick and is looking to clear cap space for free agency), Oklahoma City (which has the 21st and 26th pick), Atlanta (which has the 24th pick and needs to have money for a run at Joe Johnson) and Memphis (which is seeking an impact player in the draft, which might not be discovered at 12, 25 or 28).
As of right now, the Wizards will have to rely mostly on their evaluations from scouts through the college basketball season, the Chicago combine and other workout sessions in Minnesota and New Jersey (although the latter two camps had lower-rated prospects). That was going to be the case either way, with workouts often serving as confirmation for what teams already know. The Wizards' draft board is going to push them to select the best player available at whichever slot they get (remember, they never worked out JaVale McGee before taking him 18th in 2008). It would just help the process more if other parties were willing to cooperate.