Washington Wizards pursuing other picks in NBA draft

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 23, 2010; D03

Taking the electrifying and flashy John Wall, the consensus top choice for the No. 1 pick, will be the easy part of Thursday's NBA draft for the Washington Wizards, who are far from content with also possessing just the 30th and the 35th selections. Owner Ted Leonsis has made it known that he wants to build through the draft and team President Ernie Grunfeld is working the phones aggressively to acquire another first-round pick, preferably between the late lottery and early 20s in the draft.

"It's always hard to put a percentage on those things," Grunfeld said of the chances that the Wizards can land another pick, "but I know we're having as many conversations as any team in the league about trying to move up and acquire another pick, but a lot of teams are trying to do the same thing."

Washington is among several teams with multiple first-round draft picks. Minnesota and Memphis have three picks, and Oklahoma City and New Jersey have two. Miami and Atlanta could also be looking to move their lone first-rounders to create cap space for the 2010 free agency class. Grunfeld wouldn't confirm or deny that he's been in touch with any of those teams. But the Wizards have competition, with teams like Cleveland and Dallas -- which don't have first-round selections -- also looking to move in.

The Wizards brought in about 25 players to work out for their lower draft picks. Although they were unable to schedule workouts for many of the players expected to go between 12th and 26th on Thursday, Grunfeld said that part of the evaluation process wasn't necessary to make a selection. Both Nick Young and JaVale McGee were selected without having a prior workout for the Wizards.

The Wizards are considering several scenarios to move up -- from dealing future picks, to packaging both of their lower picks, to simply buying a pick (at a cost of about $3 million), to taking back a salary in addition to a pick, to even packaging one of the six players under contract for next season with a pick.

"There are a lot of different ways to get one and we'll explore every opportunity to get there if it's available to us," Grunfeld said. "Those kind of situations crystallize themselves the closer you get to the draft. We've had a lot of phone calls and we've had a lot of conversations and we'll see how that turns out."

Grunfeld; Tommy Sheppard, vice president of basketball administration; Milt Newton, vice president of player personnel; and the scouting department met extensively on Tuesday to go over the draft strategy. This is a crucial draft for the Wizards organization with the team looking to overcome two lottery seasons, and a miserable campaign in which the team grossly underachieved with veterans and star guard Gilbert Arenas infamously brought guns to the locker room in a dispute with Javaris Crittenton.

"What better way to start the rebuilding process than to get the No. 1 pick?" Grunfeld said, again declining to say whether he would take Wall. (The league prohibits teams from making public declarations about their picks before NBA Commissioner David Stern steps on the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.)

"Luck played a part in this, so it's a good thing for us. I think we're going to get a player like that, to be with us for 10, 12 years and be a key component to what we're trying to do."

Grunfeld initiated the team's transformation with a flurry of trade deadline deals, including a deal with Cleveland involving former team captain Antawn Jamison that landed the final pick of the first round. Arenas, Young, McGee, Andray Blatche, Al Thornton and Quinton Ross are the only players under contract next season, with Ross informing the team several weeks ago that he fully intends to pick up his player option for the 2010-11 season.

The Wizards are looking to add depth to their roster, regardless of position, while building an eventual contender around Wall. Even if they are unable to make a deal for another pick, they still have more than $20 million in salary cap room to fill those needs with some of their nine free agents or with players from other teams.

"When you're rebuilding, you want to have youth. You want to have young players that have upside. At the same time, you want to have a few veterans on the roster, players that have been through things before," Grunfeld said. "We want to put together a group of players that are going to be competitive, they are going to play the right way, that are going to be about team. Winning will be very important to them. We're trying to put a core together of those kind of players."

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