The Washington Wizards have two things working for them ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft. By selecting 15th, the team should be able to find a lottery-caliber talent who can fit in right away but for some reason fell out of the top 14 picks. And since the Wizards have so many needs — backup point guard, shooting big man, versatile wing — they can take the best player available to fill one of those holes.
Here are four guards the Wizards may consider:
Lonnie Walker IV, Miami
6-foot-4, 196 pounds
Before his first college game, Walker was a projected lottery pick. The five-star recruit out of Pennsylvania played in the McDonald’s all-American Game and shined as a co-MVP in the Jordan Brand Classic. Though Walker required surgery in July to repair a torn right meniscus, which kept him idle for the next three months, his prep résumé was so impressive that several websites and publications viewed him as a top-11 pick.
Then Walker began his college career on the bench. However, in the final 18 games, Walker was elevated to the starting lineup and proved his worth by averaging 14 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc. That strong push reenergized talk that Walker could become the Hurricanes’ first lottery pick.
“He’s only scratching the surface of how good he can become,” Miami Coach Jim Larranaga said in February.
But while Walker can shoot, he also can be prone to taking questionable shots. Walker comes from a system with little ball movement, and he didn’t develop into a playmaker. He also had a costly turnover late in his final college game that led to Loyola Chicago’s upset win.
THE LONG SHOT
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
For many years, one of the Wizards’ most glaring deficits has been backcourt depth. The team has not found a true backup for point guard John Wall. If the Wizards felt Tomas Satoransky was the solution, they would not have brought in three other point guards over the course of the 2017-18 season. On Thursday, Washington potentially can solve the problem by drafting a young and capable guard in Gilgeous-Alexander.
Similar to Walker, Gilgeous-Alexander got off to a slow start in his freshman season by starting only twice during the Wildcats’ first 15 games. By February, however, he blossomed, averaging 38 minutes and contributing 19 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds over Kentucky’s final 10 games. In the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Gilgeous-Alexander was at his best, becoming the go-to driver and finisher who also had reliable range (43 percent from beyond the three-point arc).
Unlike Walker, who came to Miami with lottery hype, Gilgeous-Alexander went from an afterthought at Kentucky to a player who probably will be off the board by the time the Wizards make their selection. Though he entered college with far less fanfare, Gilgeous-Alexander should become the fifth Wildcats point guard drafted in the first round under John Calipari.
“That’s why guys go to Kentucky,” Gilgeous-Alexander said at the NBA draft combine. “It prepares them for the next level. Coach does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time.”
Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
DiVincenzo was given the tongue-in-cheek label “the Michael Jordan of Delaware” by his college coach during his freshman season. Now there’s little to joke about, given DiVincenzo’s ascension as a first-round selection.
No potential draft pick had quite the spring as DiVincenzo, who spent most of his career coming off the bench. As a sixth man in the NCAA national championship game, he scored 31 points on 10-for-15 shooting, which included five three-pointers, and was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four. Then in May at the NBA draft combine, DiVincenzo impressed scouts and executives by tying for the highest max vertical leap at 42 inches with a running start.
Although the prospect of DiVincenzo going as high as No. 15 might be surprising, he is making a late push up the board because of his scoring and athleticism.
Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Holiday has the genes and humility to become an NBA backup point guard. The younger brother of Jrue and Justin Holiday, Aaron had no problem coming off the bench for UCLA behind prized recruit Lonzo Ball during the 2016-17 season. By his junior season, however, Holiday emerged as a do-everything player, leading the Bruins in minutes (37.7), points (20.3), assists (5.8) and steals (1.3).
While he’s an exceptional shooter (42 percent from beyond the arc during his three years in college) and scouts admire his toughness and confidence, Holiday’s size will be an issue. Still, after a solid college career, he will be more NBA ready than most, and that will boost his stock among teams with first-round picks.