The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards select Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert with No. 15 pick in NBA draft

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert shoots during a game against Loyola Marymount in Spokane, Wash. (Young Kwak/AP)
3 min

On the night the Wizards traded point guard Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, parting ways with the future Hall of Fame point guard after just one season in Washington, they selected Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert with the 15th pick in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft Thursday.

Westbrook was moved to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers’ No. 22 overall pick. The Wizards also sent second-round picks in 2024 and 2028 back to Los Angeles.

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Kispert averaged 18.6 points per game and adds some much-needed shooting to the Wizards’ roster after he made 44 percent from three-point range last season, which ranked sixth in the nation, and 52.9 percent overall. The first-team Associated Press all-American finished his career with the fourth-most three-pointers made in Gonzaga history.

Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard called him the best shooter in the draft, and the team considered moving up in the draft when he was still on the board at No. 10.

“Our shooting games next year should be pretty fun with him, Bradley [Beal] and Davis Bertans,” Sheppard said. “If you watch his game, he’s someone that is in perpetual motion. He knows how to get open. He knows how to create space. … Tremendous knockdown shooter.

“He’s very proficient on the defensive end. He’s a fantastic team player. Great, great individual. A leader. … When you put teams together, the way that we see the future of the NBA, you’re going to see more threes than less. He’s somebody that really makes us comfortable that we can reach our goal increasing our three-point shooting.”

Cade Cunningham goes No. 1 to Detroit Pistons

Kispert joins a young core that includes first-round picks Rui Hachimura (2019) and Deni Avdija (2020), Thomas Bryant and Daniel Gafford. There were reports that Beal was considering a trade request, but Sheppard said Wednesday that he had not, and he remained on the roster as the draft continued.

Kispert was the first draft pick since the Wizards hired Coach Wes Unseld Jr. Unseld, who was lured away from the Denver Nuggets to replace Scott Brooks less than two weeks ago, is known for his work in developing young players, including 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

“He’s got a discernible NBA skill in his ability to stretch the defense, shoot the ball with range, “Unseld said. “You couple that with a guy who’s played four years at a great program. He’s been well coached. He’s a high character, high IQ guy. So all of that wrapped in one is extremely exciting. I think that adds value to this roster.

“He’s going to help us spatially. And I think there’s more layers to this kid. Can play off the bounce. Think he’s a better athlete than given credit for. Even a better defender. That’s an area that’s been my concentration. But you’ve got to score in this league to win.”

Kispert called the moment the highlight of his life and said that he was “numb head to toe.” The Edmonds (Wash.) native was adamant that he’s not just a three-point shooter and described himself as a smart off-ball defender with a lot of experience that understands offensive spacing.

“They just thought I’d be a perfect complement to a ball-dominant guard like Brad,” Kispert said. “I can play off of him. I can move the furniture around and set pieces up for Brad to score and make plays. I’m much more than just a three-point shooter, so I can make plays on my own when I get the ball and that shot is taken away.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the No. 22 pick of the first round — the pick the Wizards received from the Lakers, which became Isaiah Jackson — had been traded to Indiana for the No. 31 pick and Aaron Holiday. The 6-foot, 185-pound Holiday was the No. 23 pick in the 2018 draft but fell behind T.J. McConnell in the rotation as the backup point guard. He averaged career highs with 9.5 points and 3.4 assists during the 2019-20 season, in which he made 33 starts.

That No. 31 pick became G League Ignite forward Isaiah Todd, who averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. The 6-10, 210-pounder was a five-star recruit committed to Michigan before the McDonald’s all-American decided to skip college all together.

Sign up for our weekly NBA newsletter to get the best basketball coverage in your inbox