It’s finally NBA draft week, and the Wizards are officially under construction.
Washington owns the No. 10 and No. 54 picks in Thursday’s draft in Brooklyn. In its quest to build a better roster, it will value pure talent above all else for the lottery selection.
There is an understanding across the league that Washington’s pick could be available for the right price. But if Tommy Sheppard, the team’s president and general manager, uses the pick, he won’t be fretting too much over specifics such as position or relative degree of NBA-readiness compared with the next teenager on the board.
Sheppard was asked a familiar question in a news conference Monday: Is it better to select a still-developing player who could become a star in a few years or a player who might not reach supernova status but could help the team win immediately?
When it comes to winning, Sheppard said, the Wizards aren’t being picky.
“I don’t know if I would agree with ‘win now.’ I think we’ve got to win more. To say our season’s going to come down to who we draft at 10, we probably wouldn’t ever want to do that to that poor kid coming in the door; that’d be shortsighted,” he said.
“For us, there’s not a position that we don’t need depth in. I don’t think we’re going to do anything but take the best player available at 10.”
With that in mind, here are four players who might be available when Washington’s pick comes:
Dyson Daniels, wing, G League Ignite
6-foot-7, 195 pounds
Daniels is such a competent player that it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets snapped up before the Wizards’ turn rolls around. But if he is available, the 19-year-old Aussie would be an excellent choice for his versatility and sound defensive instincts.
Daniels spent much of his life playing point guard before transitioning to the G League Ignite and has a smooth handle and excellent passing skills. But what sticks out most is his general basketball IQ; he has received high marks from scouts for his anticipation on defense and his reputation for competing hard. Sheppard said Monday the Wizards need more defensive “dogs.”
For all of his playmaking ability, Daniels needs to work on his shooting and probably would need time to adjust to the NBA’s pace. After working out for the Wizards on June 11, Daniels said game speed was the hardest thing to get used to coming from a more structured, diligent Australian system. That experience shows: Daniels is far from the quickest mover in the draft class, but his precision counts for a lot.
Johnny Davis, guard, Wisconsin
6-5, 194 pounds
Las Vegas was good to Davis last season. The Badgers’ star sophomore rocketed onto NBA draft boards during a Thanksgiving tournament in Sin City in which he dropped 30 points and pushed Wisconsin to a narrow upset over then-No. 12 Houston. That game gave a first taste of Davis’s calling card: his ability to score in multiple ways in the midrange and under the basket.
Davis offers a variety of attractive characteristics for a Wizards team chock full of forwards and wings (for now). If they’re looking to shore up the backcourt, Davis is a crafty mover through traffic in the lane, has a dagger of a pull-up jumper and solid defensive instincts to boot, even if his size may limit him. And at 20 years old, Davis could have a high ceiling — he was Wisconsin’s top reserve as a freshman and made a huge leap to being the center of its offense his sophomore year, indicating he’s far from fully formed as a player.
As an added bonus, Wizards brass highly rates national team experience. They should appreciate that Davis helped USA Basketball win a gold medal in Latvia last summer in the Under-19 FIBA World Cup.
Jeremy Sochan, forward, Baylor
6-9, 230 pounds
Sochan sat out his scheduled workout with the Wizards on Monday because of what he called a “minor” hamstring strain but met with team officials nonetheless. Based off what reporters experienced in a 10-minute media session after that, Wizards fans may find Sochan uncannily familiar. Vibe-wise, he’s as if Deni Avdija and Kelly Oubre were rolled into one. But maybe that’s just the bleached hair.
On court, Sochan offers the Wizards a confident forward willing to take risks and really “muck things up” on defense, to borrow a favorite phrase of Coach Wes Unseld Jr.'s. Here, that means the Baylor forward isn’t afraid to throw around his size and disrupt plays. He has a good enough basketball IQ to feel like he can — and he should because both mom and dad played Division II college basketball.
Sochan’s shot needs polishing, but he has a good handle, can make plays and guard all five positions. Chalk him up as another worldly prospect, alongside Daniels: The 19-year-old was born to an American father and Polish mother in Oklahoma and spent most of his young life in England. He led Poland’s U16 national team to a gold medal at the FIBA European Championships in 2019.
AJ Griffin, wing, Duke
6-6, 222 pounds
There are two reasons selecting Griffin could make Wizards’ faithful nervous: a history of knee and ankle injuries and inexperience on the defensive end.
But on offense, the Blue Devil can cook. He’s an excellent perimeter shooter and a sneaky mover who can draw contact well and, critically, move efficiently without the ball. He has a seven-foot wingspan and is just 18, meaning there is an outside hope that Unseld could teach him enough to make him serviceable on the defensive end. A definite catch-and-shoot threat, Griffin shot 44.7 percent from three in his lone season in college.