Randy Wittman believes that with or without the No.3 pick in the 2013 draft, the Wizards are setup for a playoff spot in the spring of 2014.
That doesn't mean the coach isn't taking a closer look at the top prospects. He knows a playoff push requires more talent. Actually, depending on one's take regarding the head coach's reactions in this video, he might even be getting a little excited about some of them.
The Wizards are looking for more scoring punch, ideally from those that play on the wing or as a stretch-four. However, talent trumps any specific need and Wittman wants players that will enhance, not deter from last season's top-10 rated defensive effort.
"I think our bench has to get stronger," the coach said in the Monumental Sports video. "When we were healthy, we had a starting group that was pretty solid. We had struggled at times going to bench and maintaining the point of scoring the ball...That's really the main focus that we want to try and do with this draft, with free agency, looking at trade scenarios."
Wittman discussed or referenced the likely prospects Washington will choose from during the June 27 draft, including Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr., Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, Maryland center Alex Len and UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett. Some of the quotes are below, but also take a look the video. We already know to tread lightly with anything said pre-draft, but other body language or mannerism clues may exist.
Starting about three minutes in, Wittman discussed the 6-foot-8 Porter. Perhaps searching for the right angle or just being careful with his words, Wittman started slowly with the positives about the reigning Big East Player of the Year, before addressing the sophomore's significant rise in production over his first season. Porter's stats jumped across the board, but most notably he went from making 23 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman to leading Georgetown at 42 percent last season.
"Obviously a talented player that took his game to another level this year," Wittman said. "That's a thing you're always look at with young kids is how they develop from one year to another. The steps that he took at Georgetown from the year before to this year was a great step and proves that he can make a step like that. You always try to think then, 'well, if he can make a step like he did last year he has a chance to be a pretty good player."
The top of the draft is loaded with players connected to the DMV, including former DeMatha product Oladipo, who like Porter significantly improved over his previous season.
"He's another player that went from really nobody knowing who Oladipo was a year ago to this year stepping up and their team being No. 1 ranked team the majority of the year," Wittman said. "His game took another step like Porter. You're trying to look at how guys will fit in with the players that you have. Those two guys, obviously, we're going to take a hard look at."
Next up, Len. The Wizards met with the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian earlier this month at the NBA Combine. Len, who stepped on the College Park campus during the summer of 2011, also entered the draft following his sophomore season after leading the ACC in block shots. Yet it wasn't simply Len's pure basketball exploits that had Wittman grinning.
"This kid is intriguing from the standpoint - he came over here without knowing a word of English on August 25 and enrolled in school on August 29," said Wittman, noting a rather specific factoid that obviously stuck with him. "I'd be scared to death if I went to Ukraine and didn't know the language and had to enroll in school right away. We had a chance to sit down with him at the Chicago pre-draft camp. You would never believe the kid wasn't from here. That in itself for me, the ability to do things of that nature, the thought process, the learning process. The learning curve for him is very hard. He's come into America and played Division I. I thought he made great strides at Maryland."
Recovering from recent ankle surgery, Len was unable to participate in on-court workouts at the combine or with teams before the draft. He is also not the only top-10 prospect currently sidelined, a scenario
"I don't like it," Wittman cracked. "The kid from Kentucky (Nerlens Noel) is coming off surgery. The kid from UNLV - [Anthony] Bennett - who is going to be a top 10 pick, is coming off surgery. Len is coming off surgery. It's not the greatest situation, but that's what our doctors are for... A lot of times kids come back fine."
Coming back from injury is one thing. Coming back quickly is another and based on how the Wizards improved over the course of the 2012-13 season, Wittman wants a prospect that can step in right away.
"As a coach, that's what I look at. Management might think of something else, but I want somebody that can come in and help us."
That last note bodes well for Porter or Oladipo. Or not. Len and Bennett should be ready for the start of the season, but not Noel, who Wittman didn't mention by name. What do we make of that? Probably nothing, or everything.