The first step to success is complete for the Wizards: Coach Randy Wittman and GM Ernie Grunfeld are on the same page when it comes to the June 27 NBA draft.
The Wizards have three picks, including No. 3 overall after moving up five spots in Tuesday’s draft lottery, and Nos. 38 and 54 in the second round.
Grunfeld doesn't want three rookies on a team that already is extremely youthful with Bradley Beal (19), John Wall (22), Jan Vesely (23), Kevin Seraphin (23) and Chris Singleton (23).
“I‘ll agree with him on that. We don’t need three rookies,” Wittman said in a phone interview with CSN Washington on Wednesday afternoon. "We still got a lot of developing to do with those guys. To add three more to that group, I don’t think in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish in the next couple of years is beneficial.”
That means trading a pick and possibly packaging it with a current player to land a veteran. Looking ahead, two of the most veteran players on the Wizards’ roster, Emeka Okafor (30) and Trevor Ariza (27), both of whom are not expected to opt out of the final year of their contact, will be free agents after the 2013-14 season.
The Wizards finished last season 29-53 and were in the No. 8 spot before the lottery. They moved up as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic claimed the top two choices. Still, it was a significant upgrade for the Wizards in a draft where there are few players who are guaranteed superstars but many with untapped potential who could be.
The Wizards only averaged 93.2 points per game last season, tied for lowest in the NBA, so they need scoring. But they also need size in the low post. Okafor is a defensive presence who isn't much of an offensive threat. Nene is 7-0, but he’s often injured and that limits his production. He’ll be 31 when the season tips off, and there aren't many options behind him off the bench.
Despite that glaring weakness, Wittman is partial to the Wizards going with the best player available even if it means taking a player under 6-5. If evaluations determine Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo are better suited than big men Alex Len and Cody Zeller, that’s the direction he’d like to see the franchise go. That the Wizards have a starting backcourt with Wall and Beal shouldn't matter.
“You've got to do your homework and bring in all these guys and watch film, talk to a lot of people, and then once you've decided on a group of guys you've really honed in … I’m not a firm believer anyway, of picking for position rather than talent unless it’s the same,” Wittman said. “If you've got a need somewhere and the talent in that position are pretty much the same you obviously pick for need. We've got to add a piece to this team that we think is the closest, if not ready, to play.”
Beal was the Wizards’ representative at the lottery. He was chosen No. 3 overall in the 2012 draft and became a starter right away.
“We would be really thrilled at the No. 3 position this year if we were able to pick a guy that turned out like he did the first year. You can ever predict that though,” said Wittman, who remained in the Washington area for the lottery. “I couldn't have told you last year at this time if I thought when we picked Bradley that I thought he was going to be ready to become a starter right away or if it would take him some time. You just don’t know. That’s such a big step up from college to the pros that you don’t know how long it takes a guy to adjust to that step. We won’t know that. The guy we pick at third this year, we won’t know that. But you hope that it turns out like it did with Bradley.”
Ultimately, it’s up to Wittman to adjust to whatever talent is acquired. There are plenty of examples of teams in today’s NBA, and the past, of teams that use three-guard lineups for extensive periods as the league has become more perimeter-oriented.
"It's going to take a year or two to figure that out anyway. Everybody says, 'You've got John and Bradley,' well, John and Bradley can't play 48 minutes. We got to get better overall talent-wise on this team to withstand injuries. The way you do that is get guys who can come in play. If you pick a guy that’s similar to another guy, it happens," Wittman said. "I've seen it many times. When I was playing everybody said Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson couldn't play together and that was one hell of a three-man rotation for many years in Detroit.
"You don’t know how it’s going to work out. If it becomes a situation where one guy’s turned into a really good player that’s a hell of a asset you can look to move when that time comes. …I'm never too worried even trying to make it work. I want talent. Its my job to figure out how to utilize that talent together."