May 19, 2010

Wizards win No. 1 Pick

Quicker than you can say "Kwame Brown", the suffering Washington Wizards beat the odds and years of bad fortune to win the NBA Draft lottery last night and have the rights of the number one pick of the draft.

If you don't know: the NBA Draft is the time of the year when NBA franchises get a chance to pick new players for the their team. The 14 teams who do not make the playoffs are put into a draft lottery system, and the team with the worst regular season record has the best chance of getting the highest pick. The playoff teams get to pick their players based on reverse order of their regular season standings. Get it?

But of course, things don't always turn out well for the worst ones - just as the Nets. The worst teams only have a 25 percent chance of winning the first pick, and the Wizards, who had the fifth-worst record, struck lucky last night and won that honour.

Here is how the lottery ended up. The Draft Day this year is on June 24th:

1. Washington Wizards
2. Philadelphia 76ers
3. New Jersey Nets
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Golden State Warriors
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Los Angeles Clippers
9. Utah Jazz (from the Knicks)
10. Indiana Pacers
11. New Orleans Hornets
12. Memphis Grizzlies
13. Toronto Raptors
14. Houston Rockets

The Wizards have had a fairly unfortunate recent history, and especially a tragic last season. Not even Gandalf (the White, not the Grey), the greatest Wizard of them all, couldn't save them. Neither could Michael Jordan, who was probably greater. The last time the Wizards got a first pick was eight years ago, when then part-owner Jordan decided to pick a young Kwame Brown who turned out to be my favourite bust ever.

And then last season happened. Wizards entered the year with optimism, as they boasted a formidable Big 3 of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. The season turned to turmoil after Arenas' injuries/gun case: Butler was traded to the Mavericks, Jamison became LeBron's newest sidekick as Cleveland, and Arenas was last seen serving his sentence at a halfway house. Hibachi!

But now, they have a chance at redemption. The biggest name in the draft this year is Kentucky point guard John Wall. Wall's explosive skill make him the favourite to be picked first.

The argument against Wall is that he plays essentially the same position as Arenas, and the predicted second pick, shooting guard Evan Turner from Ohio State might be a better fit to play along with Arenes in the Wizard backcourt. Turner was the 2010 College National Player of the Year.

But I am of the belief that teams should always pick based on talent, not position. Pick the best player available, and the rest will figure out for itself. In the case of the Wizards, they should definitely go for Wall, and then trade Arenas for a quality big man if possible. Let the 76ers deal with Turner at number two.

My favourite draft website is Draft Express, who keep detailed and meticulous tabs on draft prospects all year round and are about 467 thousand times better informed than I am in this particular topic. Here is their top-10 picks from the mock draft, as of today:

Wizards: John Wall, PG
76ers: Evan Turner, SG/SF
Nets: Derrick Favors, PF/C
Timberwolves: DeMarcus Cousins, C
Kings: Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF
Warriors: Wesley Johnson, SF/PF
Pistons: Cole Aldrich, C
Clippers: Ekpe Udoh, PF/C
Jazz: Greg Monroe, PF/C
Pacers: Ed Davis, PF

I agree with their top four picks, but I would probably put Greg Monroe a little higher. June 24th is the big day when the picks, and more sensationally, the trades, could change the landscape of the league. And as the crazy free agent rush of the Summer of 2010 looms, this Draft Day could turn out to be more important than ever. I will have a more in-depth preview of the draft as the day approaches, adding my predictions for the picks.

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