Why Wizards will likely favor best player available rather than point guard in NBA Draft

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Wizards' PG need unlikely to be filled in draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Wizards president Tommy Sheppard said something during a radio interview on the Team 980 a few weeks ago that was arguably stating the obvious when it comes to his team's search for a starting point guard, which entering the offseason appears to be their biggest vacancy to fill.

When asked by hosts Chris Russell and Pete Medhurst how he plans on finding a point guard, Sheppard essentially ruled out one of the three options available.

"I don't see a rookie starting at point guard for us next season. I could be wrong, but I just don't see that. I think free agency or trade is probably the right route to go," he said (h/t @NeilDalal96).

While starting point guard is a major need and one Sheppard himself has highlighted, the Wizards are going to be better served selecting the best player available in the June 23 NBA draft. Part of the equation is that this year's draft class, though stocked with plenty of talent, is not particularly deep at point guard.

That is especially so in the lottery, where the Wizards will be picking. They currently have the 10th-best odds with a 13.9% chance of moving up into the top four. Most mock drafts have one point guard in the top-5, Jaden Ivey of Purdue, and he's more of a combo guard. There is also TyTy Washington of Kentucky, who is slated to go somewhere in the back half of the lottery.

If the Wizards jumped up into the top four, perhaps Ivey could not only be the pick but also become their opening night starter at point guard. But even if they draft Washington at, say 10th overall, he could be seen as a backup to start out his career.

If it's not Washington, other point guards who could be in the range of the Wizards, would be Blake Wesley of Notre Dame and Dyson Daniels of G-League Ignite, if either of them moved up the board. But regardless, the consensus of most mock drafts shows a much deeper crop at forward in the lottery, including three big men of different styles who could comprise the top-3 overall picks; Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) and Paolo Banchero (Duke).

Even if it were a deeper class of point guards, Sheppard's statement could still stand. It's tough to find plug-and-play starters in the NBA Draft, unless you hold one of the very top picks. That's because many of the players drafted are 19 or 20 years old. Most won't reach their prime until years down the road and they may not peak until their mid-20s.

Even those who aren't quite that young take time and the Wizards know that firsthand. Last summer, they drafted Corey Kispert with the 15th overall pick, a perfect fit for them in the sense they needed 3-point shooting and he was arguably the best outside shooter in the draft. He also played four years at a big college program, which suggested he would be ready sooner than most rookies.

By the end of the season, Kispert looked the part, but it took time to get him there. He now appears poised to fill the role the Wizards drafted him for to a larger degree in Year 2.

With that in mind, the Wizards could justify taking a player at any position on draft night. Whether they find instant minutes in the rotation or not, all five positions are long-term needs, relatively speaking.

Even if Bradley Beal re-signs on a 5-year contract, a rookie shooting guard could be his back-up to start out and someday develop into his replacement. Next year will be Beal's Age 29 season and a 5-year deal would finish up when he's 33. Meanwhile, a 19-year-old rookie would be 23 when Beal's contract expires.

While the Wizards are deepest at the four and the five, both Kyle Kuzma and Rui Hachimura have only one year left on their contracts. And at center, Kristaps Porzingis has availability concerns and Daniel Gafford is still angling for a permanent role in head coach Wes Unseld Jr.'s rotation.

Taking the best player available approach is generally a safe route to go because it is difficult to project long-term needs. Consider the Wizards and where they were just four years ago. In the summer of 2018, they held the 15th overall pick and a roster built around two star guards. John Wall was 27 going on 28 and two years away from his supermax kicking in. Beal was 25 and had just made his first All-Star team.

The Wizards not only didn't have a need at either guard position, but probably thought a guard would have no realistic path to minutes. Whether that was part of the reasoning or not, they decided to go with Troy Brown Jr., a small forward.

Nine picks later, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Anfernee Simons, a 6-foot-3 guard who was only 18 on draft night. They did so despite already having two standout guards themselves in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Now, four years later, McCollum is in New Orleans and Simons looks like a future All-Star. He's only 22 and just scratching the surface of his potential.

The same could be said for the Sixers who drafted point guard Tyrese Maxey in 2020 even though they had Ben Simmons on the roster. We all know how that played out. Even the Warriors, who drafted Jordan Poole in 2019 despite having Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, are finding a way to make it work.

The Wizards will need to find their point guard somehow if it doesn't happen in the draft. As Sheppard said himself, the solution is likely to come one week later when free agency and trades become official options.