Wizards' VP of college personnel on team's young core originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
WASHINGTON -- Few people can speak to the development of the Wizards' young players quite like Frank Ross, who serves as the team's Vice President of College Personnel. He's a high-ranking front office executive who travels the country to scout prospects in practices and games. He reports back to Wizards president Tommy Sheppard and is part of the group that guides the team's decision-making on draft night.
Ross has to evaluate young players and project what they can be for the Wizards. And so, he had a direct hand in the drafting of Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert and others who have joined the organization in recent years.
NBC Sports Washington caught up with Ross this week at the team's practice facility to discuss the growth of the Wizards' four most recent first-round picks; Hachimura (2019), Deni Avdija (2020), Kispert (2021) and Johnny Davis (2022).
Ross gave a scout's take on each of them, in particular areas he believes they have improved entering the 2022-23 season. Hachimura is the most experienced of the four, as he's going into his fourth year, while Davis has yet to make his regular-season debut as a 2022 first-round pick.
Ross: "I think watching him in his first practice and throughout the week leading up to this, you can see his ball-handling has gotten a little better and he’s more comfortable on the perimeter putting the ball on the floor. Last year, one thing with Rui is when he would put the ball on the floor and he got cut off, he would immediately pick it up and turn to pass the ball. You can see he’s a little more comfortable trying to push the envelope and see that maybe I can still get through the gap. And then, his 3-point shooting where last year he shot at a real high clip and I’m quite sure he’s going to continue on that path. And his body looks good."
"You could see towards the end of last year, Deni was starting to really develop in terms of making plays off the bounce, pushing it in transition and he started shooting a little better from the 3-point line. You could just see his confidence getting better. He played well this year during the summer. I expect big things from him as well because his body’s gotten stronger, and that’s the whole key. [It's common] once young guys come in, you could see Deni kind of getting knocked off his path. I’m quite sure he will be a better finisher last year because some of those layups around the rim last year he’d end up missing, coming up short. But all that comes with maturity and getting stronger and finishing stronger around the basket."
"Definitely, I think, one of the big things for Corey is going to be, I think we’ll see a better defender. It’s not like he didn’t defend, I think a lot of that was the neck-up part in terms of his defensive IQ; knowing guys’ tendencies. I think as you come through the league, you start to understand like if I can know a guy’s tendencies and some of the things he likes to do, and I can take that away, maybe I’ll have bought myself some time in getting some help, or making him take a shot that he doesn’t want to take. I mean, in this league it’s tough to just stop somebody. Especially the way the rules are, you can’t really touch anybody. Plus, he has to guard the ball on the perimeter. I think defensively [he's better], and also being more of a knockdown shooter, especially the corner threes. But the one thing when you watched him last year, which you could see that from the neck up he knows how to play. He’s always moving without the ball, so he’s not just a one-dimensional guy, just a catch-and-shoot guy. And he’s got some sneaky athleticism. Just watching him this morning, his body looks as if he’s in great shape. He’s stronger. He looks like he’s ready to go."
"Watching Johnny this morning and from the summer, he made a couple of moves where he didn’t take the blow, he delivered the blow and he didn’t get knocked off his path. During Summer League, you could see him get knocked off his path because the speed of the game with the guys on the floor and the strength of the game, he even looks stronger. But he seems to be a lot more confident and not hesitant, just from the summer to now. And the one thing about him, Johnny, you can see defensively, he understands how to play defense and he’s kind of learning the pro schemes, but he gives great effort. That’s one thing that impressed me this morning with. He stayed attached to his man and he wasn’t afraid to get physical. I think that’s going to be huge for him. Just from the summer to [training camp], it was impressive to see how he made some adjustments, especially with the strength part of the game."