The Wizards didn't have a draft pick in June, and they passed on buying a pick because president Ernie Grunfeld anticipated he could get exactly what Scott Brooks needed with rookie free agents. Daniel Ochefu, Sheldon McClellan and Danuel House proved him to be correct.
"It says a lot about the organization when you don’t have a draft pick and we have three guys make our team being true rookies," Brooks said Saturday after releasing three players with NBA experience in Johnny O'Bryant, Casper Ware and Jarell Eddie. "Ernie and the staff did a great job of finding three players that fit our DNA. I’m excited about it. They give us youthful athleticism. They all bring a unique talent to our team. Will they play much this year? I’m not sure. They’re going to give us great energy and great effort."
All three have good size and seemed to fit what Brooks preached since Day 1 of training camp in September: A defense-first mentality.
"I know how important every member of the team is. It’s not just the guys who play. It’s not the guys who get all the shots," said Brooks, who can relate to being on the end of the bench during 10 years in the league himself. "It’s the guy who helps those guys get shots, who helps those guys in practice are the guys who make up the true character of your team.”
While House and McClellan appeared to be locks from early on in the process, despite scant playing time towards the end of the preseason, Ochefu gained steam as the process wore on.
“He has a skill-set that really makes him to be able to compete at this level. He plays hard and he’s a really good passer," Brooks said. "Coach Jay (Wright) and Villanova did a great job of teaching him how to roll to the basket. He has great hands and to be able to kick out and making the right plays. And he’s a great guy. He has high character and connects with all the guys.
"When you’re putting your team together you want to make sure those guys at the end of your roster are the personalities that can handle not playing consistently. They’re not going to rest and relax because they made it. You want those guys to keep pushing, keep playing keep working and grinding out every day and we picked three great ones.”
Buying a second-round draft pick can be tricky since players selected after the first round are non-guranteed. The Cleveland Cavaliers paid $2.4 million to the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 54 pick to select Kay Felder. The Golden State Warriors paid $2.4 million to the Milwaukee Bucks to Patrick McCaw at No. 38.
Both have made their teams' roster, but history shows that second-round picks are more difficult to gauge and tend to jump around to other teams before finding their footing. By going the free-agent route, the Wizards were able to get what they wanted minus the risk of paying a few million to another team for the draft position and still have flexibiltiy in place beacuse Ochefu, House and McClellan are on non-guranteed deals.
The leverage that the Wizards had to attract quality free agents to mini-camp and eventually training camp was simple. They had the roster spots open that many other teams did not.
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