Defining Wizards' needs: Draft versus free agency

Defining Wizards' needs: Draft versus free agency
June 23, 2014, 11:30 am
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Everyone does or should recognize the Wizards will not fill most or perhaps any of their needs on draft night. Having traded away their first round pick in the Marcin Gortat deal, Washington only has a mid-second rounder to play with on Thursday night.

When it comes to second round picks, the NBA is not the NFL. In the hardwood sport, such selections are iffy at best to make the opening night roster, let alone contribute in any meaningful way both short and long-term. Not impossible, just not likely. On the gridiron, second rounders are gold, players expected to help immediately if not start.

In other words, the strategy for middle of round two in the NBA leans best available player while in the NFL it tilts toward fixing a specific hole. Now factor in the reality that Washington has only handful of players locked into contracts for next season and we can hopefully agree that when it comes to listing team needs, the context is far more about free agency than the draft.

Keep that in mind as we look at how views the Wizards needs heading into the 2014 NBA Draft Specifically:

Washington Wizards

Draft picks: No. 46
Needs: Small forward, frontcourt depth

As a reminder, the Wizards have only five players locked into contracts next season without doubt: guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, power forward Nene and small forwards Martell Webster and Otto Porter. Washington seems likely to keep point guard 38-year-old Andre Miller rather than buy out his contract. That means potentially nine spots are available.

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Make me rank the positions and I'd go:

Power forward - We know Nene will miss 20 games.

Center - Even if we assume Gortat stays, teams can never have enough bigs. Restricted free agent Kevin Seraphin's return seems fair shakier than forwards Trevor Booker and Drew Gooden. If Gortat bolts, this is priority number one.

Point guard - Miller turns 39 during the season so a long-term option behind Wall is needed. 2012 second pick Tomas Satorasnky could be the solution, but he must come stateside first.

Wing guard - Perhaps Glen Rice Jr. is the answer, but Washington needs another player in the backcourt who can create his own offense off the dribble.

Small forward - The Wizards handed Webster an extension last year, drafted Porter third overall and could still re-sign unrestricted free agent Trevor Ariza.

This isn't the same as saying SF is Washington's strongest position. It's not. Again, the Wizards should use the 46th pick on the player they deem most talented, best fit or whatever criteria they choose to land someone they deem worthy of a roster spot. But if we're talking position and factoring resources spent, the answer is not small forward. disagrees. This is the second sentence of their team summary.

SI: "Now, Washington faces the prospect of Trevor Ariza leaving for a big pay day in free agency before 2013 lottery pick Otto Porter is ready to step in and fill his shoes." 

Washington may bring back the 3-ball shooting, defensive-minded Ariza after his stellar 13-14 campaign. While paying him, Webster and Porter somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million for at least next season is arguably too much for the small forward position, it can be justified in a getting-the-band-back-together kind of way. 

Otherwise, the idea of ranking small forward as a main need seems false. That is unless one believes Porter's limited playing time last season was because he was overmatched rather than the notion that there were simply not enough minutes - or that Webster's rough playoff performance carries over into next season.

Stating they should keep Ariza, that's one thing, but the arguments for letting him walk involve letting Porter get a shot and asset/roster allocation, topics that should not be ignored in the context of forming a contending roster. Figure out a way to give Ariza, Webster and Porter regular minutes worthy of their contracts and we can talk.

If we're talking best player available, drafting a small forward at 46 is no sin. Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross and Stanford's Josh Huestis were among those that have worked out pre-draft for Washington. But that's not a general need come free agency, certainly not in a big ticket item kind of way.