Two years ago, it was so easy. The Washington Wizards had the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and selecting guard John Wall was a no-brainer. Even last year, when the Wizards had the No. 6 choice, the headaches involved in taking forward Jan Vesely were minimal.
This year, however, the Wizards have a dilemma on their hands — a good dilemma, but one nonetheless.
With the No. 3 pick Thursday night, Washington is assured of getting a quality player who hopefully will be able to step in and lift the team, if not into the playoffs at least toward respectability.
“We’re going to add a solid piece to what we’re trying to do right now,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. “A player that’s going to be with us for a long time to come will be available to us.”
The question is who will that player be?
Kentucky forward Anthony Davis is a lock at No. 1 for the New Orleans Hornets, but after that, things get muddled. The talent pool isn’t filled with franchise-altering superstars but solid players who can make a difference. The Charlotte Bobcats sit at No. 2 with needs at every position, but rumors abound that they are interested in dealing the pick.
That leaves the Wizards in the position of playing wait-and-see, but they are interested in several players, each with pros and cons.
Florida guard Bradley Beal would give the team a dead-eye outside threat to pair with Wall, although there are questions about his listed height of 6-foot-5. He averaged 14.8 points during his lone season with the Gators, and although he shot just 39 percent from 3-point range is lauded as a pure shooter.
Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist draws raves for his defensive intensity and basketball IQ, but there are worries about his offensive production after he averaged 11.9 points as a freshman on a loaded Wildcats squad.
“What would I do if I were the GM of the Wizards? The best scenario I would think for them is having Brad Beal from Florida fall to them,” wrote ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas in a chat this week.
“I’ve got him rated as the second-best prospect in the draft behind Davis. And you hear rumors. I have no idea what’s going to happen. But a lot of people like Beal, and it might be an upset to have Beal fall down to three.”
The Wizards do have some wiggle room if needed to make a trade — they could offer the Nos. 3 and 32 picks to Charlotte to move up to No. 2 and ensure Beal is theirs, although Cleveland, another team with strong interest in Beal, can offer the Nos. 4 and 24 picks to the Bobcats.
With Washington’s desire to upgrade its perimeter play, another option at No. 3 would be Harrison Barnes, the 6-8 swingman from North Carolina who entered college as The Next Big Thing but left as a mild disappointment.
Given the glut of big men the Wizards have after last week’s trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the odds grow long that D.C. native Thomas Robinson, the 6-8 power forward from Kansas who impressed during his one year as a starter with the Jayhawks, or Andre Drummond, the 7-footer from Connecticut with tantalizing potential, would be among the team’s targets.
According to NBA.com’s Consensus Mock Draft, Beal was selected as the Wizards pick by 10 of the 11 outlets, with only SI.com (Robinson) offering a dissenting voice.
“We’re going to get a good player at the third pick,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “We have to continue to increase the talent level on this team. We’re not where we want to be from that standpoint, and we’re going to get that at the third pick.”