- The Washington Times
Sunday, June 24, 2018

When Troy Brown Jr. worked out for the Washington Wizards, the team brass broke out the whiteboard. The coaches and executives in the room described a scenario — the team was down by two points in the final seconds of a game — and told the shooting guard prospect to draw a play.

What happened next may not have been the singular moment that convinced the team to draft Brown No. 15 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. But it was a story on everyone’s lips once Brown officially went to the Wizards.

The task sounds straightforward enough, but coach Scott Brooks said that in instances with other players, he’s “seen it where there are not five players on the floor.” Team president Ernie Grunfeld recalled that Brown drew up “several” options.

Brown himself, on his first conference call with reporters after the Wizards selected him, first humbly said it would be difficult to explain over the phone what he drew up — then proceeded to do so.

“It was kind of like a back-screen into a slip and then a fade three,” Brown said. “It gave you a lot of various options, caused mismatches on the court for a last-minute shot to either go ahead or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

The Wizards paired Brown with second-round pick Issuf Sanon, a young European project who also plays guard. The team’s 2018 draft did not address one apparent need, the frontcourt, but Brooks and Grunfeld expressed their happiness with the selections’ versatility and athleticism.

Indeed, versatility was a word on everyone’s lips when talking about Brown. The 6-foot-7 18-year-old out of Oregon can play the two and the three and has the size to match up with fours.

“A lot of people are calling [it a] positionless game right now, so the more versatility you have and the more positions, the more skill you have, the more valuable you are,” Grunfeld said.

Brooks said making the 15th pick was “easy” because Brown was one of the Wizards’ big targets, high on their board after the coach and player made a connection during interviews at the NBA Draft combine and in Washington. The interest was mutual — Brown had “a good feeling” about the Wizards after his workout.

“It was a lifelong dream to make it to the NBA. You work so hard to make that dream come true,” Brown said. “To finally hear my name, especially with a team that I felt like I kind of hit it off with in the workout and with the interview, I was very excited.”

Sanon is another case entirely. A 6-foot-4 combo guard from Ukraine, Sanon is also 18 years old but will not spend time on the Wizards’ NBA roster just yet. He will come to the U.S. on July 1 to join the Wizards and play in the upcoming Summer League in Las Vegas, but next season he will return to his European team, Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia.

Grunfeld confirmed the team is content to let him continue training and playing in Slovenia so he doesn’t take up a roster spot yet. He also likened Sanon’s ball-handling to that of a fellow Wizard from Europe, Tomas Satoransky.

“We have a European scout who has seen him a lot,” Grunfeld said. “We just had the Euro Camp, which we had a chance to see him. He’s very athletic, he gets up and down the floor, he has a nice-looking shot, good feel for the game, very competitive. We think he has big upside.”

Sanon told reporters he models his game after Russell Westbrook and wants to improve his 3-point shot, his court vision and his left hand.

He’s also excited to come to America for what appears to be the first time in his life.

“I can’t wait for this because all my friends went to USA and told me like, ‘This is very, very good country and you need to go to USA to see this,’” Sanon said. “I can’t wait to go to USA.”

The Wizards wanted to add depth on the perimeter this offseason, but they drafted two guards at the expense of selecting an athletic big, something John Wall specifically asked for when the team’s season ended in April. Center Marcin Gortat and forwards Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith are all entering the final year of their contracts.

But Grunfeld dismissed the idea that the team had to add a center or forward through the draft.

“You know, we have two All-Stars on this team, a very effective small forward along with some other very good veterans,” Grunfeld said. “We think we have a deep team and we think we helped ourselves today.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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