- The Washington Times
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The NBA draft is Thursday at 7 p.m., and the Washington Wizards are set to make a top-10 pick without a full-time general manager in place.

With no new hire made to replace the fired Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard — senior vice president of basketball operations and the interim GM — is expected to have the final say as Washington searches for a new piece to add to its uncertain roster full of pending free agents.

A plurality of experts’ mock drafts, from ESPN to Sports Illustrated to The Athletic, predict the Wizards will draft Guinean-French forward Sekou Doumbouya at No. 9 overall.

The highest-rated non-NCAA prospect in the class, Doumbouya played for Limoges CSP in France’s top basketball league last year. Doumbouya is one of the youngest prospects in the class at just 18, just as Troy Brown Jr. was when the Wizards made him their first-round pick in 2018.

Scouting reports on Doumbouya say he is a defensive-minded forward but has a lot of developing to do, so it could signal one step in a longer rebuilding process if the Wizards take him. Doumbouya visited the Wizards last week but did not work out for them.

Washington could get lucky if a higher-rated prospect, like Duke’s Cam Reddish or North Carolina’s Coby White, falls to No. 9.

White is one of the top point guards in the class and also attended a pre-draft workout at the Wizards‘ facility. Should Washington draft him, it could raise questions about the future of star point guard John Wall, who is expected to spend the rest of the calendar year recovering from a torn Achilles.

Wall said in April he’d be “fine” if the Wizards drafted a new point guard this year.

“I don’t have no problem with that because it is what it is,” Wall said. “You have to do what’s best for the team and make sure that we have pieces. And when I come back, he can be a great backup to me.”

The Wizards do not hold a second-round pick. It was dealt away four years ago in the trade that gave Washington the draft rights to Kelly Oubre Jr. — who’s now no longer with the team. But the team has worked out many prospects projected for the second round, and they could always make a trade to jump back into the round.

Of course, there’s a much more intriguing trade possibility being kicked around. The Pelicans and Celtics have shown interest in trading for Bradley Beal, reports said — but ESPN reported that the Wizards plan to offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension next month rather than use him as a trade chip for future pieces.

To start the night, barring the shock of the century, Zion Williamson will go first overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. For months the Duke megastar has been viewed as the best NBA prospect not only in the 2019 class, but in the last several years.

Most analysts agree on the following two picks, as well — Murray State guard Ja Morant No. 2 to the Memphis Grizzlies and Duke forward R.J. Barrett No. 3 to the New York Knicks.

The fourth overall pick was recently traded to New Orleans as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Prospects from local colleges could have a big night. Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter is a likely top-five pick, and his teammates from the national champion Cavaliers, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, are also expected to be drafted. Maryland big man Bruno Fernando will become the first player from Angola to be drafted into the NBA, either in the late-first round or the second.

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