Potential Wizards Selections in the 2017 NBA Draft

WASHINGTON — After playing no role at all in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards have a small, but potentially important part in this year’s selection process. They traded away their first-round pick, but as owners of the 52nd overall pick Thursday night, the Wizards need to get the most out of that selection, for a number of reasons.

With uncertainty in Cleveland, the chance to be competitive in the East may be right in front of the Wizards. The team is built to win now, with its core in the prime of their careers. This means they could really use a polished, developed player ready to step on the court and help immediately with this pick, hopefully stretching a woefully thin rotation behind the starting five.

Unless they trade up, the Wizards aren’t going to be able to snag a talent like Jordan Bell, who could go as early as the first round. And outside of their top picks, the Wizards’ recent draft history hasn’t exactly been fruitful. Kelly Oubre Jr. has turned into a solid rotation after being selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Hawks, then traded to Washington. But the list of second-round picks who have contributed at all is pretty spare looking back through the Ernie Grunfeld era, which began in June 2003.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t talent at this juncture of the draft — the Wizards just haven’t been the ones to find it. E’Twaun Moore and Isaiah Thomas both were selected in the final six picks of the 2011 draft, turning into a decent role player and a superstar, respectively. The San Antonio Spurs snagged Patty Mills with the 55th overall pick in 2009. And undrafted players like Jeremy Lin, Anthony Morrow and Kent Bazemore have all turned into NBA mainstays.

Washington could really use a mobile, versatile big man to spell Markieff Morris and potentially give them a small ball unit that can run the floor. They’re also in need of a better option backing up John Wall, either a true point guard or a combo guard that can give Wall a breather on the bench or by shifting him to the off guard position for stretches so he doesn’t have to absorb all the primary ball-handling duties.

If the Wizards go for a big in the draft, they could always try to work out a post-draft deal with an undersized, instant-offense type of bench guard like Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene. Keene was the leading scorer in Division I, but is a defensive matchup issue in extended minutes. In short bursts off the bench, though, he could provide the kind of game-changing impact the Spurs get from Mills.

With a roster already butting up against the salary cap into luxury tax territory, the Wizards won’t be able to move much on the free agent market. That makes this selection, late as it is, a big one and may make it worth trading up a bit to nab someone a little earlier in the second round, if that potential impact player is still available.

Mock drafts are often woefully off-base, especially with the ever-increasing unpredictability injected into the process with a growing international player pool. The players on the list below range wildly in their expected draft position, with all on the list at least close to the Wizards’ pick at 52. That said, here are a few names that fit the bill as potentially NBA-ready players who can address Washington’s specific needs, along with their average draft position from a collection of mock drafts around the web.

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Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue\n

Average mock draft position: 33.6\n

Swanigan may be a pie-in-the-sky reach without the Wizards moving up, but he\u2019s exactly the type of player who could make a major, immediate improvement to their roster. He\u2019s a relentless rebounder with some shooting range who plays bigger than his 6-foot-9 height with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He could be a forward who shifts to center in a small-ball lineup, creating matchup nightmares for opponents of a guard-strong team like Washington.\n

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Frank Mason, PG, Kansas\n

Average mock draft position: 43.2\n

If the Wizards are looking for a seasoned, backup guard to run the offense while John Wall is off the floor, they\u2019d have a hard time finding a more NBA-ready piece than Mason, a four-year starter at Kansas. He\u2019s strong, can put the ball on the floor and shoot. He\u2019s a bit undersized, but could provide the bench spark that\u2019s been missing. He\u2019s also worked out for the team, so they\u2019re familiar with him at this point.\n

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Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor\n

Average mock draft position: 44.0\n

Motley took over as Baylor\u2019s long, rangy first option when Taurean Prince moved on to the NBA last year and offers many of the same qualities. As Wizards fans can attest after this year\u2019s first-round matchup against the Hawks, someone with that combination of size and skills can be a useful piece. He\u2019s not quite the shooter that Prince is, but has a bit more length.\n

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Edmund Sumner, PG, Xavier\n

Average mock draft position: 44.4\n

Sumner comes with injury risk, after tearing his ACL last year at Xavier, but is a potential first-round talent who may slide down the board if teams are unwilling to take a risk. He\u2019s a better athlete and a scorer than he is a shooter, so his full NBA success will be contingent on a full recovery. Sumner will miss the first part of the season, but could turn out to be a steal if he makes it to the Wizards.\n

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Tyler Dorsey, PG, Oregon\n

Average mock draft position: 45.2\n

Dorsey possesses excellent size for a guard that can man the point and can create offense in multiple ways. He\u2019s got pro-level athleticism and is used to a high-powered offense from Oregon. Most mock drafts have him going a few spots in front of Washington\u2019s pick \u2014 if he\u2019s still there at 52, he\u2019d be hard to pass up.\n

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Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga\n

Average mock draft position: 58.5\n

Williams-Goss seems like the type of player waiting to make every NBA team that passes over him Thursday pay for their oversight. He\u2019s not the most explosive guard and he doesn\u2019t have the purest shot, but he\u2019s a lock down defender (third-best defensive rating in the country), led the nation in Win Shares and possesses NBA size, standing 6 feet 4 inches. Say what you will about Gonzaga\u2019s past draft picks, Williams-Goss led his team to the national title game, posting a 25.2 Player Efficiency Rating. Who will give him a chance?\n

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L.J. Peak, SG, Georgetown\n

Average mock draft position: N\/A\n

Peak may well be available after the draft, with only one of the five mocks we studied projecting he will be selected at all. His familiarity with D.C. and Verizon Center make him a sentimental fit and could well help him lean toward signing here. His three-point shooting regressed from last year (40.9 percent down to 32.7 percent) and he\u2019s not a great defender, but he\u2019s grown into a better passer in his years at Georgetown.\n

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