Washington Wizards

Washington Wizards take French 7-footer Alex Sarr with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft

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Alex Sarr will obviously face some pressure as the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.

He's also joining a Washington team that can afford to be patient.

“We're not going to put a specific timeline on the rebuild here,” Wizards general manager Will Dawkins said. “We're going to just continue to take every night like this as an opportunity.”

The Wizards drafted Sarr with the second pick Wednesday night, using their highest selection in 14 years to add some much-needed size to a team that won only 15 games last season.

Sarr, a French 7-footer, played last season for the Perth Wildcats of the NBL in Australia. He also spent two years in the U.S. with Overtime Elite, a developmental league.

“I think Alex is a special, special young man. He has a humility to him but also a confidence,” Dawkins said. “He left home at 14, went to Madrid, played there for a few years, went to America, tried something new with OTE, wanted another challenge, went to play with grown men in Australia. So he's someone that's always looking for more.”

The Wizards are a year removed from a front office overhaul and an offseason in which they traded Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Their struggles last season — they set a franchise record for losses — were fairly predictable, and it's not clear how much anyone in this draft can accelerate their rebuild.

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Washington hasn't advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, and this is only the third time since then the franchise has picked in the top two of the draft. The Wizards used an ill-fated No. 1 overall pick on Kwame Brown in 2001. In 2010, they used the top pick on John Wall, ushering in an era of mild success that eventually ran its course.

The last time the team picked No. 2 it worked out beautifully — Wes Unseld, taken second in 1968, eventually led the organization to a championship.

Not only did the Wizards trade Porzingis, but they also dealt Daniel Gafford during the 2023-24 season, leaving a significant need for size. But more than that, Washington just needs any young star it can potentially build around.

Twenty years to the day after Washington's NHL team drafted another Alex — Russian star Ovechkin — the Wizards can only hope Sarr will have a similar impact. Sarr's mobility and defensive impact are highly regarded — he had 26 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks and three assists against NBA G League Ignite in the 2023 G League Fall Invitational.

In 27 games with Perth, he averaged 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17.3 minutes per game.

“I think the NBL is a really physical league,” the 19-year-old Sarr said. “I feel like I already went through a rookie year in the NBA just because of the level of competition in the NBL.”

Atlanta had the No. 1 pick Wednesday and took French teen Zaccharie Risacher. It wasn't a surprise that Risacher and Sarr went 1-2, but the order was in doubt in the weeks leading up to the draft.

This was the second straight year the Wizards ended up with a French lottery pick — Bilal Coulibaly went to Washington last year.

“We never crossed paths in our careers, but I've definitely been following his rookie year,” Sarr said.

Washington also agreed to trade 23-year-old forward Deni Avdija to Portland for Malcolm Brogdon, the 14th pick Wednesday and a first-round pick in 2029, according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been announced.

The Wizards took Pittsburgh guard Bub Carrington at No. 14 and Miami forward Kyshawn George at No. 24.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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