2010 NBA Draft, Wizards picks, LeBron James and NBA playoffs

May 19, 2010

Staff writer Michael Lee was online to take your questions about the Wizards' results in the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery, likely dratees, the future of LeBron James and the ongoing NBA playoffs.

Hello, everybody. It's been a while since we had one of these. I'm looking forward to it. And, I'm pretty sure you all have a lot to see after the Wizards won the NBA lottery on Tuesday in Secaucus, N.J. So much going on these days, with the Wizards now left to decide between John Wall and Evan Turner, questions now rising about the future of Gilbert Arenas and Ted Leonsis soon to take over as majority owner. The Wizards also have loads of cap space if it plans on entering the 2010 free agency party -- and possibly the LeBron James zaniness. And, oh yeah, the NBA playoffs are going on, too. With no further delay, let's go...

John Wall or Evan Turner? I'm elated the Wiz actually won something this year! But why does it feel like Shirley Hemphill is doing the Mombo in my stomach? I can't help but think that no matter who they pick among the consensus top two of Wall and Turner, they will basically amount to nothing more than a Kwame clone. Please tell me they can't go wrong with either one! And...um... could you also check to make sure neither one of them is a card-carrying member of the NRA while you're at it?

I wish I could tell you that the Wizards can't go wrong with either one, but I can't. There are few sure things in the NBA draft and it's no guarantee that landing the No. 1 pick will lead to success. Blake Griffin has yet to suit up for the Los Angeles Clippers. Greg Oden has barely played for Portland. Andrea Bargnani has had an uneven career in Toronto. Your Kwame Brown example is probably the extreme, but this doesn't mean the Wizards will still be playing this time next season or the year after that.

The only former No. 1 picks to win championships in the lottery era are David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and Glenn Robinson. Three of those guys won in San Antonio. O'Neal left Orlando before winning four titles in Los Angeles and Miami.

But I don't want to put a damper on last night. There is reason to be excited because I like John Wall and Evan Turner and think both can be really good at the next level. I'm not ready to predict that Wall will follow fellow Calipari products Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans to win rookie of the year, but I love the way he can go end-to-end and seems eager to make his teammates better.  I was huge fan of Turner at Ohio State; loved his intangibles and leadership. Neither will be Kwame Brown. Maybe I'll check on the NRA when I speak to them in Chicago this week.

Everyone is saying in today's game, you need a dominant PG, ala Chris Paul & Deron Williams. While I love those guys, Paul didn't even make the playoffs & Williams got put out by a Lakers team with an average Derek Fisher running the show. Steve Nash is about to get sent home, and while Rondo is balling out, it's the Celtics D that is putting them over the top. Looking at the last 10 NBA champs, the theme seems to be a dominant SG (Kobe/Wade), a dominant big man (Shaq/Duncan), or a dominant defense (Celtics/Pistons). How should this equate to the Wizards draft philosophy in drafting Wall??

The Wizards shouldn't worry about position; they should worry about talent. Their roster is barren of many building blocks, so this pick has the chance to be the foundation of the franchise for many years to come. Inevitably, talent is what wins in the NBA, regardless of position. Having a great point guard might not guarantee you will a championship, but it certainly won't hurt teams in pursuit of a title.  Tim Duncan likely doesn't win those last two championships without Tony Parker. And, while Derek Fisher isn't great, he's solid and stable. Throughout history, point guards and big men have been the key to success and when you consider Flip Saunders's history with point guards, you have to assume that the Wizards are leaning toward Wall.

Can Gilbert move to a shooting guard position? How do you think he would cope with not being the face of the franchise?

To answer your first question, I say yes. It's been so long since Arenas played with Larry Hughes that I think people forget that he enjoys having someone else making plays and sharing ball-handling duties with him. The chemistry he had with Hughes was unique, but there were several times when they switch off from shooting guard and point guard.

As for your second question, I haven't spoken to Arenas, so I cannot say for sure but I don't know if he would handle that too well. His disappointment and anger after the Wizards removed his banner from Verizon Center ran deep and I'm sure there is still a little bit of residue left over. Bringing in a "new face" could make the situation more complicated. But again, I can't say for sure.

What do you think about the Wizards making a play for LeBron James if he indeeds opt out of his contract? With all of the talk about Chicago and N.Y. being possible destinations nobody has mentioned the wizards, if you look at Cleveland, Chicago and Washington (w/ Gil) w/o LeBron, I would have to call it a tie as far as talent between Chicago and Washington. Cleveland would have finished worst than the Wizards did w/o James. Now I'm not a big LeBron fan, but what he bring's to the table and the #1 pick added to what's there (provided they draft Wall and move Gil back to his natural position) I think the Wizards could compete for at least the Eastern Conference title next year and maybe the NBA title in coming years.

I don't see the Wizards making a serious play for LeBron unless he makes a serious play for them. From my conversations with Ernie and Ted, I don't get the impression that the Wizards want to use up all of that cap space this summer to make a huge splash in free agency. The plan seems to build through the draft and add other pieces through free agency and trades to complement that core.

And, I have to disagree with you, Chicago is stocked with much more than the Wizards right now (Washington has six players under contract and is coming off a 26-win season). Derrick Rose is already an established all-star with playoff experience.  Joakim Noah is a rising big man, and they also have Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, a group that gave Cleveland all that it could handle in the first round.

Are there any trade scenarios with the #1 pick that would make any sense?

Nope. That was easy. I can come up with some ridiculous scenarios, but why bother? You wanted some that make sense.

Is there any chance that the Wiz re-sign Livingston now? I love a backcourt that has Wall-Arenas as its starters and Livingston-Young coming off the bench. But would Livingston stick around for that. And what is it about being a Wiz fan that makes me even care about a feel good story about a retread when John Wall just landed in the team's lap?

I wasn't positive that Livingston wanted to come back after last season, and I would assume he heads elsewhere if the Wizards go with Wall, as expected. Livingston proved that he can play in this league, and that he can stay healthy with heavy minutes. But if he's going to be a backup, then I think he would rather be a backup for a playoff-caliber team. The Wizards won't be in that situation for some time - even with the No. 1 pick. They are in rebuilding mode and Livingston doesn't strike me as a guy who wants to be a part of that after being out of the game for so long.

Michael: Isn't this the perfect storm for Leonsis to go for a total rebranding of the organization? I'm not talking colors or name (Though Red/White/Blue and "Senators" should be the changes, but I mean from top to bottom. You have three draft picks and a lot of youth ... AND cap room. I think you sit on the cap room. You keep the team young. I don't know what to do with Arenas. But I wish he wasn't here.

This really is a great situation for Leonsis to step into. Ernie Grunfeld (mostly) cleaned the slate and gave him a new canvas to build the franchise as he sees fit with those deadline deals and landing the No. 1 pick in the first summer is not bad, either.

Now that we got the "Wall" pick and assuming we keep Arenas, where does that Andray Blatche? I thought that despite Blatche's bone-head actions from time to time, he was actually starting to put it together and shine last season. He put up some of the best numbers in the league in the last 2 -3 months of the season ... all-star numbers if they're stretched out over an entire season. So can he still continue to grow and produce like that now that he'll be at minimum the 3rd option (or posssibly 4th option, depending on what FA the Wiz might bring in)?

Those sort of things have a way of settle out on the floor. Despite his flashes of immaturity, Blatche really came into his own in the second half of the season. And his 31-point lap around Kevin Garnett looks even more impressive with the way Boston is playing this postseason. I have a hard time imagining Flip Saunders not looking to utilize the advantage that they will have on the offensive end most nights with Blatche. Plus, it's not like John Wall jacks up shots all day. He shares the rock, loves to get his teammates involved, but can go for his when he has to.

The key for Blatche is Blatche. Is he going to put in the work on his body to be in better physical shape? Is he going to become more of a student of the game, study film, etc.? If he does, he'll get the benefits. But it really is on him.

Say the Wizards take John Wall, what potentially could the starting five look like? Also, do you see the Wizards pursuing any big-time free agents like Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson?

That's really hard to say right now, because the Wizards haven't made their selections at No. 30 or 35, or acquired any other picks through trades. Based on the six players they currently have...I'd have to say Wall, Arenas, Thornton, Blatche and McGee. But there is a lot of work that still has to be done with this team.

That work doesn't necessarily include going after a big name free agent. The Wizards are getting younger, hoping to follow the Oklahoma City model of developing a young nucleus and adding the appropriate side dishes. Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh are veterans who want to win now, so I don't see them being a part of a fledgling situation.

How can Ted keep Ernie around? Grunfeld built a team that was a complete failure. He has also handcuffed the franchise to Gilbert. Now we are giving him another chance? It doesn't make any sense, does it?

It actually makes a ton of sense. Look, Leonsis is a smart man and he won't take over until just before the draft. So why would he fire the GM, his staff, the coach, and his staff, and all of the people who have spent a whole year scouting and devising a plan when you don't have someone already in place. It's not Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is calling Ted begging him to move to D.C.

The timing isn't right to make a change. This is shrewd decision to closely monitor these guys for a year, see what they are all about and determine if their vision matches yours. Too often, teams that make decisions on the front office in June pay the price. Look at Minnesota. It hired David Kahn last June and he drafted three point guards in the first round, only one of them played for the Timberwolves, and none of them were Brandon Jennings or Stephen Curry. Then he hired Kurt Rambis, who use of the Triangle offense doesn't appear to be an ideal fit for his personnel. Look at Cleveland. It hired Danny Ferry in June 2005 and he made the mistake of signing Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall with all of his cap space. To this day, the Cavaliers are still in search of a sidekick for LeBron James and have made several trades to make up for that initial error.

Say what you will about Grunfeld, he certainly has made his share of mistakes the past few years, but Leonsis was right when he said Grunfeld has a proven track record of success. Plus, when it became obvious that the team he put together wasn't going to work out, he blew it up and put the organization in position to start over. Ted is simply giving Grunfeld a chance to clean up the mess he made.

 

Who do the Wizards take with their other first-round pick? Leonsis said he wants to collect more picks. How could the Wizards make that happen?

Collecting picks has been happening for years. Luxury tax leery teams have been selling draft picks. You know how Boston got its best player this posteason? It bought the rights to Rajon Rondo from the Phoenix. Denver got Ty Lawson by buying the choice from Minnesota. So, some team that wants to clear up more cap space to make a run in free agency could offer up a mid-to-late round pick and the Wizards could trounce.

Another option is taking absorbing a bad but expiring contract and getting a pick in a trade. Since the Wizards have cap space and only six players under contract for next season, they can do a number of things.

Why is it out of the realm of possibility that the Wiz make a playoff run next season? It seems like it barely takes a .500 record to be in contention in the east and a core of Wall, Arenas and Blatche, while very iffy is talented.

Talent isn't enough to make it to the playoffs. The Wizards had talent at training camp, but how did that turn out? You need a little more to get to the postseason - even in the East.

I've heard the theory that after a Miami or a NY whiffs on LeBron or some other marquee FA, they'll be in the market for a Gilbert trade. Far-fetched or a real possibility now that the Wiz could be starting Wall at PG? I would think Gilbert is radioactive at this point to any team.

The Wizards have to at least explore the option of dealing Arenas, with that contract clogging up the books for the next four years. And, if some team is willing to bite, I could definitely see them making a move. But you have to remember, the Wizards had conversations about dealing Arenas before the gun incident and nothing materialized. In this economy, with a possible lockout on the horizon next summer, moving $80 million seems like a difficult task. So, I still see him playing for the Wizards and Grunfeld saying that he will play here until otherwise. 

I noticed TL said that the Wiz may try to get a few more picks in this draft in an article here on the Post. My question is this: Any chance they trade the overall pick as well as the 30th for all three of the Wolves picks or a combination of these picks and the right to Rubio and maybe grab Cousins, Favors or Monroe? Be nice to get the coveted guard and a big guy plus an extra mid round pick.

It's not just about getting players to feel roles, you need truly special talent to win big in the NBA. When you have the No. 1 pick, you have a chance to get a truly special talent. You don't trade that unless you don't like your options. I think the Wizards like their options.

Alright everybody, it's been fun again, but I really have to go. I have a lot of work to do, a flight to catch to Chicago and so little time. I hope we can do this again soon. Peace.

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Michael Lee
Michael Lee covers the Wizards and the NBA for The Washington Post. You can follow his daily beat coverage on the Wizards Insider blog.
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