NBA draft lottery: Cavaliers win, Wizards will pick sixth

May 18, 2011

NBA sports reporter Michael Lee discussed the 2011 NBA draft, including the Cavaliers' luck and who the Wizards could take with the sixth pick.

Wow, it's been so long since I've done one of these. I'm a little rusty, but excited to be back engaging with people again. I'm a little groggy after catching a flight from Newark to Chicago. After watching the Wizards drop to sixth in the NBA lottery, I'll check out the Heat-Bulls tonight. Busy day, but I'm ready. I know you guys have some thoughts about what transpired last night in Secaucus, N.J., where the Cleveland Cavaliers went from watching the embarrassing "Decision" to having a decision of their own with the No. 1 pick. Okay, enough with the intro. Let's go...

Dropping to the 6th pick is pretty disappointing, especially given the season that fans had to endure. Certainly, there was the expectation that at least the Wizards would end up with a decent pick. How likely is it that the Wizards can get a real building block with this pick? Should they look to Europe?

Yeah, sliding down was a bit deflating, coming off of last season's excitement with getting John Wall. But the weird thing about this draft, is that after the top two picks (Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams), there isn't much separation between players three through 10. I've talked to some folks who think you might find an equality talented player as far back as 15.

It's hard to find a building block with the sixth pick, though Brandon Roy emerged as one for the Portland Trail Blazers before his knees betrayed him. That being said, I think the Wizards have to take a real good look at these bigs from Europe. There are a number of skilled forwards and centers who could be available at six -- Turkish big man Enes Kanter, in the unlikely scenario that he slips, center Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic and Lithuanian forwards Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas. Valanciunas is considered the player with the most upside, Kanter and Vesely are probably most ready to contribute. John Wall has already thrown his support for Kanter, but I've heard that the Wizards have been high on Vesely for some time. It'll be interesting.

Is there a chance they are one of the teams that have offered the Magic? Could Mcgee, Young, Crawford and the first pick be a viable offer? I personally would not LIKE to include Crawford but you can see what I am getting at? It will take a lot to make this happen and as we all know you can't get the stars for free!

The Wizards would love to have Dwight Howard, but so would the other 29 teams in the league. But I don't see Howard coming to D.C. For one, Orlando doesn't sound interested in moving him. Two, the Wizards really don't have anything to offer that would give Orlando anything close to equal value for the best big man in the NBA. Three, I'm not sure if the Magic is ready to make more deals with the Wizards consider how that Gilbert Arenas trade worked out. And four, if Howard is ready to leave a city where he is bigger than the mayor, I think he would choose to play in either the New York market (New Jersey/Brooklyn) or Los Angeles. And the Nets and Lakers have the players/young talented big men (Bynum or Lopez) that could potentially get the Magic to budge if Howard ever tells them to move him because he's gone in 2012.

Hey Michael, What are the chances we trade up with Minnesota for their #2 pick and take Derrick Williams? He would literally fit perfectly with our squad. Thanks

I don't know. I think it's definitely a phone call that has to be made, because it sounds like Minnesota is open to moving the pick for veteran help. The Timberwolves best two players -- Kevin Love and Michael Beasley -- are already at the positions where Williams could potentially play, so I could see them looking to make a move.

The Wizards should look to move up, because they don't need to be worried about the number of assets, as much as the quality of the assets at this point. They have John Wall and they have to be focused on getting a stud or two to pair with him. I know the Wizards like some of the pieces they already have, but this group still won just 23 games. They have to get some A-list talent and Williams has the confidence and the game that could do well here.

The wizards would like to follow the blue print of the OK Thunder, but don't see any Durant like talent or any star potential at the 6th pick. Who do you see of value at the 6th spot?

No, there is no player with Durant-like talent in this draft. But the Wizards got their Durant, so to speak, last season in John Wall. They have the foundation, now they have to find their Russell Westbrook. Remember, when Sam Presti took Westbrook at four in 2008, some saw it as a reach, but now you can argue that he's the second-best player in his draft class. Some (not me, of course) think he might be better than Derrick Rose. What I'm saying is, the Wizards have to hope they can make their own luck and find a hidden gem.

Would you prioritize PF or SF in the draft?

I wouldn't make SF a priority this season. It would be a mistake if the Wizards do, because the 2012 draft will be HEAVY at the position when Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, James McAdoo, Jeremy Lamb, Quincy Miller and Michael Gilchrist could potentially be available. Right now, the Wizards need to get more size, guys who can rebound, and possibly defend. They can get a quality SF next year.

did we really get to see enough of this kid for him to be #1? really, it seems he was the consensus coming out of high school and his AAU days.

Probably not, but right now, all that really matters is if Cleveland thinks that it has seen enough. He was limited to just 11 games at Duke, but those performances did nothing to diminish the reputation that he already established.

The Wiz have two first round picks. What do you think might be the odds on packing them to move up, or using No. 6 to move down?

I have a hard time seeing them move down. But I wouldn't rule out any scenario with this draft, especially with so many teams willing to trade out of it. I mean, the Clippers gave up a lottery pick that became No. 1 and don't appear to have any regrets. The Nets feel the same after surrendering a pick that wound being No. 3.

Is it time to limit the draft lottery to the worst 5 teams or so? It's pretty ridiculous that teams like the Rockets who won 43 games in the west are even eligible for hte top pick.

That seems like a good idea, since so many teams have risen to the top in spite of ridiculous odds in recent years. The Bulls had the ninth-best odds and won Derrick Rose. When the Clippers are the only team with the third-best or better odds to win the lottery since 2005, then you have to wonder if this system is really helping bad teams get better. But the lottery was established to discourage tanking. It hasn't stopped it, but teams are realizing that it doesn't help. The team with the best odds hasn't won since 2004.

You wrote, "the Wizards got their Durant, so to speak, last season with John Wall. Now they have to find their Russell Westbrook." I must disagree with you here. I believe the Wiz got their Westbrook and need to find their Durant. There is a HUGE distinction between the two analogies. I just don't think this is the draft to get that impact player, but rather a solid piece like a James Harden type (to keep the Thunder analogies rolling). With having the 6 and 17 picks, how do you think these picks will alter the construction of the current roster? Please tell me they will replace Blatche finally. Thanks.

Good point. This could be the Harden year, as well. They'll still need to get a Westbrook, though.

The Wizards have seven players under contract right now, and only two of them are older than 24. With two first-rounders, the Wizards will get even younger, but should they? I think at some point, they have to start flipping these "assets" for serious talent. Rebuilding is rarely pretty, and Durant had two 20-win seasons to start his career, so the Wizards might not be in a big hurry to make that leap. A weak draft and a weak free agent field don't help matters.

Is there any talk of revising the lottery to not include EVERY team that misses the playoffs? It's kind of silly that 40+ win teams even have a shot at the #1 pick, and it is one of the reasons bad teams stay bad for a LONG time.

Once again, I agree with the sentiment about bad teams being bad, but I won't get too concerned until 40-win teams start winning this consistently. Right now, that isn't happening.

Michael - what does the NBA do to ensure that there isn't a fix that others snicker might be there? I remember the rumors that David Stern stuck the Knicks envelop on a piece of dry ice right before the drawing so he'd know which one to pull out and that they ended up w/ a "little" known center from Georgetown. With the lottery today is it done w/ something like ping pong balls? Who gets to witness it - are there any media members that get to oversee the drawing? It seems like to me the NBA would do everything possible to squash any sort of rumors of impropriety before they start.

I've actually sat in the sequestered room two years ago and witnessed the lottery process and it would be very difficult to rig. NBA president Joel Litvin drops 14 ping pong balls in a drum that looks like a popcorn popper and pulls them out of the machine after getting the word from a timer. I'm not a physicist, obviously, so I'm not sure how you could have the balls be heavier or lighter to get a desired result. But I will say that the process looks far from fixed. It's just really fun to speculate, especially when NBA general managers like David Kahn joke about it.

If the Wizards are to get better they need to realize how bad the current roster is. Are they still in love with Blatche, Young, Mcgee and Crawford? Do you think any of those four can be quality all-around players?

They do seem to still be very high on the current roster. And I've heard that they plan to bring back Nick Young in free agency. Those four players have their flaws, but I'll leave Crawford out of that mix since he just finished his rookie season. As for the three senior members of the team, if the Wizards plan on keeping them around, they have to surround them with more players who are accustomed to winning and come from programs - pro, college or international - that only care about winning. When you've been on three straight 50-loss teams, it's tough to break free of bad habits because you haven't seen it the other way. I've said it before, in order to turn around a program, you have to bring in players that have a much-different mindset.

Do you think that the NBA Draft Lottery is rigged? Did they actually gave the Cavaliers the pick?

I like to joke that it is, but I seriously don't think that it is. Like I said, I sat in the room and watched the process play out, so it would be tough to fix. Plus, the NBA would have absolutely no credibility if that were the case. I do find the past two lottery victories for Washington and Cleveland fantastic stories, though.

Think the Wiz re-sign Young? Or is he redundant now that Crawford is in town?

From what I hear, they fully intend to bring back Nick. I'm not sure at what cost yet, but the plan is for him to be in a Wizards uniform next season.

I'm convinced that a major need of the Wizards is veteran leadership. Since the Wiz traded Antawn Jaminson last year, they haven't had an older presence to encourage and push younger teammates to play the right way. In my mind, and I know I'm not alone on this, Andray Blache is a major problem. I keep hearing that Blache has a cap-friendly contract for a big man. If that's true, would it be possible to trade him to trade him to a team that needs a big man on the cheap in exchange for a veteran known for hard work and leadership? I know that trading a big for a big would be difficult, but I imagine there is some team out there looking to unload a big on the downslope of his career. Wiz would get a solid vet, the other team would get the upside of Blache. Any idea whether a trade like this is desired by the Wizards, and then whether it would be possible? Thanks.

I'm not sure what's out there, but I'm sure that the Wizards have a good idea of what teams think of their players from discussions around the trade deadline. I agree with you that the Wizards need more veteran leadership, mainly because you don't want to waste a talent like Wall by letting him be in an environment where losing is accepted. The Wizards definitely need a different mindset and more players with high basketball IQs.

Does it look like Jan Vesely will be taken high in the draft? He apparently can't shoot, making less than 50% of foul shots and less than 25% of 3 pointers and apparently does not rebound well.

But other than that -- superstar! Nah, seriously, I've never seen the guy play. But I have heard that the Wizards like him and I've spoken with scouts who told me that he's ready to come in and contribute. He's supposed to be a really good athete. We'll see, I guess.

Hey Mike, Yes, the Wizards returned to form by getting hosed in the Lottery. But honestly, there is no LeBron/Grifiin/Wall talents in this draft anyway and no one who watches NCAA can say which whether any of these players will even be a borderline All-Star. Better to take an upside, NBA-unready player and hope you can score a Top 3 Pick next year. I think the next CBA will be more important to the Wiz. In the last CBA, there was the "Allan Houston" Exception basically giving a salary cap mulligan to every team on their worst contract. Do you think we'll see that again and will the Wiz use it on Lewis or Blatche? In my opinion, it should be Blatche. Lewis comes off the books at the end of next season. Blatche is a complete knucklehead, whose lack of professionalism (and basketball IQ) have been killin' the team. I would love to see him traded, but that contract was terrible and voiding his deal is addition by subtraction.

If the amnesty rule comes back, I'm pretty sure Blatche is  safe. Lewis would be the most likely candidate to go, because it would clear more than $20 million off the books next season. If the Wizards wanted to move Blatche, he has a contract that could be moved much easier than Lewis's.

What have you heard about Kanter, and about his unwillingness to workout head to head with other prospects? cough-Yi-cough, cough.

I don't anything about his unwillingness to go head-to-head. The real pre-draft process gets underway in Chicago, so we'll have to see how that pans out. As for Kanter, he's the one big from Europe that I've seen in action at the Nike Hoops Summit, where he dominated Jared Sullinger, and I was impressed. He's very physical and skilled for a player his age (turns 19 on Friday). I did have a Western Conference assistant GM tell me that he doesn't have much upside. But it looks like the guy can play.

Okay, Michael, we know on paper what the Wizards need, we know on paper what is in the draft but, is what the Wizards need in the draft?

They need talent and depth. They might be able to find that. They also need a stud, and this draft doesn't have many obvious ones. But that 2012 draft...whoa, boy!

Alright, everybody. Sorry I couldn't get to all of your questions, but I've got to run. Thanks for joining me this afternoon. It was fun. Can't wait to this again. 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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