With a reminder of their greatest days on hand, the Washington Wizards finally ended a season filled with many of their worst.
With representative Irene Pollin wearing the 1978 Bullets championship ring that belonged to her late husband, longtime owner Abe Pollin, the Wizards moved up from fifth to the first pick of the draft, one spot ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, who moved from the sixth position to the second pick.
Even more remarkable, a team between owners (Ted Leonsis is expected to take over in the weeks before the draft) and with their management in limbo might have cleared things up. With Kentucky's John Wall expected to be the first pick of the draft, many lottery teams went into the lottery with either young, potential stars (Minnesota, Golden State and Houston) or proven veteran (Utah, New Orleans, Los Angeles) at the point.
Instead, the pick went to a team that could use help at the position. That might depend on the Wizards' plans for Gilbert Arenas and who will do the planning. But for a change for the Wizards, something finally went right.
John Wall, G, Kentucky. After a season in which everything went wrong, the Wizards were due for some good fortune. How well the mix of Wall with Gilbert Arenas will work is difficult to predict, but Wall gives Washington a chance to rebuild around a potential star point guard. In a league suddenly loaded with point guards, the idea of taking a point guard first is no longer an issue, as it was even just two seasons ago when Derrick Rose was taken. Wall could grow into a worthy club member with Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Rose and the league's other rapid, young point guards.
Evan Turner, G, Ohio State. Cousins and Favors might have more potential to dominate and will earn close looks in the weeks before the draft, but Turner is a solid, safe pick and a very good fit. He brings unusual polish and offensive versatility at a time when players typically leave school before they can develop as he has. The closer the Sixers look, the more they might happily stick with Turner, who should fit nicely in between Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday.
3. New Jersey
DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky. Cousins, with the draft's best combination of size and ability, might have the greatest potential to dominate or disappoint. He's only 19, and his potential shortcomings could be no more than part of the process for such a young player. If Wall and Turner are gone with the first two picks, Cousins might be the easiest pick of the draft, risky with the first pick but worth the gamble third. He might not be enough to attract LeBron James, but no one in this draft probably would have.
Derrick Favors F/ C, Georgia Tech. Had the Timberwolves won the lottery, it would have been interesting see if David Kahn would have taken yet another point guard. The fall to fourth, however, provides another less obvious quandary. The Wolves seem to have their share of power forwards who are not quite centers. Favors, however, would seem the obvious choice, if not exactly one to fill a need. Another very young prospect at just 18 years old, Favors did not produce offensively as consistently or efficiently as expected but should do well in workouts with explosive moves and good hands.
Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse. Johnson is probably not the most exciting prospect the Kings could find and might not have the upside of the top four picks. But the Kings have young big men developing and a guard who dominates the ball. Johnson could be a solid addition and rapid contributor.
6. Golden State
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Wake Forest. The Warriors took a one-year break from drafting athletic, multi-position big men in the lottery with last year's pick of Stephen Curry. It might be time to return to form. Aminu's skills and strength give him potential to move up a few spots after the individual workouts. The Warriors have not relied on a true center in years, however, and will have to look hard at Aldrich and Monroe, but Aminu might be tough to let slip any further.
Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas. The Pistons have been using 35-year-old Ben Wallace in the middle, making the center position as good a spot as any to rebuild. The solid additions of Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko last season should have Joe Dumars choosing between big men. Aldrich might be the most ready and well-rounded of the options left.
8. L.A. Clippers
Greg Monroe, C/PF, Georgetown. Assuming Blake Griffin returns as expected, the Clippers have a star to build around, along with cap room to spend in free agency. Monroe would give them another center to play in a rotation with Chris Kaman in the role Marcus Camby filled. A strong rebounder and passer, Monroe is nowhere near that polished but has outstanding potential as a finesse frontcourt player.
Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina. Though Davis was expected to have improved more last season, that potential is still clear. While the Knicks might be relieved that the pick they gave up to get Stephon Marbury from the Suns did not end up being a top-three selection, the Jazz has a chance to develop a frontcourt player the way it did Paul Millsap, especially if Carlos Boozer leaves in free agency.
Ekpe Udoh, PF, Baylor. Danny Granger should not have looked so disappointed. This could work out well for the Pacers, especially if they are ready to move away from their reliance on 3-point bombing and volume shooting. With Roy Hibbert developing nicely at center, Udoh can offer athleticism at power forward between Hibbert and Granger, with an improving shot and solid rebounding and shot-blocking potential.
11. New Orleans
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Benetton Treviso. Will be the next player compared to Dirk Nowitzki, though for now, Andrea Bargnani seems a better comparison and more reachable goal. With great size, he has similar shooting touch and a solid all-around offensive game.
Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky. The Grizzlies could work hard to move up, and failing that, might move back. They have several picks to offer to a team that could still find their big man available a few spots later, and they would have reason to try, given that they would not seem to have a spot for another young power forward, having filled the roster with big men (Hasheem Thabeet, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur, Hamed Haddadi) in recent seasons. Patterson is their type and it would be too soon to grab one of the remaining wings, though they would better fill a need.
Hassan Whiteside, PF/C, Marshall. If Chris Bosh moves on as seems likely, Andrea Bargnani can move to power forward, where he probably belongs, and the Raptors can look to develop a center and a defense. Whiteside has a lot of work to do offensively, but that is not the Raptors' problem. He is extremely long, jumps well and led the nation in blocked shots last season.
Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky. The Rockets have been unusually determined under GM Daryl Morey to ignore need to draft the player they like most. The depth of big men in the latter half of the lottery should allow them to get both. Orton's size would help behind Yao Ming, but teams will closely examine his knees in the coming weeks.
Xavier Henry, G, Kansas. After a series of big men go in the lottery, the Bucks will likely start a run on wings. Though just a freshman, Henry appears the most NBA ready with a solid build and smooth offensive game. Henry could be a good complement for John Salmons or successor to Michael Redd. More than the other options, he seems suited for the discipline coach Scott Skiles would demand.
James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State. Anderson could go a few spots earlier, but if the run on big men pushes him to the Wolves, David Kahn could take advantage of the opportunity to grab him. Kahn showed last season a determination to take the best available player rather than draft for need. Anderson would offer both, as a prolific and efficient scorer with good length for the position.
Gordon Hayward, SF, Butler. Hayward surprised many by staying in the draft but does have an NBA-style game, with an ability to score off the dribble with either hand, shoot with range and move the ball in the offense. He might lack the lateral quickness to defend as a three but would need to get stronger to be a range-shooting four. The Bulls would be able to give him time to develop.
Solomon Alabi, C, Florida State. The years with Alonzo Mourning would make the Heat especially fond of a shot-blocker with Alabi's potential. He would bring the length the Heat has lacked, and his athleticism could make him more of a contributor offensively than advertised. But he is a project who would need some time, especially to defend bulkier centers.
Paul George, SF, Fresno State. The Celtics won a championship with James Posey coming off the bench, and George could offer similar length and athleticism, with outstanding shooting range. He'd need to become much more disciplined on both ends for the Celtics, but there might be no better place for him. They could use the addition of young athleticism.
20. San Antonio
Larry Sanders, PF/C, Virginia Commonwealth. Another team that traditionally drafts without regard to immediate need, Sanders might be a good fit for the Spurs, anyway, especially if Tiago Splitter does not come over. He does not have the bulk to defend consistently inside but is long, athletic and energetic enough to contribute in some matchups.
21. Oklahoma City
Damion James, SF, Texas. James would fit extremely well with the young and athletic Thunder. He struggled when asked to be a go-to scorer with Texas, but with Oklahoma City he would be able to be able to be an athletic role player with a good shooting touch and an NBA-ready body.
Avery Bradley, SG, Texas. With the league suddenly loaded with quick, scoring point guards, Bradley's ability to defend on the perimeter could be valuable. He shows signs of being a potentially prolific scorer himself, able to score off the dribble and shoot with range. His defense and ability to score in a halfcourt offense would fit well with the Blazers.
Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada. The Wolves could go many directions with their third first-round pick, particularly with Ricky Rubio slotted to eventually join them. The roster changes that are needed and seem certain would make the needs and position irrelevant, but it might be difficult to take another guard, especially a point. Babbitt would offer the shooting touch and range to fit well around Rubio's playmaking or Johnny Flynn's speed, and would go from the Wolf Pack to the Wolves.
Eric Bledsoe, PG, Kentucky. After Jameer Nelson tore through the Hawks in the playoffs, Atlanta might be drawn to a tough, competitive point with greater quickness than Mike Bibby will ever show again. Bledsoe did not get much time at point with John Wall around and will need work and time at the position, but he could be a steal at this point of the first round.
Willie Warren, PG, Oklahoma. Warren fell far from where he was projected to go before the season. There are red flags about Warren's attitude, including some strong comments from Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel in December, but none seems worth letting him slip much more and the Grizzlies have been known to gamble in recent seasons. He struggled with the greater offensive responsibility that came his way without Blake Griffin, but he did play well with Griffin, an indication he could fit well with Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies.
26. Oklahoma City
Kevin Seraphin, PF/C, Cholet (France). The Thunder has shown great patience in building around Kevin Durant and would happily wait for Seraphin to hone his skills to go with his outstanding strength and physical tools, either in the NBA or with another year in France. Though he needs time to develop offensively, he already shows a good skill set. Seraphin could still back out of the draft but might not be able to do better than a selection by Oklahoma City, a few miles up the road from his former home in Dallas.
27. New Jersey
Quincy Pondexter, SF, Washington. A rare senior in the first round, Pondexter benefited greatly from sticking around and improving his game. He has improved as a shooter but is still not an outstanding shooter, especially from range. He has, however, shown himself to be reliably productive. The Nets choice might be impacted with how they use their first pick, but they could use the immediate influx of talent rather than a less mature project.
Stanley Robinson, SF, Connecticut. Opinions on Robinson are widely varied and he could go much earlier, though more of a consensus could come by the draft. An outstanding athlete with potential to cause mismatch problems, Robinson has not seemed to develop the consistency or well-rounded game that he would seem able to produce. His abilities, however, warrant a late first-round gamble, especially for a Memphis team with two first-round picks.
Terrico White, SG, Mississippi. White might have been well-served to stick around for another season. White's scoring ability might fit well with an Orlando team that does not have many players geared toward getting their own shot. He did not develop as a point guard but could be a solid instant-offense type off the bench with the physical abilities to develop into a solid defender.
Jordan Crawford, SG, Xavier. Another player who draws mixed reviews, Crawford could move up or back in the next few weeks. His potential and offensive skills might fit well with a Washington team that needs to reload. The choice could depend on what the Wizards do with their own pick, but Crawford's stock has seemed to rise in recent weeks.