Wizards silent in draft as Maryland native Fultz taken with No. 1 pick
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver walked to the podium Thursday night in New York City, the NBA community braced for what was to come.
There was assurance and calm with the first pick. DeMatha High School graduate and Maryland native, Markelle Fultz, was selected by the burgeoning Philadelphia 76ers No. 1 overall. Fultz, who spent one season at the University of Washington, was known to be the top pick after Philadelphia swapped spots with Boston earlier in the week. The tranquility of Fultz’s selection gave way to brief chaos.
Instantly, rumors began to move about Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler, who reportedly had said earlier in the week that he would not go to Cleveland in a trade. Butler was instead sent to Minnesota, leaving behind Chicago and taking one of the premier players in the Eastern Conference out to the Western Conference, leaving the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers hunting for another large piece to add to their roster.
Butler’s surprising move to Minnesota for a first-round pick, point guard Kris Dunn and small forward Zach LaVine thinned the high-end options to trade for. Indiana All-Star Paul George, who has told the Pacers he wants to go to Los Angeles when he becomes a free agent after next season, became an even larger target for those looking for extra punch in the Eastern Conference, if even for a year. George can be an unrestricted free agent after next season.
The evening was quiet inside Verizon Center. Washington sent the 52nd overall pick to New Orleans for backup point guard Tim Frazier on Wednesday night. For the second consecutive season,
the Wizards did not make a draft pick. In the last four seasons, just one draft pick -- Kelly Oubre Jr. -- has joined their roster. That’s because Washington has routinely moved draft picks midseason for established players.
Their first-round picks in the last four years have yielded two veteran starters, a young, up-and-down bench player and a rental for a playoff push.
The Wizards sent their 2014 firstround pick to Phoenix as part of the deal to acquire Marcin Gortat. They also traded a second-round pick that year for cash. The Los Angeles Lakers selected capable Jordan Clarkson with it.
In 2015, Washington moved up to select Oubre. The move cost the Wizards two future second-round picks. They used their 2015 second-round pick on Aaron White, who is currently playing in Europe.
Washington’s 2016 first-round pick was sent to Phoenix in the deal to acquire Markieff Morris. Its 2017 first-round pick (22 overall) was sent to Brooklyn to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic for the second half of the season and to get out from under Andrew Nicholson’s contract. Brooklyn selected Texas center Jarrett Allen with the pick.
The question for Washington is if this strategy is sustainable. Recently, it has pulled the Wizards among the contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Frazier is expected to be John Wall’s backup next season. Tomas Satoransky will also push for that role. Finding a sustainable backup for Wall has been an issue for the Wizards since he entered the league in 2010 as the No. 1 overall pick. Wall played more than 36 minutes per game this season. Multiple Boston players said they thought Wall was worn down in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Washington and Boston.
Five freshmen were selected with the first five picks for the first time. Lonzo Ball was granted his, and his father’s, wish when selected No. 2 by the Los Angeles Lakers. LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s boisterous father, was hunted by cameras and again allowed a platform to yell into a microphone while his son watched. The most awkward moment of the evening was when ESPN’s split-screen shot showed Lonzo watching his father ramble for the camera.
Maryland native Markelle Fultz was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday with the No. 1 overall pick. The former University of Washington guard topped a draft where several trades were made and the Washington Wizards went without a pick.