With the NBA draft less than a week away, rumors of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards swapping their second and sixth respective picks have been ratcheted up a notch.
Minnesota has little to no interest in remaining at the second overall draft position, as they feel that anybody picked would be overvalued. Instead, they are looking to move down while acquiring both a pick and a player.
With both Kevin Love and Michael Beasley cemented in the starting lineup, Minnesota has no need for Arizona power forward, Derrick Williams.
The Wizards, on the other hand, have a great deal of interest in moving up to select Williams – a player many consider to be the best player in the draft.
So what’s the catch?
Minnesota wants Washington’s sixth pick as well as 23 year-old center, Javale McGee. That’s where the Wizards take pause – even though they shouldn’t, and there are several reasons why.
There is no question that McGee offered plenty of SportsCenter worthy highlight dunks and blocks during the 2010-11 season. He finished second in the dunk contest to phenom Blake Griffin. McGee was able to average 10.1 points per game along with 8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in just under 28 minutes of play per outing (Sidenote: There was a reason for him averaging such low minutes, but that’s for another day).
On paper, it’s tough to trade McGee, as quality centers are the hardest position to fill in the NBA.
But for those of us that have watched the Wizards throughout the entire season, it was clear that McGee was more concerned with padding his statistics and ending up on ESPN than doing the dirty work needed to win. Moving him while his value and popularity are as high as they've ever been is a no-brainer. Unlike the premier players at his position, McGee is selfish.
Joakim Noah or Tyson Chandler, he is not.
Numerous times, McGee was seen slacking off on defense as he positioned himself to go for a block that would end up with the ball flying into the stands as opposed to standing tall and forcing a turnover. Of course there was the infamous game in which McGee was obsessed with trying to get a triple-double. He eventually ended up with one and was jubilant. By the way, the Wizards lost that game by 19 points but hey – at least McGee got his. Somewhere, Ricky Davis was smiling.
The NBA finals made one thing clear. It’s not always the raw talent that matters but the chemistry within the squad that has to play together throughout the regular season and the grueling postseason. Having an unselfish point guard like John Wall and expecting him to continue to buy into a team-first approach while McGee worries about the next time he’ll end up getting interviewed by SportsNation for his top dunks of the season is a really hard sell.
“John, we want you to focus on spending time in the gym this summer to improve your jumpshot. Don’t worry about JaVale bragging about his YouTube hits to Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle. Oh, when you’re done, let’s run some passing drills too. Thanks.”
Good luck with that approach to keeping Wall around once his contract expires.
Derrick Williams, on the other hand, is a young player who not only was a leader of his Arizona ballclub, but a player that was known to spend hours in the gym improving his game. His statistical leap between his freshman year and sophomore year are evidence enough.
Not only did Williams average 19.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds, but he did so shooting 59.5% from the field and an extraordinary 56.8% from three-point range. Perhaps his most jaw-dropping number is how he went from making just 4-16 three pointers his freshman year to 42-74 in his sophomore year.
Statistics aside, Williams and his 6’8-241 pound frame would likely end up playing a mix of both small and power forward. Would the Wizards have a logjam at the power forward spot with Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche already on the roster? Yes, but with Lewis due to make $45 million over the next two years and Blatche being another selfish, malcontent type of player, neither seem to have the staying power over a team-oriented talent like Williams.
If the Wizards are going to rebuild their franchise around Wall and his array of talents, they will have to make sure they do so by surrounding him with the right mix of skill and personalities. Derrick Williams fits the mold and even though the Wizards would have a void at center, they should move up and take the best player available.
Having drafted Wall a year ago with the first pick, the Wizards have a golden opportunity to pick arguably the best player in the draft for the second consecutive year. Chances like this don’t come along often. If there is anything we have learned from teams like Oklahoma City and Memphis, it is to build your team through the draft with superb talent and character while piecing together veterans that fit the scheme.
The ball is in Washington’s court. Wall and Williams could be the building blocks for a real, legitimate future. Or, on the other hand, they could continue to lose sixty games a year but end up with a few highlights on SportsCenter. We’ll know which direction they choose by next week.