Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wizards Rising

Being a fan of the local teams in D.C. hasn't exactly been easy. Collectively, we have traversed the spectrum of emotions many times. However, few and far between have we taken a vacation into the "ecstatic" category and only once in my life have I witnessed "euphoric" (Redskins Super Bowl Victory - 1991; yes, 8 years old). Recently though, the tide appears to be turning as the Capitals are being built to be Stanley Cup Champions, the Redskins are (FINALLY) being run by football minds with Super Bowl victories (a novel approach - go figure), and the Nationals aren't completely terrible (i feign enthusiasm - it's baseball after all). It is now possible to add the Wizards to the mix, as the team won the right to draft the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. For now, the emotional spectrum reader is hovering around "cautiously optimistic."

Before it is possible to look into the future, one must look to the past. The Wizards have drafted first overall only once before in the modern era...and, it didn't exactly go well. My fingers waver and a panic sweats across my brow while I type his name: Kwame "At Least I'm Not Darko Milicic" Brown. Kwame was taken first overall in Michael "How Do I Run a Franchise?" Jordan's first official act as then-GM. He was high school senior at the time and the first high school senior to ever be drafted 1st overall. It was difficult to not realize how young he truly was at the time; his shaking hands, the awkward senior picture smile, and the random adolescent pimples that littered his face. Was this kid honestly ready to be drafted first overall? Was he ready to be the savior of a franchise? Was he ready to play with the unrelenting pursuit of greatness that was Michael Jordan? In hindsight, the answer clearly (and sadly) was no. However, I can't fathom that too many high school seniors would be ready for that type of pressure, which makes the age limit in the NBA a positive rule change. In any case, there is no escaping that, to be blunt, Kwame sucked. The best move he ever made was being traded for Caron Butler. There is even a fitting website to the magnitude of suck that is Kwame Brown's career:

Kwame is probably a nice enough guy, but a mid to late round draft pick at best. In reference to the good fortune of last night's draft, columnist David Steele said it best: "Just don't take Kwame Brown again. Or anyone named Kwame or anyone named Brown. Now, armed guards to keep Michael Jordan from coming anywhere near the city limits until the draft's over."

Folks, this is why drafting on potential is not always the best strategy.

The drafting of Kwame Brown, while an epic failure, does not even come close to the misfortune the Wizards experienced during last season. The team's best player, Gilbert Arenas was arrested for bringing guns into the locker room, the remaining corps. of, what was presumed to be franchise, players were traded away, and the team's longtime and revered owner, Abe Polin, passed away due to brain disease. Things could not have possibly gotten worse for any professional franchise over a season. Enter Ted Leonsis.

If I had the chance for anyone to purchase a lottery ticket for me, it would be Ted Leonsis. The man turned the Capitals (a bottom dweller of a team) into consistent Stanley Cup contenders. Upon his purchase of the Capitals, they were awarded the number one overall draft pick, to which Ted chose the most talented hockey player on the planet, Alex Ovechkin. Now Ted also owns the majority of the Wizards franchise. History does indeed repeat itself.

Ted chose Abe Polin's widow Irene, in her last act as the majority owner, to represent the team last night in the draft lottery. She wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring that Abe wore his entire life, up until he passed, for good luck. Irene stated: "I didn't think of it as a lucky charm. I just know that he never took this off. I figured, I wanted a part of him here today."

Her face upon realizing that the Washington franchise had won the top pick:
The Wizards now have the opportunity to take one of the best pure point guard prospects to come out of college in recent memory. The NBA is a point guard league, as more athletic big men have developed outside shots and refuse to pound it inside. Recent rookie pg's have turned around the fortunes of franchises immediately. Derrick Rose with Chicago, Deron Williams with Utah, and Chris Paul with Charlotte/Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets (how badly would Atlanta like a mulligan there? Marvin Williams, anyone?) immediately come to mind. The Wizards now have the opportunity to take their own difference maker and he lacks the uncertainty of an aforementioned high school senior. John Wall is 6'4 and moves like the human embodiment of smooth. Magic Johnson, arguably the best pg ever, even stated: "The Wizards have got to take John Wall. They must take this kid. When he's got the ball in his hands, he causes excitement. You can always get an Evan Turner (the next best prospect and college player of the year). He's a very, very good player. But there will be an Evan Turner in next year's draft. The game has changed. John Wall's got a little special in him. You can't pass on him." It is beyond difficult to argue with Magic.

For the first time in years, I am actually excited about Wizards Basketball. Hopefully the Wizards do the smart thing and take Wall. He will energize DC Sports just as Ovechkin did when he came into town. Further, as Spencer noted (and I failed to mention) in the comments, the number one draft pick also appeals to would-be free agents. Due to the trades earlier this season, the 'Zards are working with considerable cap room and it's feasible to think that the team could lure a Joe Johnson or even a Chris Bosh. Let us remember that the Wiz also hold the 30th overall pick in this draft, as well as the 35th overall, which falls in the second round.
Hopefully this:

will lead to another one of these:
It would certainly be nice to welcome John Wall to D.C. and add the Wizards to the rising cast of local professional sports.

1 comment:

  1. Besides the number 1 pick the Wiz have also quietly positioned themselves well for the off season. With plenty of cap space and now (hopefully) the enticing Wall as a teammate we can draw in a big name free agent or two.


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