With ESPN’s Chad Ford conveying that Nerlens Noel won’t slip past the Orlando Magic at No.2 overall, it’s a near certainty that the Washington Wizards will be selecting between two polar opposite prospects in Anthony Bennett and Otto Porter with the No.3 overall pick in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.
Porter is the presumed safe pick with limited upside whereas Bennett carries red flags — he recently had shoulder surgery and is somewhat of a tweener at 6-foot-8 – and is high-risk/high-reward prospect.
With Wizards’ GM Ernie Grunfeld having to balance between getting Washington into the playoffs next season while also building them into championship contenders long-term, it seems there isn’t an obvious selection here. And if history tells us anything, it’s that Grunfeld is prone to strikeout on high draft picks when he isn’t presented with the obvious pick (his only hits were John Wall in 2010 an Bradley Beal last year).
So what should Washington do?
I say draft Bennett. I’m not a big fan of tweeners such as Bennett for the simple reason that I don’t know who they can guard at the NBA level. There may be a dearth of talent at the shooting guard and center positions but the two forward positions are loaded. His selection is more of an indictment of Porter.
He’s been bandied about as a player that Washington could plug into the starting lineup next to Beal and Wall from day one. The truth is, though, Porter isn’t even remotely better than incumbent Martell Webster (assuming they re-sign him, another obvious choice for Grunfeld) and it’s questionable if he could even give reserve Trevor Ariza a run for his money.
Porter doesn’t possess one elite skill that he can hang his hat on coming into the league whereas Webster is an elite shooter and Ariza, when motivated (it’s a contract year for him), can be a defensive stopper.
So if Washington is drafting Porter on the premise that he would start and thus increase their playoff chances, they should seriously reconsider. While Bennett’s no surefire star, he has the potential and tools to become one. Yes, he would be coming off the bench as a rookie, but so would Porter.
The question really isn’t who Washington should draft, but who would they regret not drafting? The next Larry Johnson (Bennett) or a poor man’s Tayshaun Prince (Porter)?
Being that you should never pass on a potential star for a role player — ask the Detroit Pistons how it worked out when they opted to bypass Carmelo Anthony in favor of Darko Milicic because of Prince — the answer is obvious: pick Bennett.