For the Uncertainty Averse, the Third Pick's a Thinker

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Though the draft lottery is less than two weeks away and the draft itself only about a month after that, there is tremendous uncertainty about who the Wizards should draft if they end up with the third pick. In Hoopsworld.com's most recent mock draft, four editors predict four different choices may still be available: Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor, Dwight Howard, and Martynas Andruiskevicius. For those keeping track at home, that's a small forward, two power forwards, and a center. In other words, the Wizards' primary need is in the frontcourt. But the real uncertainty is about high schoolers and foreign players. Are the Wizards averse to uncertainty?

Of course, by many measures those four players are the top four picks of the draft, and the only thing that differs is the order in which they are selected. Atlanta would surely select Howard over Okafor because he's a local boy and they want to pull a LeBron James-esque marketing campaign with him to generate fan interest. Chicago's top choice is probably either Okafor or Deng because of their unfortunate and continuing experiments with high school players.

But didn't the Wizards draft a high school player at some point? How did that work out?

Kwame Brown is as over-discussed as he is under-realized. There are two schools of thought on whether the Wizards ought to draft another schooler. One states that you don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. First of all Brown is still developing. And secondly, if Howard is available but Okafor is gone, he may well be the second-best player available in the draft, and you should draft the best players and worry about chemistry and coaching later. Perhaps another schooler who has strong work ethic and contributes quickly may even be a thorn in the side for Brown to improve as well. That's one school of thought.

The other is irrational risk born of bureaucracy. "No schoolers" is an easy policy to adopt and implement, and though it can ignore certain potentially great picks such as Howard, it focuses attention on who's available. "No schoolers" may extend also to "no foreigns," since they are in many ways as much of a risk.

The risk, of course, is a poor choice of terms. You risk with every decision you make in life. A better word than risk would be uncertainty.

Are the Wizards uncertainty-averse? Do they fear the unknown, having once fallen off the face of the earth already?

I'd bet they'd prefer a college player. If they get the top pick, there's no doubt they will use it on Okafor. If they miss him, they'd likely prefer Deng next. And after that, I'd give Howard equal odds of being picked, simply because he's an unignorable talent and potential trade bait. 

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Charles Robinson ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: Before Garnett's declaration, the number of non-college seniors in the draft typically hovered in the mid-teens. Since Garnett, the 1996-2003 drafts have had an average of almost 31 non-seniors a year and have included 27 high school players. Of those 27 high schoolers, six went undrafted, five have been total busts, 11 are still developing, and seven have, with patience, turned into all-star caliber players.

Roscoe Nance ofUSA Todaywrites: Pistons coach Larry Brown says Hamilton's contributions go beyond scoring, which was his strong suit when Detroit acquired him from the Washington Wizards for Jerry Stackhouse."He used to think the only way to help the team was by scoring," Brown said, "Now he does so many other things."