Wizards' overhaul off to promising start with productive draft night
No team had a bigger draft night than the Wizards
John Wall and Kirk Hinrich will team with Gilbert Arenas in a loaded backcourt
The Wizards also added toughness in Clemson forward Trevor Booker
NEW YORK -- The worst shall not be first, not yet anyway. But the Wizards will not be last any longer.
Not after they acquired two guards to flank Gilbert Arenas while adding one of the most athletic prospects in the draft and a senior forward who brings some long-awaited toughness. Not a bad day for a team that should be awful no longer.
No one had a bigger day than the Wizards. Some of it comes as no surprise. Everyone knew they would select John Wall within two minutes of their shocking victory at the lottery last month. Wall offers a speedy opportunity to take Arenas off the ball and cast him ever so slightly in the background following his prosecution for bringing guns into their locker room amid the completely unexpected freefall of the franchise last season.
Arenas is a scorer and he could have newfound value in that role as a `2' guard. Wall's value as a distributor, a tempo-pushing driver and -- perhaps above all else in importance -- an active defender promises an altogether different kind of leadership for the Wizards. By playing through Wall they have an opportunity to win in a more traditional way than when Arenas was their leader as a scoring point.
There will be more to say about Kirk Hinrich in my weekly countdown tomorrow, but it's obvious the Wizards will be tougher in their next training camp than they were on their most stubborn day this past season. Hinrich will provide some of that resolve after they acquired his two-year, $17 million contract in a cap-clearing salary dump by the Bulls. The Wizards were able to take him on after clearing their own salaries last February when it became obvious there was no hope left in that lost team.
Now they have a chance to launch a new start around Hinrich and rookie Trevor Booker, taken with pick No. 23 that was acquired from the Timberwolves in exchange for Nos. 30 and 35. Booker is an aggressive 6-7 senior defender from Clemson who will not only mix things up inside but also challenge the alarmingly recalcitrant Andray Blatche at practice each day.
To cover the expensive price of Hinrich's contract, the Wizards received cash from Chicago as well as the rights to No. 17. They turned that pick into French big man Kevin Seraphin, a terrific athlete at 6-9 and 264 pounds. He is as raw as carpaccio, but the Wizards will be hoping their new environment is better suited for developing players like him.
This is supposed to be a night of promise, and for this one night at least the Wizards were the leader in that category. They leveraged the bookend picks of Nos. 1 and 30 to invite 51 players to pre-draft workouts, which helped introduce them to Booker. Then they turned the silver lining of this past season -- cap space -- into Hinrich. Did we mention the new ownership of Ted Leonsis? Plus Wall and the accompanying change in perspective for Arenas -- this is the beginning for a franchise that seemed to run out of hope just a few months ago.