New Rule: If Ernie, Randy Wittman and sports writers quickly form a consensus on anything related to the draft, question it.
Just before the draft lottery, Ernie flatly stated that the Wizards would not use all three of the team’s draft picks this year. In addition to the third overall selection, Washington has two second-round picks at 38 and 54.
Why this decision? Ernie mentioned the possibility of packaging both second-round picks to move up, which might be a good move depending on the board. But no real reason for not wanting to use all three picks was given, other than the tautological statement that Ernie and friends “don’t think we want to have three rookies on the roster next year.”
Then Randy Wittman, echoing Ernie’s sentiment a few days later, stated, “We don’t need three rookies.” Providing a little context, the head coach said the younger group of players on the team “still got a lot of developing to do.” He noted, “To add three more [rookies] to that group, I don’t think in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish in the next couple of years is beneficial.”
Not a single Wizards writer or blogger batted an eyelid. (Correction: Kyle Weidie of Truth About It sounded a critical note via Twitter). The story barely made a ripple and no analysis was provided. Surprising, given how important the draft is. Then comes J. Michael of CSN Washington, rubber-stamping the Ernie-Randy consensus by declaring the Wizards “young enough” and saying the second round “hasn’t been kind” to Ernie anyway.
Well, allow me to retort.
If the Wizards haven’t done well in the second round, and the draft as a whole really, the answer is not to quit drafting – it’s to get better at it. Ernie’s official bio (clocking in at 1,200 words) touts his “reputation as a top talent evaluator” (ummm), in part because of his “eye for finding talent in the second round” (UMMM), but his record is piss-poor. One only need look to newly hired Sixers GM Sam Hinkie to see an example of someone who can consistently spot talent later in the draft. In addition, Philadelphia has purchased its own D-League team to see to it that late draft picks are properly developed.
As for the notion that the Wizards are already too young, the team was the tenth youngest in the league last year, older than rising powerhouses Houston and Golden State, and barely younger than Indiana, Oklahoma City and Denver. Clearly, these teams are succeeding with young squads. The factor is talent, not youth.
Finally, there is Wittman’s assertion that rookies do not fit into the plans of the team for the “next couple of years,” which is so indicative of Ernie’s backwards and shortsighted “win now” philosophy. The team can’t spare any “years” to develop talent? What a joke. Washington is simply not going deep into the playoffs for a few more years, at best. The right rookie selected now, if developed properly, could undoubtedly be an asset at that time. (See Lance Stephenson, drafted 40th overall in 2010, above).