The Washington Wizards Stole the 2020 NBA Draft
Heading into the 2020 NBA Draft, there was lots of uncertainty on who would be drafted by any team throughout the entirety of the draft. Prior to the draft, the Washington Wizards were linked to USC big man Onyeka Okongwu in the majority of mock drafts. However, Okongwu was drafted sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
When it came to the Wizards pick, Deni Avdija and Tyrese Haliburton were the top two players available and best fits in Washington. The Wizards chose Avdija and that looks like it could be the steal of the draft.
Avdija is a 6-foot-9 small forward from Israel. Avdija has played professionally since he was 16-years old. While playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Avdija won three Israeli League championships and one Israeli League MVP. He also won two gold medals at the FIBA U20 European Championship with Israel. So, saying the guy knows how to win is an understatement.
The main thing that stands out with Avdija is the versatility with his size. He can truly due it all. He's got great court vision and can really push the ball up the court quickly in transition. His three-point shooting off the dribble is rather impressive as well, however his jump shot will need to improve a bit. He thrives on the pick-and-roll and frequently finds ways to get to the basket. The Wizards would also like to see his free throw shooting improve because with the way he drives to basket and absorbs contact, he will frequently be there throughout his career.
What impresses me the most about Avdija is his playmaking ability. With John Wall and Bradley Beal both expected to be a Washington this year, Avdija won't likely be relied on like Dallas Mavericks' guard Luka Doncic was in his rookie season. However, with Wall expected to be resting in some back-to-back games this year, having another player on the court that can make plays alongside Beal will be crucial. We will see Avdija bringing the ball up the court sometimes and that could really help Beal get open. Whereas, last year, Beal was forced to create his own shot most of the time which he still had success in doing.
Avdija's versatility really shows on the defensive end of the court as well. The ability to switch from guarding a guard to a forward is crucial in the NBA with the amount of picks that are set, the transition play, different defensive sets, etc. Not only does Avdija do a relatively good job of staying in front of players smaller then him, but his strength on the inside to guard bigger guys is what is remarkable.
The Wizards originally had the 37th overall pick in the second round. They drafted Vit Krejci of the Czech Republic with that pick and traded him along with Admiral Schofield in exchange for the 53rd pick and a 2024 second-round pick. I believe Schofield could have a successful career in the NBA elsewhere, but he just didn't seem like a good fit in Washington.
With the 53rd pick, the Wizards selected Cassius Winston. The fact that Winston was available there was surprising and will likely be another steal. Over the years, backup point guards have seemed to struggle especially since the absence of John Wall. Although Ish Smith has showed some success lately, I think Cassius Winston will be the backup and possibly even the starter when John Wall rests.
The main reason Wizards fans should be excited about Winston is what he showed at Michigan State. Just like Avdija, Winston is a true winner. In four seasons with the Spartans, Winston had four NCAA Tournament appearances, three Big Ten regular season championships, one Big Ten Tournament championship, and an NCAA Final Four appearance. From his sophomore year on, Winston started all but one game. Winston learned a ton under head coach Tom Izzo and that will definitely show. Izzo is one of the best coaches in college basketball and it takes a tough player to play for him as well as being the captain of his team like Winston.
As a junior, Winston averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 assists, three rebounds, and one steal per game. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year a was a consensus Second Team All-American. Despite not being able to finish his college career the way that he would've liked due to the coronavirus, Winston averaged 18.6 points, 5.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
Winston is a true floor general and was probably one of the best, if not the best passer in the draft. Similar to Avdija, Winston thrives off of the pick and roll and makes defenders pay if they go underneath. He also feeds off of getting assists on pick-and-roll plays. In a film study with Mike Schmitz, he stated that anytime his big man can get to the hip of their defender back pedaling off the pick-and-roll, he is going to throw the lob. Although sometimes this won't work, it shows the trust that Winston has in his big men and his knowledge of reading the defender. Winston's IQ is incredible and he truly makes everybody on the court better. Winston also developed a deadly pull-up jump shot during his time in East Lansing. Whether it comes off the pick-and-roll, a defender over committing on his driving, or in transition, Winston could really use that in his NBA game
Sometimes we see college players playing for themselves, which is understandable because it can boost their draft stock. And a lot of top teams success is based off of that. But Michigan State has never been one of those schools, and during his time in East Lansing, Winston was all about winning and would do whatever it took to get his team a win.
Something that reportedly hurt his draft stock was athleticism and defense. However, Winston showed he could guard some of the toughest/quickest guards. As I talked about before, his IQ makes up for his "lack of athleticism" and helps him on defense as well. Although he is not the fastest, he takes the ball away from guys when they least expect it. He had a lot of success in stealing the ball from guys in the post and turning it into fast break points.
The fact that the Wizards were able to get the both of these guys is incredible to me. For the first time in many years, I felt confident in the guys the Wizards were taking. Although the Wizards are going to be a slept on team, I am expecting a lot of success in Washington for the 2021 season.