- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

The Washington Wizards have brought in a number of prospective draft picks in recent weeks, but none is considered good enough to be selected with the No.5 pick overall. That will all change today when the Wizards take a look at forwards Josh Smith and Josh Childress and swingman Andre Iguodala.

“These are all guys that will project to be in the top 10,” said Ernie Grunfeld, president of basketball operations.

The Wizards have looked at 36 players in preparation for their first pick in the NBA Draft on June24. Washington also has the 32nd pick, and many of the players they have looked at will be available there.

“That is a decent pick in what is a young draft,” Grunfeld said. “If you look at it, there’s a wide range there at the number two. We could be looking at a situation where the guy ranked 20th by one club is ranked 35th by another.”

The Wizards usually don’t bring in as many players as they have in Grunfeld’s first full summer in charge. However, the NBA pre-draft camp, which will be in Chicago next week, is one week later than usual. Therefore, teams have about one week less to evaluate players than they did last year.

“Once the camp is over, you’ve got about a week and a half before the draft — that’s it,” Grunfeld said. “So you have to make the most of the time you have in the offseason to see as many guys as you can.”

The Wizards also hope to get a look at former Duke forward Luol Deng, a player they would like to take with the No.5 pick if he is still on the board, two sources said last week.

Smith, a high school player from Georgia, is perhaps the most athletic player in the draft but is considered only the third best prep player available, behind forward Dwight Howard and point guard Shaun Livingston. And at 6-foot-8, his ball-handling skills are considered suspect.

Childress is a junior from Stanford, but at 6-7 and 205 pounds, there are concerns about his durability although some say he is ready to contribute. Iguodala, a sophomore from Arizona, is also a gifted athlete with a suspect outside shot.

Had last week’s draft lottery gone according to how teams finished, the Wizards would have had the No.3 pick because of their 25-57 record. But the Los Angeles Clippers jumped ahead of them, nudging them down to the fifth spot. Expansion Charlotte is guaranteed the fourth pick.

Meanwhile, teams must submit their list of eight protected players for the expansion draft to the league by June12. Unrestricted free agents also can be placed on the list. Although Grunfeld would not comment, three league sources last week reached the joint opinion that the Wizards are least likely to protect Juan Dixon, Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse.

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