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Tom Knott: No Griffin, no Rubio and no luck

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No such luck. That was the Wizards' fate in the NBA Draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., on Tuesday night.

There will be no Blake Griffin appearing in a Wizards uniform next season. No Ricky Rubio either.

Instead, the Wizards wound up with the fifth pick in the NBA Draft next month. That could result in a gem-in-the-making or merely another interchangeable part. It is a roll of the dice either way, as draft selections usually are.

So Griffin goes to the Clippers, Rubio to the Grizzlies, who to the Thunder, what to the Kings and I don't know to the Wizards.

After Griffin and Rubio, the nitpicking begins. And the wait.

The quality of a draft does not reveal itself until three or four years after the fact and with some players not even then.

The Wizards have such a question with Andray Blatche, a steal in the second round, regardless of his modest passion and bouts of immaturity.

The 22-year-old Blatche has a nice skill set, good size and hints of possibility. Yet he also likes to accumulate baggage. He has been quiet so far this offseason. But give him time. It is early.

The question before Ernie Grunfeld is whether Blatche stays stuck on torpor or endeavors to maximize his ability level. That is the great unknown.

Jermaine O'Neal was a bust with the Trail Blazers after four seasons, which equals Blatche's tenure with the Wizards. O'Neal was peddled to Indiana, where something clicked and he became a five-time All-Star. O'Neal was six weeks shy of his 22nd birthday at the time of the trade.

These are the propositions that torment personnel gurus. No one wants to give up too soon on an intriguing player. Yet no one wants to wait too long either. Potential is sometimes another word for being fired in the NBA.

You could ask P.J. Carlesimo, who endured one season and thirteen games before the long-term potential of the Thunder led to his removal in November.

Blatche averaged a career-high 10.0 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, whatever those numbers mean in a 19-win season. They certainly do not carry the same significance as those fashioned on a playoff team.

Flip Saunders, the newly hired coach of the Wizards, is left with the uncertainty of a fifth pick, the same as in 1995, when he was the general manager of the Timberwolves and took Kevin Garnett.

"If we get the same kind of player, I'll be happy," he said before the bad news.

The lottery makes no pretense of the luck element. The draft tries to pretend otherwise, although who really can quantify what lurks inside a person on short notice?

Desire is a hard quality to measure, no matter the predraft workouts, interviews and research. College coaches have a reason to pump up the NBA-bound. Their former players in the NBA become part of the recruiting sell.

No sleuthing is necessary with Griffin. His star-filled future, barring injury, is apparent.

That is what made the 17.8 percent chance of the Wizards both excruciating and tantalizing. It was weighted just enough in their favor to make it possible. Not that it helped. They could draft no lower than No. 5 going into the lottery, and so No. 5 it was.

Now it is back to the reality of Grunfeld determining whether the Wizards are half-empty or half-full. They have plenty of likeable pieces and a compelling trio that is shy a solid left knee.

The logo of the Wizards could be remade in the image of Gilbert Arenas' left knee.

No catchy slogans. Just the silhouette of his left knee.

With the lottery complete, the team's welfare is all based on the condition of one limb.