- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

It wasn’t long ago that the NBA Draft was the high point of the Washington Wizards’ year, the time at the end of another unfulfilling season when they would try to find some young players to invigorate the franchise.

Not so much this year.

The Wizards are coming off their first playoff appearance in eight years, and they advanced to the second round for the first time since 1982 before being swept by Miami. Washington’s 45-37 record was its best since it went 54-28 25 seasons ago.

Add to that the fact the Wizards don’t have a pick in the first round and there is little anticipation for the draft in Washington this year.

Washington sent the pick, which would have been 20th overall, to the Orlando Magic in 2001 when it acquired the draft rights to then-rookie center Brendan Haywood in exchange for Laron Profit. The Magic have since traded the pick to Denver.

Washington won’t pick until the second round at No. 49, long after all of the best college, foreign and high school players have been chosen. The good news, of course, is that the Wizards don’t need the pick to fill a gaping chasm on the roster. Instead, they will be looking for the best player available.

“I have said it all year,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said yesterday. “We don’t have a lot of needs on our roster. …

“We’ve done our homework, and we think there are some decent players there. We’ll just have to see.”

And don’t look for the Wizards, who have eight players signed to contracts worth approximately $38 million, to pull off any deals this year, unlike 2004 when they acquired Antawn Jamison in a deal that sent Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the draft rights to Devin Harris to the Dallas Mavericks.

To begin with, the Wizards like the core they have assembled. Secondly, until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified — probably in the third week of July — teams are forbidden from making sign-and-trade deals involving free agents. Teams can begin negotiating with free agents July 1, and they can begin signing them to contracts July 14.

That prohibits the Wizards even from attempting to deal Kwame Brown — despite the manner in which his season ended, with the forward quitting on the team in the playoffs — or any other free agents.

“I’ve talked to Kwame since the season ended, and it was positive,” said Grunfeld, adding again that the 7-foot, 270-pound Brown could be a member of the team next season.

“We’re just focusing on what we have,” Grunfeld continued. “Right now we pick 49. We’ve done our homework, and I’m confident that there will be some good players left when we pick.”

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