- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

The Washington Wizards used their first-round pick in last night’s NBA Draft to select 6-foot-6 junior swingman Nick Young of Southern Cal.

An early entry candidate who earned first-team All-Pacific 10 honors in his last two seasons, Young was the best player on the board when the Wizards picked at No. 16, according to team president Ernie Grunfeld.

“As players get picked we take them off our board, and the player we picked was the highest player left on the board,” Grunfeld said. “We feel good about this kid. We really do.”

Young was one of three players the Wizards were believed to be targeting going into the draft. The others were selected a few picks before the Wizards selected Young, who averaged 17.5 points and shot 52.5 percent from the field in his junior year.

With the No. 12 pick, Philadelphia selected Georgia Tech swingman Thaddeus Young, a player the Wizards were high on.

Next, New Orleans Hornets took Kansas’ Julian Wright, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit picked Florida State’s Al Thornton and Eastern Washington’s Rodney Stuckey, respectively. That left the Wizards with the chance to take Nick Young.

“We think he’s one of the more mature players in the draft,” Grunfeld said of the Pac-10’s second-leading scorer last season. “We didn’t think he would be there when we picked. The thing about him that we really like is he can get his shot. He’s an athlete. Obviously he has to learn the pro game, but I think he has a great future in front of him.”

Young, who growing up in Los Angeles played for a summer league team coached by Gilbert Arenas Sr., sounded thrilled to be coming to the District.

“I’m just glad I landed somewhere where I know I’m going to enjoy playing basketball,” Young said last night. “Now I’ve got to get stronger and more mentally tough to play in the NBA.”

The Wizards used their second-round pick, No. 47 overall, on 6-foot-8 forward Dominic McGuire, a junior from Fresno State who averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. He finished third in the nation in blocks at 3.6 a game.

This was the third time Grunfeld, who came to Washington in 2003, made a first-round pick. Last season, the Wizards chose 7-footer Oleksiy Pecherov. In 2004, the Wizards picked Devin Harris, then dealt him to the Mavericks as part of the trade for Antawn Jamison.

In 2005, they didn’t have a first round pick as part of the compensation for their 2001 acquisition of Brendan Haywood. However, they drafted then 18-year-old Andray Blatche with the 49th pick.

Blatche, a restricted free agent going into his third season, showed progress last season and could turn out to be a decent player.

Teams can begin talking to free agents at 12:01 a.m. Monday but can’t sign them until July 11.

However, the Wizards likely will not be busy in free agency simply because they have little wiggle room below the salary cap, which last season was $53.135 million.

The new salary cap number will be announced Monday, and it’s not expected to give the Wizards much relief. The seven players they have signed to contracts will collect more than $54 million in compensation.

That means the Wizards may have only the mid-level exception to work with.

Note — For the first time, Comcast SportsNet will broadcast all five of the Wizards‘ games from the 2007 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The Wizards will be one of 22 teams participating in the camp. The league, which runs from July 6 to July 15, also will include the Chinese national team.

The Wizards‘ team, which will be made up of rookies and free agents, opens against Sacramento on July 10.



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