- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

With the 2008 NBA Draft now only a day away, Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld likes the position in which he finds himself.

He holds the 18th and 47th picks of a deep draft. He has a roster that boasts a balance of veterans and young, developing talent. And he has options.

With what he describes as a higher-than-normal amount of chatter involving positioning between teams, Grunfeld can see the Wizards doing a number of things once the draft begins Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Wizards could see who remains available when their first pick comes around and take the best available player. They could trade up to grab a prospect if they don’t believe he still will be on the board at No. 18. Or they could trade down in the first round or trade their way out of the draft.

“It’s a pretty deep draft actually, and you never know who will be available until the pick is right there in front of you,” Grunfeld said. “There have been a lot of conversations about maybe moving up, moving back or maybe getting out of the draft. A lot of it may be contingent upon who’s out there for us, who’s available.”

It’s unlikely a franchise-saving player will be on the board by the 18th pick, but the Wizards don’t believe they are in need of one.

Although franchise player Gilbert Arenas and team captain Antawn Jamison both become unrestricted free agents next month, Grunfeld anticipates re-signing both. With Arenas and Jamison retained, Grunfeld believes he has a starting five capable of contending with any team in the league.

Factor in a bench led by veterans and a trio of second-year players and the Wizards’ roster appears well stocked.

“We think we’re pretty deep at most positions,” Grunfeld said. “If everybody comes back healthy, we’ve always believed we have a chance to be among the league’s elite. So we would have to see who was the best available player ”

Grunfeld later added: “When you think about it, we have under contract a backup at every position.”

Grunfeld sees no glaring weakness in the roster and predicts further development from the Wizards’ young players during summer league play in Las Vegas next month.

The Wizards also have 2006 draft pick Vladimir Veremeenko, a forward who could join the summer team from Russia and make a case for a roster spot.

But while the roster appears crowded, the Wizards have brought in roughly 40 players for evaluations in the past month. The majority of the prospects were late-first round to second-round projections, but Grunfeld said teams “can always find gems” late in the draft.

Golden State selected Arenas in the second round in 2001. The Wizards used a second-round pick on Andray Blatche, who last season averaged 11.5 points and 8.1 points in 15 games as a starter.

Grunfeld said the draft features plenty of talented freshmen and sophomores who will need time to develop.

The Wizards will decide Thursday night whether they need another project or whether packaging picks for a veteran contributor is more important.

Regardless, Grunfeld said the position the Wizards find themselves in is a plus.

“It makes it easier because you don’t have to overload,” Grunfeld explained. “And if there is a player out there with big upside, and that’s the best player available, we can take him - if we keep the pick.”

- The NBA on Tuesday released the schedule for the 2008 summer league in Las Vegas, and the Wizards play their first game on July 14 at 8 p.m. against the Portland Trail Blazers at COX Pavilion. NBA TV will broadcast the game. The rest of the schedule is as follows: July 16, 8 p.m. vs. Philadelphia; July 18, 8 p.m. vs. Cleveland; July 19, 8 p.m. vs. Houston; and July 20, 8 p.m. vs. Phoenix.

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