Will Class of 2001's titans ever deliver?

Updated: January 7, 2005, 2:24 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
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    One year into Michael Jordan's tenure as GM of the Wizards, he faced the most monumental task of his career since retiring from the Bulls.

    Jordan's Wizards had the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, and 24 hours before having to make the selection, Jordan was still struggling to decide between a pair of teen titans. On the evening before the draft, Jordan brought in 18-year-olds Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler for their second head-to-head workout.

    By all accounts, the workout was fierce. Both Brown and Chandler viciously went after each other. Jordan remained unsure what to do. Then, after the workout was over, Brown walked over to Jordan and sealed his fate – and the fate of the franchise.

    "I promise you if you draft me, you will never regret it," Brown told His Airness.

    Jordan was impressed. The Wizards selected Brown, and he became the first high school player ever drafted No. 1 overall.

    Four years later, the Wizards finally are coming out of the NBA coma they've been in this decade – but they're still waiting on Kwame to make good on his vow.

    The surprise isn't that it's taken them this long to arise from the slumber. What's really stunning is that neither Jordan nor Brown has had anything to do with it.

    Jordan was dumped by owner Abe Pollin after a disastrous two-year comeback. Since then, GM Ernie Grunfeld has made the savvy trades and free-agent signings that have put the Wizards in a position to compete again. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, two of Grunfeld's best acquisitions, are leading the charge.

    Kwame, on the other hand, is so much of an afterthought that head coach Eddie Jordan recently had to remind Arenas to pass it to the athletic 6-foot-11 giant standing wide open in the paint.

    For the season, Brown is averaging just 6.0 ppg in 16.7 minutes. He averages fewer than five shots per game.

    Brown's lack of maturity has shown both on and off the court. For a kid who had a great reputation as a down-to-earth, polite southern kid from a big family, Brown has shattered the illusion over the past couple of seasons. From a DUI to his latest incident – refusing to join the team in the huddle because he was unhappy with his role.

    Unless Brown has a dramatic turnaround this season, it's unclear whether the Wizards will pay for him to return when he hits restricted free agency this summer.

    That's why trade rumors surrounding Brown have been running rampant. The Wizards don't appear to need him in order to succeed. With Brown likely to bolt and with the Wizards likely unwilling to match a large offer – is it time to cut bait now while the team can still get something back?

    The Wizards aren't the only ones in this predicament.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine brightly for several franchises that have been in the depths of despair the past several years.

    The 2001 draft was one of the youngest in the history of the NBA. Four high school seniors (Brown, Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop) were taken in the lottery. Each player's slow development has, to varying degrees, crippled the franchises that picked them.

    Now, with the impending trade deadline and each player facing restricted free agency this summer, teams have some tough decisions to make.

    Insider checks in with three teams still trying to sort through what went wrong and whether there's still time to salvage a lost three years.

    Chad Ford

    ESPN Senior Writer