Due to the impending labor situation arising in the NBA, Thursday’s draft may have lost some of its luster, with several high-profile college players such as Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones staying in school for at least another year.
Despite the lack of can’t-miss talent and the uncertainties surrounding next season, many teams still had room for improvement and needed to take advantage of this opportunity.
And on Thursday night, the Washington Wizards did just that.
Last year, Washington finished near the bottom of the league in several categories, including field goal percentage for and against, points allowed per game, three-point field goal percentage against, offensive rating, defensive rating, and effective field goal percentage. The players the Wizards drafted last night will certainly help them improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Several mock drafts projected the Czech forward Jan Vesely to be taken sixth overall, and many blogs speculated that he was Washington’s guy all along, so it only stood to reason that they would take him when he fell to sixth overall. At 6’11” and 240, Vesely’s length, athleticism and toughness projects him to be a small forward who could fill in at power forward if needed, similar to the Jazz’ Andrei Kirilenko. They also liked that he already was a key contributor to his Serbian club team (which former Maryland Terrapin James Gist happens to play for). The problem is that Vesely is a raw talent with poor touch on his jumper, though that aspect of his game is well-publicized, looking at his 54 percent free throw shooting.
Aside from that, Vesely has shown the attitude and swagger off the court that this team has needed since Gilbert Arenas (before he started twiddling with his guns in the locker room), calling Blake Griffin “the American Jan Vesely” when asked in the interview at the draft, which is certainly better than comparing yourself to Chris Bosh in the worst possible way. And how often do you see a player already score just seconds after being drafted? This is going to be fun.
Washington selecting forward Chris Singleton 18th overall was the better value pick, however. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year will bring that very mentality to the team, as well as his length and athleticism. At Florida State, Singleton averaged slightly less than 1.5 blocks per game, even at 6’9″. Like Vesely, however, his offensive abilities at the NBA level will be a point of concern, but because Singleton will not be expected to shoulder the load offensively, the Wizards will put him in the best situations for him to succeed at that end.
In the second round, the Wizards chose guard Shelvin Mack, who led the Butler Bulldogs to back-to-back National Championship appearances. Mack can serve as the backup point guard to John Wall and has the ability to knock down the open shot in a key situation. The fact that he helped will the Bulldogs to two National Championship appearances shows his winning mentality and leadership ability that this team needs more of.
While the Washington Wizards did not land any of the few so-called “can’t-miss” prospects, the front office did well enough this year to help build around one of the league’s budding superstars.