Washington D.C. — The 1992 NBA Draft was the last draft in which the Washington Wizards’ selectees were solid contributors for thefranchise in forward Tom Gugliotta, 6th-overall pick, and guard Brent Price, 32nd overall pick.The new, old look (with their retro style of red, white and blue stripes) Wizards may have accomplished that feat again for the first time since then when they selected forwards Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic and Chris Singleton from Florida State and guard Shelvin Mack from Butler University in the 2011 NBA Draft.
These new Wizards brings the size, skills and talents to help forward the progression of rebuilding Washington to the successful franchise they once were.
The Wizards were one of the winners (probably the ultimate victor) in the draft. Although there’s a little concern with one of the picks, but overall, Washington has earned an A-.
“We are very pleased to add Jan, Chris and Shelvin to our roster as we take another step forward in our rebuilding process,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld with a grin in a press conference after Mack was drafted at the Verizon Center.
Vesely stands at 6-11, 240 lbs. and has played professionally in Slovenia, Serbia and for the Czech Republic national team. For the past three seasons, Vesely played in the Euroleague for Partizan Belgrade where he averaged 10.1 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per contest last season, while winning The FIBA Young Men’s Player of the Year in 2011.
Vesely has improved each year as a young pro and was regarded as the best European player in the 2011 NBA draft, due to his athletic ability, shooting skills and aggressive in transition.
Vesely comes from an athletic family where his father, Jan, is a former basketball player and his mother is a former volleyball player. His girlfriend, Eva who Vesely kissed down when his name was called in the draft, studies architecture and plays basketball as well, along with Vesely’s younger sister.
However, Vesely’s skill set in nothing new in terms of European players. The 21-year old forward is thin, light and the physicality of the game should strike a bit of concern for the Wizards regarding their new lottery pick.
When I asked Vesely via conference call about how long will it take him to adapt to the physical style of the NBA, he gave an honest answer.
“I don’t know,” said Vesely. “I don’t know. I know I have a long way to go and I won’t refuse to work hard and work hard to win the game.”
The concern the Wizards may have is that they selected another big man who do not want to exchange love taps against the other big men in the NBA on a nightly base.
Other than having a better shot, Vesely’s game is pretty similar to center JaVale McGee and forward Andray Blatche as they all perform well in transition running the floor and are athletic, but aren’t as physical.
In a half court setting, Can Vesely create for himself or does he need someone to set him up score?
European players are difficult to evaluate due to the lack of tape on them. Highlight footages are deceitful because they do not tell the whole story nor the competition they are going up against. In some situations, European basketball could be measured to mid-level or lower level Division I ball due to the lack of visibility and talent.
Nevertheless, Singleton help made the Wizards’ draft solid.
The Wizards lost many contests last season in the fourth quarter as they would have a lead late, but collapsed defensively causing them to lose close games.
Singleton will be a huge step for the Wizards’ defensive turnaround.
The two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2010 and 2011) stands at 6-9, 230 lbs. (giving him a wingspan of 7-1) and averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in the three seasons as a Seminole, including 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as a junior last season. Singleton left Florida State as the only Seminole in school history to rank amongst the top ten in career blocks and steals.
Singleton’s game is NBA ready, especially defensively as he battles for every possession and will guard the opponents’ best offensive player. If the Wizards can create turnovers, led by Singleton, the team could get out in transition more allowing them to do what they do best, score in transition.
Both Vesely and Singleton will definitely feed off each other.
“Jan and Chris and both versatile forwards who are very competitive and play with a lot of energy at all times, particularly on defense,” said Grunfeld.
Mack maybe young at 21, but he has an old man game build on patience, great decision making and in addition, has a good jumpshot. The 6-3, 215 guard will provide stability at the point guard position and due to the lack of speed compared to guard John Wall, Mack will not gamble as much.
Mack led Butler to back-to-back NCAA Championship game appearances to only fall twice, but was captain of the USA U19 team in 2009 when he brought home a gold medal.
“Shelvin is a proven winner who has excelled at the highest levels of collegiate competition and will help solidify our backcourt rotation.”
In a draft that was not deep with astonishing talent, the Wizards managed to improve their roster and will be one of the youngest, exciting teams in the NBA.
The Wizards were able to build around their star with athletes who can play that up-tempo style of ball that Wall and head coach Flip Saunders desire to play. With some concern of a lottery pick to play physically, Washington had a solid draft with what was out there, earning an A-.
Now, it’s about gaining experience and competing on both ends of the floor consistently night in and night out.
“All three players complement our young core of talented players, and add a hunger and desire to compete on both ends of the floor,” said Grunfeld.