My 2011 NBA Draft grade for the Washington Wizards is coming at the bottom, but ultimately, I thought they had a good draft. Many pundits thought they had a great draft, which I think is perhaps a bit strong. Their opinions rest on the idea that the Wizards managed to get the man they wanted in Jan Vesely at No. 6. I'm a little less convinced Vesely was the right pick there, though I certainly think the Wizards' position on him is logical. I see why the Wizards made the pick, and while I probably would have chosen someone else, I accept their take on it and am excited to see whether they turn out to be right.
Otherwise, I thought the Wizards did great. Read on for more.
Jan Vesely: Give the Wizards credit: they got the guy they wanted all along. From the very beginning, they zeroed in on Vesely. Despite having their intentions be fairly clear, they got Vesely without having to trade up for him. That's a positive in and of itself. It also was important that two of their best alternatives to Vesely -- Tristan Thompson and Jonas Valanciunas -- were gone the two picks before. The only other serious candidate the Wizards looked at with the pick was Kawhi Leonard, and he tumbled all the way to No. 15. I personally would have chosen Bismack Biymobo, but he was never an option, probably because of the presence of JaVale McGee.
Opposition to the Vesely pick seems to come in two forms. The first is that the Wizards should have instead traded up to land Derrick Williams or Enes Kanter. I sympathize with this, but it seemed like it was much more difficult in practice to do. Ted Leonsis, in an interview on"Overtime" with Bill Rohland and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan, said the asking price of teams ahead of the Wizards was staggering.
We tried to trade up, but the price was really high," he said. "Some people wanted No. 6, No. 18 and our No. 1 pick next year. So we thought: let's use all three of those picks."
If true, that's way too high a price to pay even for Williams, who you all know I like. Even 6 + 18 seems a bit high for Kanter, who is much more of an unknown than Vesely (though he may fit into a supposed area of weakness better). It seems like that was just not a good option.
The second potential issue with Vesely is whether he can learn the skills he needs to be successful in the league. We all know about his shooting issues, his putrid free-throw shooting and his struggles with hanging onto the ball. Those are serious issues, and they have me concerned. Vesely himself acknowledged those problems as ones he needed to fix, and said his first goal is to work on his free throws. So at least he knows the problem is there.
"My shot, you know. I have to work on that, and of course to be more strong," he said, later joking that "I'm comfortable [shooting], but it goes out."
But there are some positives Vesely brings too. The Wizards love his athleticism, and it is legitimate at his size. They also, I believe, like his court sense and the way he cuts into open space and finishes on offensive rebounds. They are projecting him, I believe, to be someone who doesn't need the ball to score his points, and I think he can do that. I don't think they are as concerned about whether he can take a guy one-on-one and score on him. That's not going to be his role on this future team, so it really doesn't matter much.
The bottom line with Vesely, though, is this: he's not like most Europeans. Whereas Kanter hasn't played in a year and Valanciunas and Biyombo play limited minutes for their club teams, Vesely was a main player on one of the best teams in Europe in Partizan. He's tough, he wins and he plays big in big spots, which the Wizards witnessed when he scored 18 points in the Serbian League title game. He's not a star in Europe, but he's a key role player and a big part of their team. He's also kind of cocky, and he won't back down from anything or anyone. The Wizards, I believe, feel that they need that attitude more than they need his skills. Or, they think the skills will come around to match the attitude.
I'm less convinced than them, but it certainly could happen. We'll have to wait and see.
Chris Singleton: A complete no-brainer, and I believe the steal of the draft. I can't believe New York picked Iman Shumpert over him. Singleton said the Wizards were considering him at 6, so they have to be thrilled he ended up at 18.
All the reasons I said for picking Singleton here hold true, with a few cherries on top. I love how he's pissed at the teams that passed on him. He didn't even realize who they were at first, stuttering when trying to figure out which ones had two picks. He said his agent was even talking to New York just before they picked Shumpert. To a certain extent, he was baited into the answer he gave, but he didn't have to play along either.
I also love how intelligent he is defensively. He played for Leonard Hamilton, who is one of the best defensive teachers in college basketball, and it showed in his media comments on how to defend at the NBA level.
"You got to dictate on the defensive end. You can't always let the offensive player get where he wants or anything like that. You got to scout teams," he said. "That's one thing we did a lot [at Florida State]. We broke down teams, and that's something he helped me with and something I'm used to. He made me more prepared than any other spot I could have gone to."
He acknowledged that he is a "developing" offensive player, and I hope he realizes his value is in spotting up for corner threes and not taking those tough pull-up jumpers. If so, though, I think he's a definite rotation player at least and great value for No. 18. I don't think anyone within or around the organization expected him to fall so far, so they're all thrilled.
Shelvin Mack: There were a couple other guys who could have gone here, like Michigan's Darius Morris or Hofstra's Charles Jenkins, but I think the Wizards wanted a winner like Mack. It's a little cliche, but Mack has probably been in more big-game settings than many guys on the Wizards' roster, and that always helps when trying to execute a culture change. I think he's a pretty crafty player too, so I approve.
Overall: I'd give this grade a B or B+, with the ultimate grade to be determined by Vesely. Singleton and Mack were good value, but good value matters less going forward if the top picks don't produce. Vesely was Ernie Grunfeld's guy, and now, it's on him to show us why. He wasn't my first choice, but I look forward to him proving me wrong.