WASHINGTON D.C. - When the Washington Wizards picked Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack in the 2011 NBA Draft, they did so as part of their ongoing hope to change the culture of the team into one that is more defensive-minded. Both Singleton and Mack have great size and physical attributes for their position that will be put to good use on defense.
But in the case of both players, it was more than their physical attributes that drew the Wizards to them. It was also their experience with detailed pro-style scouting reports in college, which was not something many other players experienced. Singleton and Mack both played for coaches who handed out scouting reports to their teams that included the kind of detail you rarely see in the college game.
"We had really detailed information on every single player," Singleton said after the press conference. "Like, exactly how well they shot from every position on the court. In the paint, we'd have what move they might do. We had film on every player in the country. It was very detailed."
Singleton ultimately benefited from coach Leonard Hamilton's influence. The former Wizards' coach, with Singleton as his anchor, designed a scheme that allowed Florida State to finish number one in the nation in fewest points allowed per 100 possessions. Current Wizards coach Flip Saunders said Hamilton took the detailed information he learned in the NBA and applied it to Florida State. Saunders also said Singleton's experience with Hamilton will make him more coachable.
"Leonard is hard on players. He's defensive-oriented. He's not afraid to challenge players and get in their face," Saunders said after the press conference. "Because of that, Chris will accept coaching and understand that, to be coached, sometimes you have to be reprimanded at times for not doing the right thing [if it] leads to being built up. I think [Chris] understands that."
As for Mack, he learned under Brad Stevens, who was well known for incorporating advanced statistics into his pregame preparation. This from a New York Times profile of Ken Pomeroy, the man behind the advanced statistics site KenPom.com.
Stevens uses Pomeroy's numbers to seek trends in losses and to identify teams' strengths and weaknesses. It is all part of trying to crack the code of the opposition.
"That's one of the most fun things for me, personally," Stevens said. "Trying to see if you can solve a puzzle."
When I asked Mack about the scouting reports Stevens handed out, they sounded a lot like the ones Singleton got.
"They were very detailed, but the biggest thing was tendencies. They'd tell us that one guy would go to a certain move nine out of 10 times, so when the game comes around, you have to take that away. That's why we were able to be so successful," Mack said afterwards.
Ultimately, Mack said Butler would never have been as good as they were without those scouting reports.
"You're able to win ballgames when you take what the coaches give you and execute it on the floor. That's what we were able to do," he said. "That's why we were able to be one of the best defensive teams in the country."
Mack and Singleton represent a more subtle culture change for the Wizards. They're not just good defenders; they're smart defenders that have experience devouring and executing the kind of scouting reports the rest of the Wizards will need to pick up themselves if they want to improve defensively. In Mack and Singleton, the Wizards have two defenders who already understand firsthand how much scouting makes a difference defensively.