We've come to expect Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis to generate lots of pixels about his team, and Monday was no exception. The Wizards' owner penned a long blog post with the headline, "Public Support For Our Young Players." In it, he responded to a Washington Post article noting the struggles of Jan Vesely.
Here's just one excerpt from Leonsis' post:
Jan Vesely and Trevor Ariza are best situated in a running, fast-paced offense. We have now had to slow down play without John Wall in the lineup, and we are asking players to play half court sets. This is a miss -match for their specific skill sets. Jan Vesely is in his second year of development. You always support a young, talented player, who is 7 feet tall, can run and is fundamentally sound. Jan has our support, and is working hard to develop his all-around game. But this is his second year in the NBA, and he is playing without a starting point guard who can push the pace of play. We shouldn't be so fast to write him off as a player. This is easy to do in media but not something that is smart to do for our franchise.
Similar comments are made about young players like Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Bradley Beal. The thesis is as the title suggests: the Wizards will back their young talent and work with them to develop their skills.
This sentiment is both understandable and proper. It may come off as if Leonsis is downplaying the Wizards' 1-12 record, but it also doesn't do him any good to publicly criticize his players. Maybe it makes fans feel better, but it wouldn't help the situation. For a player like Vesely who seemingly has issues with his confidence, public criticism doesn't really help. There's no reason to "write off" anyone that's as young as Vesely.
However, it is worth noting that Vesely's plight helps illustrate the problem of building around too much young talent. Or, more specifically, duplicating young talent.
Leonsis' argument is one that many with the Wizards believe. John Wall's return will increase the team's pace, which will be better for the games of several key players. Except, that's also part of the issue. It helps nobody's development when the team has so many players who play the same way. Singleton, Vesely, Ariza, Trevor Booker, Beal ... a lot of these guys were drafted because of their ability to run. It's nice in theory to build a team that can throw waves of the same type of skill at you, but in practice, their deficiencies in other areas of the game makes everyone's development more difficult.
This, to me, is one of the major causes of Vesely's struggles. On a team with more perimeter shooting, Vesely's ability to rotate the ball, cut into open space and attack the offensive glass would be more valuable. On this team, though, he has less space to play his game and is relied upon more to hit the same perimeter shot that he struggles knocking down. A lot of the same could be said about Booker, Ariza and Singleton. With more spacing, Ariza's all-around game might be appreciated more. With more shot creators, Booker could focus on doing the dirty work. With fewer big men, maybe Singleton develops quicker as a stretch 4 like his body type suggests.
That's why I think player development and player selection go hand in hand. It's not enough to draft guys that are talented, have them work hard to develop individual skills and support them publicly. It's also important to find players that fit with each other. That means not duplicating skill sets and thinking about how the weaknesses of a person that's being drafted are masked by the other players on the roster.
Nothing breeds improvement like confidence. Confidence, at least publicly, is what Leonsis correctly is expressing in his blog post. But for that public confidence to do its job, the architects of this team need to put the players in a position where they can play their games and experience success that way. I don't think the Wizards do that quite enough right now.