Feb. 20, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards forward Chris Singleton before game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Wizards 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON -- Chris Singleton entered his rookie year with fairly high expectations for a mid-round draft pick. With so much talk of him going higher, the 18th overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft was expected to immediately outperform his position. Instead, Singleton, despite starting for most of the year, struggled on both ends, having issues defensively and showing very little offensively outside of a so-so three-point shot.
And now, nobody knows this better than Singleton himself.
The Wizards' rookie opened up to a handful of reporters about his rookie-year struggles and the ways he intends to fix them following the morning session of the second of four days of practice before the beginning of the Las Vegas Summer League. During the session, Singleton admitted that he "felt like I underachieved" as a rookie.
"Just my shooting, my overall percentage," he said when asked to elaborate. "I shot in the mid-30s. I think my three-point percentage was higher than my overall percentage. That, and my dribbling."
He isn't technically correct about his shooting -- he shot 34.6 percent from three-point range and 37.2 percent overall -- but the point about dribbling is something I've harped on before. From a piece last April.
Of Singleton's 146 spot-up plays, as classified by MySynergySports.com, he has used a shot fake and/or put the ball on the floor 38 times. His conversion rate on those plays? Five made shots, 27 misses, eight turnovers and three fouls. He gets bumped off his path way too easily, forcing him into awkward and difficult shot attempts.
That's an area Singleton said he is already trying to address this summer.
"[I'm working on] just staying low, getting my body low. Especially my dribbling," he said. "I got to work on how I put my body in a way where I can achieve what I need to to get somewhere."
In more specific terms, Singleton is saying he is working on doing a better job at getting his shoulders by a defender when he drives. The art of the shot-fake-and-drive is difficult to master. If you don't get low enough in your dribble, defenders can swipe the ball from behind and bump you off your path. The key is to stay low and explode with your legs so you can get your shoulders by the defender. Only then have you defeated his close-out.
Singleton knew about this weakness last year, but he also admitted he was a bit lost as a rookie because he was thrown into the fire without much guidance. With Rashard Lewis suffering so many injuries, the Wizards probably had to rely on Singleton to contribute more than they originally anticipated. Singleton is now hoping the struggles he had while being overexposed last season will help his development.
"It was a good thing and a bad thing [that I played so much]," he said "Personally, I didn't get a chance to see how guys played and got a feel for the game. I just had to go out and play, and just do the best I can. But now, I've basically played everybody in the league that's notable, I guess, and I think I'm ready [for them]."
This was a sentiment echoed by coach Randy Wittman in a slightly different way.
"Sometimes, maybe, where we were last year prior to the trade, as well as after the trade -- and we've talked about this last year with you [media] guys -- it's got to become a situation where your playing time is rewarded, and it's not just [given] because you're a young guy," Wittman said in response to whether Singleton lost confidence from playing so much last year. "I think sometimes I worry about that, when you're in a situation with a lot of young guys, in their mind, they're reading in the paper that they're going to play, and management and ownership wants the young guys to play. So, is their effort going to be at the maximum level."
As for the here and now, Singleton said he's been in Tallahassee since the season ended, where he's working out with college coach Leonard Hamilton and former Wizard Al Thornton while finishing up some college classes to graduate. Other than some light work with his T-shirt company -- he said he's hoping to have a couple fashion shows in Las Vegas later in the summer, but he has no plans of actually going because he's "not a big Vegas fan" -- this is his summer.
So far, so good.
"Chris had the best practice I've seen him have since I've been here," Wittman said. "I see a player that has a year under his belt and got some playing time. He's coming out here, and I'm very pleased with his effort."