Since the end of the "fingagunz" era, this franchise has been slowly climbing out of an abyss. Some players helped light the way. Others, not so much. Torch-Bearer Number One has been -- and will continue to be for the foreseeable future -- John Wall. He is tasked with leading this team out of the darkness, and he has to have the support to get him there. Shelvin Mack was drafted to be man who marched right behind him, but signs indicate he may be another casualty of the abyss.
To the untrained eye, Mack seemed like a great backup to Wall last season. He was a high second-round pick, he was one of the leaders of a very successful Butler Bulldogs team in college for 3 seasons and he could do all of the basic things you needed a backup point guard to do: get the ball to the primary bench scorer, minimize recklessness and allow for Wall to get enough rest so he can play during more important stretches of the game. However, as the direction and fate of the team began to change, Wall’s leadership role on the team emerged as increasingly important. With no more Nick, JaVale, Gil/Shard, or Dray, Wall became the longest-tenured Wizard this season after being the first overall pick in 2010. Suddenly, the role of the backup point guard became more than just "the guy who helps Wall get some rest by playing okay enough."
Mack’s fate is tied to Wall’s. For Wall to be the leader this team needs going forward, the Wizards need their backup point guard to be someone who can play alongside him, to give him sage-veteran-guard advice, to allow him to play off the bal. Wall needs to lead someone who doesn’t need to be led himself. And for now, that’s not Mack.
POSITIVES TO BUILD ON: Mack is one of the longer-tenured players on the team, even if that only means he has 66 games under his belt. As long as Mack finds a way to spin his on-court experience into a complement to other players on the team, there will be room for him in the rotation. If he can be a spot-up shooter, he would be really useful playing alongside Wall and/or A.J. Price -- that is, if Wittman decides to get creative in his lineups.
AREAS TO IMPROVE: Mack didn’t have a great showing in summer league. He played OK, but he didn’t shine like second year guy is supposed to shine. His most memorable moment was when he got into a quick tiff with Chris Singleton after an inbounds pass. With that in mind, I think he needs to improve his confidence (my guess is he was scared in summer league of losing his rotation spot) and building his maturity level.
PROJECTED SPOT IN ROTATION: His main competition for backup point guard is A.J. Price. If the Wizards had confidence that Mack could be the backup point guard, they probably wouldn't have signed Price in the first place. If Price falls (see what I did there?) and Mack’s stock rises (I got you twice!), then we could see Mack moving from third PG to second PG later in the season.
OUTLOOK: You shouldn’t expect big things from Mack this season, but you wouldn’t be wrong for wanting big things from him. I still think he has potential in this league, and if he doesn’t fit in Washington, I think he’d be pretty valuable as a backup PG on another team. If nothing else, he’s got a palatable (and partially guaranteed) contract that any team could use.
What are your projected statistics for Mack? What are your general expectations of him? Do you expect him to be here at the end of the season?