In 2011, I jumped out of my seat (figuratively speaking) once Chris Singleton fell to the Wizards with the 18th pick. I'd watched him grow for four years at Florida State, terrorizing conference foes (including my Terps), as he spearheaded the best defensive unit in college basketball in his senior season. I though Washington got the steal of the draft and maybe their small forward for the future.
Three years later, Trevor Ariza emerged as the best "3 & D" wing in the league and is now primed for a big contract as a free agent. The Wizards have another in the fold in Otto Porter and are sitting on some cap space that they'll presumably use to fill out the rest of their front court.
Singleton, meanwhile, has faded into the background in Washington. Our fondest memories of him either occurred in his rookie season as he stumbled upon the starting small forward spot late in the year or in Summer League the past few season. The Wizards have unsuccessfully converted him into a hybrid forward, and he's yet to become a credible rotation player. It's bad enough that his fourth-year rookie option was declined.
What were our preseason expectations?
Singleton disappointed in Summer League, leaving very little reason for optimism heading into training camp and preseason. He looked lost within the offense and shot threes only out of necessity, which brings into question why Sam Cassell and the coaching staff wanted him to focus only on "mastering the midrange jumper."
Look, it would make sense if Singleton was more like Trevor Booker, but he's not. You don't convert a wing player into an undersized 4 and tell him not to shoot threes. It's for that exact reason why wing players end up moving from the 3 to the 4: to improve floor spacing.
What made matters worse is that Singleton displayed the same bad habits he's shown in the past. He took stepback jumpers when he didn't need to, shot with a hand in his face and dribbled right into traffic. He'll deservedly get the bulk of the blame, but it's alarming how little the coaching staff has helped him over the course of his career.
Then in late September, Singleton underwent surgery on his left foot and wasn't expected back until weeks into the regular season. This was already an uphill battle for the third-year forward, and the only way out of the doghouse was to prove himself in those preseason games.
How did his performance square with those expectations?
Singleton played in just 250 minutes, which is less than half of what Jan Vesely managed in much less time with the team. Fifteen of the 25 games he played in were when the Wizards either won or lost by double-digits, and I'd venture to guess at least half of the time he saw the floor came in garbage time.
There's something about his game that just screams "he's trying too hard." He takes jumpers that aren't normally there for the taking and prematurely attacks closeouts when the ball is swung to him on the weak side rather than simply catching and shooting. It's been a common theme throughout his career, but has happened more so since the change to power forward.
One thing is certain: he's not a midrange shooter. He shot a dreadful 33-percent this past season, and only last year did he shoot close to league average. The power forwards in Wittman's offense do a lot of catching and shooting from midrange, and it's clearly not in Singleton's wheelhouse. The Wizards like having their big men popping out or spotting up on the opposite side of where a pick and roll is being initiated, which means Chris has to catch, turn and fire.
He's better served in a role where he can simply be a basketball minimalist. Stick to the basics, have him spot up from three where he can see the whole floor and not be worried about what's behind him. He's not a poor three-point shooter, and he shot a very healthy 7-13 from above the break in year 3 in a tiny sample, per NBA.com's stats page.
He had plenty of reps to acclimate himself to defending all sorts of wing players as a rookie, but again just hasn't seen enough time to stand out since. The numbers won't do him any justice or incriminate him any further, seeing as how the sample sizes are so small, so the eye-test is really what you must use He's not incredibly quick moving laterally, but he's had his moments against bulkier 3s that like to back down. He may never live up to his "defensive stopper" billing as a draft prospect, but he has the tools to be a plus defender.
If he leaves, what will the team miss most?
Nothing, but we'll always have this.
Final Grade: F
While Singleton deserves most of the blame for not fulfilling his potential, this was also another organizational failure. The Wizards inexplicably told him to focus on shooting the midrange jumper when spacing the floor is of the utmost importance for John Wall's drive and kick game. His development stagnated after a promising rookie season and he got buried on the bench once the front office brought in new blood on the wings. They have nothing to show for the former 18th pick of the draft.
Like Seraphin, I do think there's a place for him in this league. He's got the length and athleticism, and we've seen players develop into better shooters over time. If he puts in the work, I don't see why Singleton can't. It just won't be here.