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Rook's Take On Washington Wizards Draft Picks: Analysis And NBA Draft Grades

So the NBA Draft is over - and our Washington Wizards picked a European forward, a potential defensive stalwart and a combo-guard. Obviously I would have preferred a trade to move up to select either Derrick Williams or Enes Kanter, but as Mike Prada pointed out in his post,  it takes two to make a trade.

Apparently teams wanted to fleece the Wizards by asking for the No. 6, No. 18 and the No. 1 pick next year - Crazy talk. (Hey David Kahn, I hope you have fun trying to move Michael Beasley... LOL... Good luck with that!).

So it is what it is. I really think that Kanter was the perfect fit for the Wizards next to both JaVale and Andray Blatche. But the Wizards were forced to hang on to the 6th pick (and the 18th) and stick with plan A. Unfortunate... but I guess it was better than mortgaging next year's Lottery pick. So here's my take on the Wizards 2011 draft. I've graded each selection and my overall grade is at the end.

With the 6th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select Jan Vesely

I saw more than a few comments on draft night about the Wizards drafting "another soft Euro." Let's put a damper on this right away - Jan Vesely is NOT another "soft" Euro with a finesse game and a penchant for avoiding contact. He's a very athletic Forward that will run the floor, slash hard to the basket, and play with energy and intensity for 48 minutes. And despite his slight frame (230 pounds) and his baby faced appearance, Vesely is a pretty tough dude. He's not afraid to throw his body around in the paint and take charges on defense. I hesitate in calling him "physical" ONLY because he takes contact rather than dishing it out - but he certainly doesn't shy away from contact; and he doesn't back down from anyone. He has a bit of a nasty streak about him, and loves to dunk on people.

Before I dig into his deficiencies, let's discuss his positive attributes first. Vesely is fast and athletic -  a perfect fit next to John Wall. He gets most of his points in transition, on hard cuts to the basket and on offensive rebound put backs. In other words, on a team full of high usage players (Wall, Young, Blatche, Crawford, etc.) Vesely doesn't need the ball or have plays run for him to score. Although he needs to improve his footwork, he's got a pretty decent post up game, especially when he has a smaller player on him. 

Having said all that, Vesely does have his deficiencies. It's well documented that he's not a good shooter (yet) and that he has trouble at the Free Throw line (54% in the Adriatic League last year). The other knock is that he's not a very good rebounder. Lets look at these one at a time.

His jump shot is not broken - he has good form with a quick, high release. He usually shoots square to the basket and he gets good rotation on the basketball. So why is he a poor jump shooter? I can only guess that it's practice and experience. He was mainly used as a cutter and a lob target in Partizan's offense - in addition to being a huge part of their fast break. He was rarely called upon to shoot the ball. Plays were NEVER run to get him an open shot. As everyone knows, shooting is as much mental as it is mechanics and muscle memory. Vesely needs to practice shooting.. and then practice some more... Until he becomes confident in his shot. My biggest concern, and the one thing that may shoot holes in my theory is that Vesely is a terrible Free Throw shooter. Usually guys that shoot poorly from the field, but shoot well from the Free Throw line can improve their percentage from the field... With Vesely shooting so poorly from the charity stripe, does it mean he won't ever be a good shooter? Certainly if he cannot improve his shooting percentages, his value will diminish quite a bit. We'll have to wait and see.

As for rebounding, the stat-heads would have you believe that Vesely is useless as a defensive rebounder (2.6 per 40 minutes pace adjusted in EuroLeague play); but that's why we watch the games to get some context. Much of Vesely's lack of rebounding production lies not in his abilities, but in how he was used playing for Partizan. The Partizan Coach Vlade Jovanovic mostly had Vesely playing at the point of the defense, around the foul line. Not the ideal position to grab a lot of rebounds. In addition, Vesely, because of his speed and athleticism was frequently leaking out on the break. After watching many Partizan games, it became apparent that this was by design. Jovanovic's style is to use his Center (Nathan Jawai), Power Forward (James Gist) and Point Guard as his main defensive rebounders - with Vesely and the Shooting Guard as outlets for the break. So while I don't believe Vesely will turn into the next DeJuan Blair, He won't be as woeful on the defensive boards as his EuroLeague stats might otherwise indicate.

On the offensive side, and playing mostly on the perimeter, Vesely was often the player designated as the first one back on defense. So while his offensive rebounding numbers are actually not bad (2.6 per 40 minutes pace adjusted in EuroLeague play) - they could be a lot better if he were allowed to crash the offensive boards more often..... a strategy that I believe the Wizards WILL employ. 

On the defensive end, he'll struggle his Rookie year. He has the physical tools to be a good defender. His lateral quickness is adequate to stay in front of most wings - and his size and length are superb for the Small Forward position. He's extremely active on defense and moves his feet well; but as a perimeter defender, he tends to stand too upright and that is where most of his problem lies. He'll get caught reaching (fouling) a lot after getting beat. In the post, he just doesn't have the bulk to guard the bigger players. As for team defense, the outlook looks a bit better. Vesely's speed, length and athleticism allows him to close out on shooters, and rotate to open opponents. He's a very good weak side shot blocker, and his size and length should be an asset in Flip's zone schemes. Still, overall I'd have to say that Vesely will be a liability on defense for a couple years. The good news is that Vesely is an intense competitor, and an extremely hard worker - and those types rarely make for bad defenders. I believe he will improve as a perimeter defender over time.

All in all, the Wizards got an intense player with a high Basketball IQ; A player that has several years playing professionally on one of the best teams in Europe; a player that plays with energy for 48 minutes... Vesely has a few things to work on. He needs to become a better shooter. He's also got to work on his ball handling. Shooting can be fixed. Ball handling can be improved... But effort, intensity, willingness to work - those are things that cannot be coached. So if you are like me and you are hoping the Wizards are in the process of changing their team culture from one of entitlement to a culture of hard work, effort, and a will to win, then the Wizards got good value at pick 6.

I begrudgingly grade it a wavering B- .

With the 18th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select Chris Singleton

Singleton is a 6'9", 230 pound Forward from Florida State. He's a good athlete with excellent length (7'1" wingspan) and strength. And as Mike Prada pointed out, he's Fast Fast Fast.  

Did you think John Wall and Trevor Booker are fast? Absolutely. But what if I told you that Singleton posted a better 3/4 sprint time than both of them at this year's NBA Draft Combine? It's true. Whereas Wall ran the sprint in 3.14 seconds and Booker did it in 3.1 seconds, Singleton did it in 3.09 seconds.

As everyone knows, I've been high on Chris Singleton all year. He is the single best defensive player in this draft - and in my opinion, the best defender to come out of the last five drafts. He has the ability, the physical tools, the work ethic and the mentality to become an elite NBA defender. In College he guarded everyone from Point Guards to Power Forwards. He was particularly adept at playing the pick-and-roll because he could switch off onto ANY guard. 

As Mike pointed out in his excellent article in May for SB Nation:

The experience of working with Leonard Hamilton, one of the best defensive teachers in college basketball and a guy who has a scheme that closely resembles an NBA one, means you can be sure his defense will translate.

He does have his offensive deficiencies. He is a poor ball handler and he can't shoot off the dribble. He tends to get out of control when trying to create shots - and he turns the ball over too much (2.9 per 40 PA). He is only a mediocre rebounder (9.0 per 40 pace adjusted - poor for a PF, good for a SF). 

But Singleton is not a one-way player. He is an improving shooter, especially with his feet set. He improved his 3-point shooting last year to a passable 37% and his Free Throw shooting improved as well (68%). 

So what have we got here? A player that can defend multiple positions. An OK rebounder for a wing. A player with an improving catch-and-shoot jump shot. High energy. High Basketball IQ. Good work ethic. Intense player with a passion for playing defense. Sounds to me like a definite role player... a 3 and D guy. But of course, if he makes that open corner 3-pointer almost automatic, he becomes so much more.

Singleton may have been the steal of the draft, but let's not heap tons of praise on Ernie Grunfeld for the pick. It was as easy a decision as John Wall was last year. It's hardly praiseworthy to pick a no-brainer.

Nonetheless, I give this pick a grade of A+

With the 34th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select Shelvin Mack 

I actually didn't see this one coming. Everyone knows that I don't like undersized Shooting Guards in the starting line up... but that doesn't mean there is no place for one on the roster. Shelvin Mack is only 6'3", but he has very long arms and is extremely strong. He's an excellent athlete with a 39 inch vertical leap. He's got a high Basketball IQ and a good motor.  Mack is a very tough player, built like a linebacker. (Mack - - I can definitely see someone coming up with a nick name there)

Very good at creating shots for himself. He has picture perfect shooting mechanics and has an excellent jump shot off the dribble.  He has NBA three point range. He's very good in the pick and roll and an excellent ball handler. Defensively he is solid if not spectacular. His size may prove to be an issue if he guards NBA Shooting Guards. He generally keeps his man in front of him. He displays good court awareness. 

At Butler, he played substantial minutes at the 2-guard spot, so the big question about him is can he play Point Guard; can he run an offense and create shots for others. In College, he was mostly a scoring guard. That's not to say that he didn't pass the ball. He made good decisions in the pick and roll, and occasionally showed good court vision. But he was not expected to create for his teammates at Butler. If he cannot make the transition to PG, then his value is lower, but he can still be a contributor off the bench. A good value at 34.

Grade for this pick = B

So if I were to sum up this draft, I'd say that the Wizards continued the theme from last year to get tougher, more athletic and more physical while adding high energy, and more intensity. All three players drafted yesterday are intelligent players with a sense of how to play the game  (frequently called Basketball IQ).

They drafted three guys that play hard the entire game. Three intense guys with a will to win. Skill wise, there are some deficiencies. But if you're looking to change the culture of a losing team, these three players are certainly a step in the right direction.

Toughness = check.

Athleticism = check.

Intelligence = check.

Will to win = Check.

Experience = Check.

Skill = ????? TBD. 

Overall grade for the Wizards 2011 Draft =  solid B