The Law Of Kevin Seraphin dictates that I cannot write off any young player after one season, because player development is not linear. So I won't with Chris Singleton. That said, with Singleton's rookie year now coming to a close, it's time to acknowledge that he has a ton of work to do if he wants to become anything close to the player the Wizards hoped they were getting when they excitedly picked him at No. 18 in the draft.
Unlike any of his peers on the roster, Singleton has been afforded an opportunity to play consistently. After a strong start to the season, he was given the starting small forward spot, and he's kept it thanks to Rashard Lewis' injuries. He's been handed the very role that he will need to fill in order to make it in the NBA: a low-usage small forward that spaces the floor, scores off others and takes on the top perimeter defensive assignment.
And yet, he's struggled mightily in all the areas the Wizards need him to do well.Let's start with offense. About the only saving grace for Singleton is that he's not that awful at shooting open three-pointers. Hi 34.8-percent mark needs to improve considering how much teams leave him alone out there, but it's at least a start. Otherwise, Singleton hasn't demonstrated any sort of offensive game. He's shooting 32.3 percent from 16-23 feet, 13.3 percent from 10-15 feet and 23.1 percent from 3-9 feet. He only gets to the free-throw line an average of 1.1 time per 36 minutes, so it's not like he's making up for these terrible shooting numbers by getting to the stripe. All this explains his 45.3 percent true shooting percentage, which is eighth-worst in the entire league among all players that play at least 20 minutes a game in at least 20 games this year.
The big problem with Singleton remains his lack of strength. When he was drafted, one of the things I remember him saying (can't find a link, unfortunately) was he wanted to show teams he had more ball skills than they thought. Instead, Singleton's lack of strength has made it pretty much impossible for him to be a threat with a shot fake. 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.
Making matters worse, Singleton has yet to figure out other ways to instinctively get himself points. I can accept a developing three-point stroke pushing down a players' offensive efficiency. I can even kind of/sort of live with the inability to drive, because the fix involves developing upper-body strength. But what I can't understand is how Singleton has only 14 plays he has finished all year via simple cuts, according to MySynergySports.com. A poor shooter can compensate with well-timed dives to the rim, much like what we often see from Boston's Avery Bradley or San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard. We see none of that with Singleton.
As for his defense, while there are some signs he may become a force on that end, he has a long, long way to go. In particular, he has struggled in isolation settings and guarding the pick and roll, ranking 220th and 154th in those areas, according to MySynergySports.com. Lack of strength is a big issue, as stronger players like Alonzo Gee and guys much more highly-regarded that Alonzo Gee find a way to force Singleton on his toes and power through him easily. But lack of balance is also a major problem. Singleton has a lot of trouble crouching in his stance, and good players can create an easy path to the basket with a series of hesitation dribbles. His positioning also leaves a lot to be desired, as he lets his man go away from the help far too often in all settings.
To be very clear, it's far too early to write Singleton off. The good news is that he's developed plenty of in-game experience to correct his severe flaws. The problem, though, is that Singleton is failing in the exact position he needs to fill to make it in this league. Jan Vesely's struggles are a bit more understandable because his role isn't clear. Seraphin's issues last year came from a lack of basketball experience. Even Jordan Crawford' erratic play can be partially explained by being relied upon for too big a scoring load. Singleton, though, has been placed into the perfect situation for his game to prosper, but is still struggling. That's a major concern.
Bottom line: Singleton has a lot of work to do this offseason if he wants to make do on his proclamation to make the 15 teams that passed on him at the NBA Draft pay.