Don’t blink, because if you did, you would have missed the Wizards’ Summer League play in Las Vegas just this past week. Washington went 0-3 in league play, got bounced in the first round of the Summer League Tournament, and then lost their consolidation game.
It’s important not to focus solely on the team’s uninspiring 0-5 record as Summer League rosters are a hodgepodge of rookies, younger talent, G-League players, and players playing professional ball overseas. And coaches aren’t running things in an effort to win games, they’re focused on putting players in positions to grow and develop, even if that means struggling during games.
However, when you get past the record, the lack of talent that the Wizards put on the floor is just as eye-opening and is a microcosm of team’s struggles to develop talent outside of the can’t-miss players the Wizards took with top-three draft picks.
This Wizards’ Summer League roster featured four players who spent time on the regular season roster last season: Sheldon Mac, Chris McCullough, Daniel Ochefu, and Danuel House. It also included two players - Michael Young and Devin Robinson - who will factor in the future as the team’s two-way players.
Of these six guys, Mac was the only one who looked like a legitimate NBA player. He was overpowering in attacking the hole and averaged 13.2 points per game over the tournament. His jump shot isn’t a thing of beauty yet, but he made up for it by overmatching defenders with his size.
Mac’s performance was very reminiscent of Kelly Oubre’s 2016 Summer League efforts, as Mac was the clear leader of this team. Sometimes he forced the issue, but that’s what you want to see, since he’s the player who has the best chance of being asked to create offense for the Wizards next season.
Daniel Ochefu raised some eyebrows with his play too. He wasn’t as flashy or nearly as athletic as Mac but was able to muster 7.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in just 21.2 minutes of action per night. Ochefu showed some bounce that we hadn’t seen before and some nifty post moves that generated easy baskets for himself and others, as he shot a very impressive 70 percent from the field in the tournament and averaged 1.6 assists per game out of the post.
However, when he was matched up against the up-and-rising talent in Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat, Ochefu turned in his worst game of the tournament while Adebayo put up a rock solid 16 point, 7 rebound performance.
Even with Ochefu’s solid play, he’s in a poor situation as he’s currently the third or fourth center (if you consider Jason Smith a center) on the Wizards’ roster. So even though he showed some promising signs, he’s still low on the pecking order for this upcoming season.
Chris McCullough, the Wizards’ “first round draft pick” is far from a finished product entering his third NBA season. There’s no denying his athleticism is second to none, but that’s where the buck stops. He only shot 29.2 percent from the field and struggled on the defensive end, especially with more physical players.
His struggles were best exemplified when the Wizards played the Chicago Bulls in the third game of league play. McCullough was overmatched against Bulls’ rookie Lauri Markkanen. He knocked down some early threes which stretched McCullough out of his defensive comfort zone, and then used the spacing he gained to push the third year player around on the glass, as he grabbed four offensive rebounds in that game.
McCullough has the tools to become a solid NBA player, but this Summer League tournament was an indication that he still has a long ways to go. If he truly was a rookie, that would be understandable, but it’s harder to stay patient with a player going into their third year, especially as the team has to make a decision on whether or not to pick up the team option on the fourth year of his rookie deal for next season.
Michael Young averaged 9.4 points per game and showed that he can be a physical presence on the offensive end while finishing in traffic, but still has to work on his jumper before he can be a serious NBA threat. Devon Robinson has an even longer way to go. He is a very bouncy player with a jumper that might be even worse than Chris McCullough’s, but he still has time to grow.
So why does this all matter?
For starters, this shows that the Wizards have very little young talent to develop on their roster. As mentioned, Sheldon Mac was the leader and far and away the best talent on the roster but outside of Mac, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. The lack of draft picks from previous seasons looks to be catching up as not one player on the Summer League roster was drafted by Washington. Some of the other guys might be interesting if they can develop, but it’s harder to do that properly when you don’t have your own G-League affiliate where you can manage player development.
The Wizards have had their troubles drafting outside of the obvious, top-three picks they made and have failed to turn young talent taken later in the draft and develop them into productive players. Those struggles came full-circle this summer with the lack of talent on display in Las Vegas.
Yes, it’s just Summer League, but the team’s struggles and lack of talent that was evident on this team’s roster just reiterated three areas that the front office has struggled with for years: keeping draft picks, hitting on draft picks, and developing young talent.