Over the next month or so, I will be a writing a series of articles exploring the depth charts of NBA teams, and more specifically, where the rookies from the 2011 draft fit into those depth charts. Thanks to MTD for the idea.
Next up in our rookie series is the Washington Wizards, who held the 6th, 18th, and 34th picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Wizards have one of the youngest rosters in the league which makes predicting a rotation extremely challenging. The fact that the Wizards drafted two small forwards in the first round makes it even more difficult to decipher the depth chart (alliteration FTW!).
#6 - Jan Vesely
- Position: Forward
- Measurables: 6'11" 230 lbs
- 2010-2011 Statistics: Adriatic League - 10.3 ppg, 61.1 fg%, 54.2 ft%, 4.4 rpg, 1.3 apg, 23.5 mpg; Euroleague - 9.2 ppg, 51 fg%, 43.8 ft%, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 26.9 mpg
Washington lacked a long-time starter at small forward heading into the draft, so picking the exciting young forward to run the break with John Wall was not a tough decision. Vesely still has some key areas of his game that he needs to work on if he is to live up to his potential, most notably his ball-handling and jump shot.
But his crazy athleticism and non-stop motor will result in some truly electrifying plays from the young man dubbed by one Timberwolf fan (S/O to godofredo) as the "Dunking Ninja."
If you're wondering where that name came from, watch the video below (via JoseJUceta).
Josh Howard, Mo Evans, and Yi Jianlian are all but gone from our nation's capital. Larry Owens will most likely be brought back as another young developmental prospect.
Rashard Lewis is the only veteran player on the entire roster. He's not exactly known for his leadership, but he's a former All-Star who has been in the league for over a decade. His experience, shooting ability, and the $20 million he is set to make next year will likely secure him the starting spot until one of the rookies can take it from him. Lewis is coming off of knee surgery, however, and probably won't play heavy minutes early in the season.
Trevor Booker's playing time last season was split between the two forward spots, although I anticipate him playing more of the four this year.
Andray Blatche is the starting power forward, but he has had some issues in the past. Blatche is the most skilled big man on the roster, but Flip Saunders probably will not hesitate to bench him for any insubordination or consistently lackluster effort.
Vesely's place in the rotation: Lewis may only play 25 or so minutes per game to start the season as the Wizards try to ease him back onto the court, which means Vesely should get plenty of opportunities right away. Booker and Vesely will likely be the first forwards off the bench for Saunders next year, and both players are capable of playing either forward spot.
Booker is a high energy, hard working player who has become somewhat of a fan favorite, so he is almost assured of getting playing time. Vesely's ability to play without the ball and finish on the break will give him the nod at small forward, and the playing time should hopefully allow for the skill development he needs.
Andray Blatche is the only true power forward on the roster, so there are some minutes available behind him. I anticipate Trevor Booker taking the majority of those, but as mentioned above Vesely is versatile player and may get a few minutes at the four.
Expectation: Vesely will get his playing time at small forward and also will get spot minutes at power forward. He will be on the receiving end of many John Wall alley-oops, but will also go through some growing pains as he adjusts to the NBA. He'll throw down a few monster slams for the Rookie All-Stars and will make an All-Rookie team. 9-11 ppg and 2-4 rpg in 22-24 mpg.
#18 - Chris Singleton
- Position: Forward
- Measurables: 6'9" 230 lbs
- 2010-2011 Statistics: 13.1 ppg, 43.4 fg%, 36.8 3fg%, 66.7 ft%, 6.8 rpg, 2 spg, 1.5 bpg, 29.1 mpg
Some may be baffled by Washington's decision to take another small forward after choosing Jan Vesely with the sixth pick. It was a wise decision, however, as Singleton was considered by many as the best defensive player in the entire draft, and some experts felt he would be a late lottery pick. This was a case of value meeting need. Singleton is far from polished offensively, but his defensive versatility should be a nice addition to what was the 24th-ranked defense in 2010-2011.
Here's a video from Sebastian Pruiti at Draft Express breaking down Singleton's game:
WAS Forward Depth Chart: See above.
Singleton's place in the rotation: Unless he can impress the coaches and beat out Vesely, Singleton will likely start out the season as a defensive specialist and garbage time player. He'll need to show plenty of improvement on offense to crack the regular rotation.
But Singleton will not be riding the bench for the entire season. He could conceivably see the court as a defensive stopper to slow down the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Performing well in those situations could open the door to more playing time. A more reliable three-point shot could do the same.
Rashard Lewis has struggled with injuries over the past couple of seasons and we have yet to see how Vesely's thin frame will hold up against the physicality of the NBA game. Injuries will almost assuredly hit one if not both of these players, and Singleton should be ready to step right in if and when that happens.
Expectation: Singleton starts his rookie campaign on the bench but cracks the rotation at some point. His defensive impact far outweighs what he contributes on the other end. 3-5 ppg and 2-4 rpg in 11-13 mpg.
#34 - Shelvin Mack
- Position: Guard
- Measurables: 6'3" 208 lbs
- 2010-2011 Statistics: 16 ppg, 40.3 fg%, 35.4 3fg%, 76.9 ft%, 4.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 32.1 mpg
Washington used their third and final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to shore up their rather shallow backcourt by selecting the high-scoring combo-guard from Butler. Although not a true point guard, Mack is a proven scorer who will add some much needed outside shooting to the Wizards' guard rotation.
Below is a short highlight video of Mack via foxsports:
John Wall is a stud at point guard, but he can't play 48 minutes every game and there is a hole in the depth chart behind him after Gilbert Arenas was traded away last season.
Jordan Crawford showed promise as a combo-guard off the bench in his rookie season after being traded to Washington, but he will need to improve his shooting and shot-selection to become a more reliable option moving forward.
Nick Young had a break-out season last year and as a restricted free agent he could be in for a big pay day. Washington will likely do all they can to retain the services of the talented young sharpshooter, but if another team throws a ton of cash his way the Wizards may not match the offer.
Othyus Jeffers is also a restricted free agent, but he'll be back in Washington when the season starts. Jeffers has seemed to earn the favor of Flip Saunders and the Washington head coach may not hesitate to insert Jeffers if Crawford or Mack isn't getting the job done.
Mack's place on the roster: Mack will likely be in the rotation as the fourth guard from day one. His game complements that of Jordan Crawford quite well and those two could make for a very entertaining backcourt. They can split the ball-handling and play-making duties, as Crawford seems to be gifted in those areas and Mack showed an ability to run the pick-and-roll in college.
Expectation: As long as Mack plays well he will have a spot in the rotation. 5-7 ppg and 2-4 rpg in 12-14 mpg.