It’s safe to say most Washington Wizards fans were satisfied with their team’s selections in the 2011 NBA draft, which aired live on June 24. The Wizards walked away with three highly touted prospects in Czech Republic native Jan Vesely at No. 6 overall, Florida State forward Chris Singleton with the No. 18th overall pick, and Butler guard Shelvin Mack with the 34th overall pick. Most draft experts look at these three players combined and instantly give Washington an “A” on their draft report card.

Singleton and Mack were two of the most well-known college stars in the nation, but what about the Czech guy? Who is he and why was he taken so high in the draft?
The AFRO’s Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley offer answers to the great mystery…

Green: If I had to grade the Wizards’ overall draft, I’d give them a B-. They picked up some really solid contributors late in the draft, selecting Florida State forward Chris Singleton with the No. 18th overall pick, and Butler guard Shelvin Mack with the 34th overall pick. Singleton was one of the top-three defensive players in the draft, and Mack was one of the top-five scorers in the draft; they both combine to form easily the biggest steal in the 2011 draft, two far undervalued players who will shine in due time in Washington.

My only issue with the Wizards is how they wasted their lottery pick at No. 6. Of all players available at No. 6, they decided that Czech Republic native Jan Vesely should be the face of their new freshman class. Now, I know I’m supposed to still be in awe by the amazing performance German sensation Dirk Nowitzki put on this past NBA Final and automatically assume every international 7-footer with an OK jump shot is “the next Dirk,” but I’m just not buying. Sorry, Vesely, but I’m not sold. Sure, the 21-year-old prospect has great athleticism; he can jump out the gym, and runs the court well for a 6-foot-11-inch big man. He’ll contribute in an average way, but I doubt he ever pans out to be a star, and you just don’t waste top-10 picks on average contributors.

Riley: Yeah, you’re tripping. The Wizards had the best draft out of any team last Thursday night. And how can you not like Vesely at No. 6? He’s 6-foot-11-inches tall, he runs the floor, he dunks hard, he can hit three-pointers and he blocks shots on defense. This dude is an awesome athlete.

As a team general manager, you don’t just go after the biggest name available; you’re supposed to match your roster with players that fit the style and personnel you already possess. The Wizards have their star point guard in John Wall, so why not draft for him a young co-star who likes to run the court and finish strong at the rim? Plus, Vesely addresses one of the biggest needs for Washington and that’s better defenders. Some experts say he compares to Utah Jazz former All-Star forward Andrei Kirlenko, one of the better defenders throughout the last decade. I’ll take that all day.

Green: I’ll take a young Kirlenko prototype on my team, too, just not at No. 6. Kirlenko was drafted No. 24 overall back in 1999. But I agree, he does appear as if he can develop into the player Kirlenko was during his better years with the Utah Jazz. Thing is, Kirlenko could make free-throws. Vesely, however, barely shot 47 percent from the charity stripe last season in the Euro-League. And again, if Vesely compares to a 24th overall pick, why are you taking him in the top-10? Because some international scout said he has upside?

That’s a risky reach. I’d feel more comfortable taking a proven college player, perhaps one of the big Morris twins from Kansas. Washington needed depth in their front court, anyway.

Riley: Both of the Morris twins are slow and undersized for the power forward position (6-foot-9, 250 pounds), they can’t run the court like Vesely can. You pick guys in the draft who compliment your franchise player. If you can find a combo small forward/power forward who can defend both positions, play multiple positions on offense, and do what your best player (John Wall) does best and that’s run, then that’s who you draft. Vesely would’ve been picked before either Morris twin in any NBA Draft, whether its 1991 or 2011.

And there are lots of guys in the league who are horrible free-throw shooters; the Wiz can work on that. He has the tools to be a star, so give him time to shine. No draft prospect comes in as a finished product.

Green: Exactly how much time should a top-10 pick take to blossom into a star? Should fans wait four or five years until he develops into a prime contributor? I’m sorry, but that sucks knowing you have to wait just see if a player you never heard of in the first place actually pans out to be somebody. Will he be a star or a bust? If he doesn’t at least crack a stating lineup by year-three, I’d have to call him a bust.

Six years ago, the Portland Trail Blazer used the No. 6 pick on all-star guard Brandon Roy, their current franchise player. Every other No. 6 pick to follow hasn’t had nearly the same success Roy has experienced in his young career, so I’m assuming Vesely will probably fall below expectations, too.

Riley: Maybe that’s it. You weren’t at the Verizon Center draft night for the inside info. Fans won’t have to wait long at all to see Vesely contribute because he will be on the active roster next year and will probably be the second guy off the bench in rotation. Contrary to your claims, Vesely’s best skill isn’t just dunking the ball, it’s defense, which is the primary reason why he was drafted. Wizards’ head coach Flip Saunders said he has the chance to be an excellent defender, and the NBA scouts who were present said he would’ve been a lottery pick last year so you suggesting he’s late-round talent is just crazy.

Most scouts say he’s the most ready NBA prospect out of all the international big men selected this summer; what more can you ask from a lottery pick? Vesely is not going to be the Wizards’ savior, but he will be a major contributor for them. He’s just one more piece added to the puzzle, and they still need more pieces, but at least they’re heading in the right direction. A couple more drafts like this and Washington will be back in the playoffs hunt on a consistent basis.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk