Ernie Grunfeld’s draft class from this past June drew rave reviews from fans and analysts alike, but we had to wait until December to see them on the court because of the lockout. Now we’re through 28 regular season games, so let’s take a look at how the three rookies have played thus far.
Jan Vesely was the 6th overall pick and has endured the ups and downs you’d expect out of any rookie. He missed the first seven games due to a hip pointer but has remained healthy for the other 21 games, and started five of them. His numbers are uninspiring with per game averages of 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.6 assists but that’s not the kind of player Vesely is or was drafted to be. Vesely is a high energy player that will do the little things a team needs to win — set screens, defend the pick-and-roll, finish at the rim, hustle, and provide opportunities for second chance points. For those that saw last night’s win over the Pistons, you saw all of those things on display from Vesely when he had the best game of his young career. I personally have no problem with Jan Vesely just being an energy player — even though he was the 6th pick in the draft — but in order for him to ever become more than a good role player he’ll need to add a jump shot (which is currently non-existent) and he’ll need to stay out of foul trouble. Right now he averages 2.8 fouls per game in just 15.3 minutes per game.
Chris Singleton was the other first round pick, selected 18th overall. The Wizards got this pick when Ernie Grunfeld traded Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta and the Hawks included this pick in the multi-player trade. Singleton was a guy that some people advocated drafting 6th overall, but he unexpectedly slid to the 18th pick. He’s played in all 28 games, started 13 of them, and has averaged 3.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steal per game. Coming out of Florida State he was lauded for his perimeter defense and we’ve seen it on display at the NBA level. He’s been active and played good defense thus far at the NBA level, but has had his rookie moments on the defensive end too. Notably, Celtics veteran Paul Pierce gave him some trouble. That’s not unexpected though, and it’s nothing to worry about long-term, rookie growing pains are just that. Ultimately Chris Singleton has a bright future as a defensive ace at the very least. Whether he’s coming off the bench or starting in the future, he’s an excellent role player that any team needs to win games with his defense, energy, and attitude.
Finally, Shelvin Mack was selected in the 2nd round at 34th overall out of Butler. Playing behind John Wall can be a blessing and a curse for a rookie point guard like Shelvin, but he’s filled that role well — and it was a role that was vacated ever since the trade deadline last year when Kirk Hinrich was traded. Playing in 26 games, Mack has averaged 3.5 points, 1.6 assists, 1.4 rebounds, and 11.1 minutes per game. Obviously, he isn’t the athlete John Wall is but he’s smart, tough, he defends, and he’s shown an ability to knock down a mid-range jumper. After spells early in the season where he struggled to see the court, there is little doubt among Wizards fans that Shelvin Mack is the long-term answer as the back-up point guard to John Wall.