Player Profile: James Singleton

Added to the roster in early April on a 10-day contract, James Singleton quickly earned Wizards fans respect and a contract for the rest of the season as well.

Wizards fans remember Singleton from 2010 when he came to D.C. in the trade that sent Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas. But when Singleton returned to Washington, he was an improved player after two years in China.

To profile James Singleton I’ll be joined by James Straton below. . .

James Straton

James Singleton’s basketball career is one of the most interesting I have followed, as it has spanned two colleges, three NBA teams, three continents, four international teams, and eight professional seasons.  The breadth alone is staggering and startling. He has seamlessly integrated into a number of roles for a number of professional squads. Whether he is a player of the year candidate in Italy or a bench warmer in the NBA, he always plays tenacious defense and attacks the boards. His commitment to the Wizards this season was refreshing yet largely unheralded. Let’s take a look at why we should be more impressed with him than we probably were.

While Singleton only played 12 games, they were a largely effective set. Singleton brought everything we expected in defense, rebounding, hustle, intensity, and athleticism. What we didn’t expect was a confident mid-range jump shot (11 of 23 on the season). He left for China, led his CBA team to the finals, and came back to the Wizards with a jumper.  In today’s NBA, an undersized power forward without a jump shot is approaching extinction and Singleton must have known that.

Singleton’s rebounding was a relief for a squad that I have reportedly pointed out cannot rebound. It is rare that rebounding is a skill a player will develop throughout his career. You often are who you are as a rebounder, which is why rebounding is the one stat that almost always transfers from college to the pros. Singleton was a great rebounder in college and he’s a good one in the NBA. This season, he was the only Wizard with a Total Rebound Percentage (TRB% – percentage of total available rebounds grabbed) over 17%. Even though he led the squad, he was 31st amongst players who played over 200 minutes.

What is most impressive about Singleton is that he stepped in for fan favorite Trevor Booker and was arguably a better player. He hit the mid-range jumper with more consistency, crashed the boards more effectively, finished better at the rim, played better defense, and poured more points in, all with the exact same usage rate. As much as it may pain Wizards fans, Singleton was basically a rich man’s Trevor Booker. Even so, Booker is younger with far more upside and clearly the more valuable player. At this point in time, however, Booker and Singleton are entirely interchangeable, which should temper some of the expectations and man crushes on Mr. Booker.

Singleton’s season was a great success. He filled in for injured players and played hard, helping the Wizards to the longest active win streak in the NBA. He was by no means a superstar, but he was one more part of a culture change process that began at the trade deadline. I have no idea what his future with the Wizards will be, but I know that I loved to watch him play and would welcome him back with open arms.

B+ for James Singleton

Kevin Hine

Is he a small forward or a power forward? I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. James Singleton is a basketball player.

Following the trade deadline deal that sent JaVale McGee and Nick Young out west, the Wizards were clearly improved. Kevin Seraphin became a post scorer, Nene added maturity to the locker room and stability on the court, the team played harder and hustled more, and the team defense was vastly improved. All those improvements we saw go beyond the numbers — we saw them with our own two eyes. The product on the floor looked different — it looked better. And one of the key (and unheralded) figures in this turnaround was James Singleton. Yes, a player that only played in twelve games and only averaged 8.2 points per game was a key figure.

James Singleton’s contributions, just like the improvements the Wizards made as a team, go deeper than box scores. Singleton’s play was symbolic of the turnaround the Wizards made as a whole. He isn’t the best athlete and he isn’t the biggest guy but he competes, he rebounds, and now he has a jump shot. After watching JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche for years, a guy like James Singleton was a sight for sore eyes. He’s not the star, and he never will be, but he’s the glue and guts and you can never have enough James Singletons on your team.

But next month he’ll become a free agent. While the Wizards are the odds on favorite to sign Singleton, I’m sure there are a few other teams that noticed his improvement too.

For this year I’ll give James Singleton a high grade of an A-. Hopefully we see him back in a Wizards uniform this fall.

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