In the fearsome foursome of forwards drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2010 and 2011, Chris Singleton stood out as the one with the most discernible, NBA-ready skill; man-to-man defense. After a standout career at Florida where he took home two straight ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards, Singleton was expected to be able to come in and immediately contribute. Two years into his NBA life however and the results have been anything but successful. The Wizards face an important decision with both Singleton as well as Jan Vesely regarding the 4th year player option that must be picked up by Halloween. Neither has shown much in their tenure thus far to merit guaranteeing additional money and it’s possible that neither is in a Wizards jersey next year. If a choice has to be made, Singleton could be on the outside looking in. Vesely has the advantage of being a higher draft pick (and therefore awarded greater patience) and a displaying a strong game at this summer’s Eurobasket tournament. But if the Wizards do show good faith and choose to hang on to him for another year (or in a pre-audition for his next team), what do we need to see from Singleton this season to point to concrete improvement?
Consistent offensive perimeter play:
The offensive numbers from Singleton’s 2012-13 campaign are so harmful to health that I’m obligated to offer a Surgeon’s General Warning before typing them in this piece. After shooting a slightly-less-than-adequate 35% from 3PT land in his rookie year, Singleton hit just 7/36 in his sophomore campaign, good for 19%. The team scored 87 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, which of course would be last in the league by a mile…plus several extra miles. He topped that off by registering a PER of 7.8 If Singleton wants to contribute with more regularity (he played in only 57 games last year, averaging 16.2 MPG), he has to develop a more consistent perimeter jumper. With Nene and Emeka Okafor likely to take large chunks of minutes down low, the Wizards have a need for a stretch 4 who can space the floor along with Bradley Beal and Martell Webster, giving John Wall room to slice and dice.
Become a true lockdown defender:
Even if Singleton doesn’t make the requisite strides on offense that will warrant more playing time, he can earn his keep on the court by doing what was expected from him by draft pundits around the country when he entered the draft. Although Webster is a decent team defender with a good basketball IQ, he can be slow-footed and lets quicker athletes get by him. Rookie Otto Porter isn’t expected to translate his all-world defense from Georgetown to the NBA right away (especially when he looks like the only time he’s seen a weight room is in Pain & Gain) and Trevor Ariza may be moved before the trade deadline. That leaves a niche spot for Singleton to come in for spurts and shut down whichever swingman is going off on the other team. With that position growing tremendously in depth in recent years, there are plenty of guys who could be a tough cover. As per Truth About It, he gave up 0.85 points per possession and allowed opponents to shoot 35% against him. These numbers are not bad, and even hold up fairly well against stars like Josh Smith and Paul George. A further emphasis on dominant defense could lead to Singleton earning a Tony Allen-type reputation and finding himself on the floor during the game’s crucial moments.
Crash the boards:
As James Straton mentioned in yesterday’s piece on Trevor Booker, Singleton has to become a better rebounder if he is to play power forward (too tough to crack into the small forward rotation). Of the front court players that are actually willing and able rebounders, Okafor is alone on a one-man list. Nene is a subpar rebounder and if Coach Randy Wittman really pulls off his minutes restriction, then we could see the Big Brazilian (copyright: Steve Buckhantz) on the floor for 33-35 mpg, leaving the Wizards vulnerable to attacks on the glass when Okafor is getting rest. Singleton grabbed just 11% of rebounds when he was on the floor last year and the Wizards as a team had a 1.4% lower rebounding rate with him on the floor. He needs to be more aggressive on the boards as rebounding will be a by-committee approach this year.
With the series of roster upgrades the Wizards made this offseason at the forward spot (Porter, Glen Rice Jr., Al Harrington), minutes may be tough to come by for Chris Singleton. With the team primed to make a run at the playoffs, expect Wittman to tighten the rotation and increase minutes for the big guns. It’s unclear where that leaves Singleton, both for this upcoming year and beyond. But if he shows strides in the above mentioned areas he could work his way out of the life of DNP-CDs and onto the floor with this young and promising team.