Washington Wizards fans thought they’d never see Jan Vesely in the NBA again. Now, like a typical Wizards/Bullets nightmare, the sixth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft seems poised to return stateside.
Shock. Laughter. Tears. Okay, maybe not tears, but a report from Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders that NBA teams are interested in former Wizard Jan Vesely certainly brought out a range of emotions for Wizards fans.
He is the current regime’s biggest bust, and we still joke that we shouldn’t sign Blake Griffin because he’s the American Jan Vesely. Meanwhile, Youtube commenters joke that he scored more on draft night than he did in his entire career.
Adding insult to injury, All-NBA level players like Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard were available in the lottery to mid first round, and Jimmy Butler, another All-NBA talent, went with the last pick in the first round.
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Vesely coming stateside brings back more memories of his poor play though than the improved performance of other former ex-Wizards and Bullets in the past. It used to be a foregone conclusion that Washington players who left would automatically get better in their next stop.
For Vesely, that hasn’t been the case thus far, as he only played 21 games after being traded to Denver in 2014.
So here we are, nearing free agency, and Vesely has a legitimate chance at returning to the NBA. He’s spent the last three seasons playing in Turkey for Fenerbahçe. In the summer of 2016, he signed a new three-year deal, with opt out clauses for the NBA each summer.
Most recently, Vesely and his team won the Euroleague cup in 2017. So, the same year Javale McGee likely wins his first NBA Championship, Vesely won his first and the team’s first Euroleague Championship. Being a Wizards’ fan never eases up.
In Vesely’s three seasons on the team, the squad has advanced to the semifinals, finals (losing), and this year the championship game, winning by 16.
It still pains me dearly to imagine how great Vesely could have been catching lobs from Wall. Look at what his team did on the first possession of the championship game:
Although Vesely was among the team leaders in points (10.7 per game) and started at center, the team was stacked, led by a variety of players with NBA experience and/or pedigree.
Former Golden State Warrior and the sixth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Ekpe Udoh, was the starting power forward, and is also garnering attention stateside.
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Former number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett, led the team in rebounding off the bench.
Even our old nemisis Pero Antic played a minor role on the team. Now as a champion, NBA teams see him as a possible role player.
In 162 career NBA games (2011-2014), he averaged 15.2 minutes, 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks. Of his three seasons, his rookie year statistics are still his highest averages (4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes).
Beyond his stats, Vesely struggled to make the right basketball moves. Even when he caught the ball near the rim, he seemed hesitant to showcase the skills that made him worthy of the sixth pick.
Although compared to Blake Griffin early on, he had no semblance of a jumpshot. Thus, he couldn’t stretch the floor at power forward, but was not strong enough to play center.
His strength, and main reason he was drafted was to run the floor next to John Wall, and create a terrifying “lob” tandem. Because of poor play, he couldn’t stay on the court and that chemistry really never developed.
All three reported teams have reasons for being interested in JV, who is sure to be a deep bench player, at least to start.
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The Nets and Sixers are young teams looking to develop talent, in addition to looking at spending some of their large cap space on a max free agent. No this max free agent is not Vesely, but his small salary will help to add affordable bodies to the young rosters.
The Mavericks are always looking to add young developmental pieces and max players as well, and they have specific interest in international players because of their history with Dirk Nowitzki.
Vesely, still only 27, is in his prime, and may have gotten even more athletic from his earlier days. Coming into the league, being a freak athlete was his calling card, and one NBA team may take a shot at unlocking the talent.
Most top draft picks who are busts get multiple chances to succeed, and this would only be Vesely’s third NBA team.
Teams have already evaluates and scouted him, and will surely put hi through additional workouts before deciding if he is the right fit. I think his athletic talent outweighs his history and he signs with a team this summer.
Just don’t expect to see Vesely getting interest from the Wizards.
Bonus note: I can’t wait to see the reaction Vesely would get in his return to Washington. Because he only played 21 games in Denver, he never played in Washington as a member of the visiting team.