The NBA Draft was just another chapter in the rebuild of the Washington Wizards as President Ernie Grunfeld pulled the trigger on a relative unknown international player and two solid college players Thursday night. Grunfeld selected 6′-11″ international forward Jan Vesely with the sixth overall pick, 6′-9″ forward Chris Singleton out of Florida State at 18 and Butler guard Shelvin Mack with the 34th selection.
“Jan and Chris are both versatile forwards who are very competitive and play with a lot of energy at all times, particularly on defense,” Grunfeld said. “All three players compliment our young core of talented players, and add a hunger and desire to compete on both ends of the floor.”
In his post-draft news conference, Grunfeld repeatedly emphasized the need for his team to get better defensively and there’s obviously good reason for it, as Washington allowed 104 points a game last season.
“We think they all add certain things to the team that we were looking for,” Grunfeld said. “They were all good defenders and we want to make to make a real effort to improve on defense next year. They are all very athletic and come from winning situations.”
Vesely has played pro ball in Serbia for the last three years for Partizan Belgrade and comes to D.C. having averaged 10 points and 3 rebounds last season. The Wizards hope he can run the floor with the speedy John Wall but they also like his defensive ability.
“With his speed he covers so much ground, he reminds me a lot and I hate to make comparisons, but defensively how hard he plays a little bit like (Kevin) Garnett in the amount of space that he can take up,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “He has the the ability to play small fowards, power forwards. He can guard a lot of different people.”
Singleton was an attractive prospect because his first priority is defense with offense secondary, but he can do that as well. Singleton averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as a junior in 2010-11. A two-time All-ACC and All-ACC Defensive Team selection, Singleton is also a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year honoree.
Mack helped Butler reach the NCAA title game two straight years. He averaged 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game as a junior in 2010-11 before leaving early for the draft.
“We put an emphasis on defense because that’s something we need to improve on going forward and all three of these players have shown that they are good defenders and that they are good competitors,” Grunfeld said.