The Wizards summer league plan didn’t come to fruition this year. Before summer league even started, they learned they would be without last year’s rookie sensation Bradley Beal because of injuries to his ankles and a stress fracture in his right fibula during the second half of his rookie season. It’s concerning because Beal is just now getting over leg injuries that cost him more than a month of playing time during his rookie season, cost him this years summer league, and will likely cost him playing on Team USA because he is jus now starting to run and shoot.
After the Wizards learned about Beal’s status, they planned to focus summer league around their 2011 draft (6th pick Jan Vesely and 18th pick Chris Singleton) and their incoming rookie class (3rd pick Otto Porter and 35th pick Glen Rice Jr.).
First, lets touch on Otto Porter. Obviously, the coaching staff wanted to test the versatility of Otto Porter Jr. He has shown the ability in college to not only play his natural small forward position but to play point forward as well. Porter started the first two games of the summer league at shooting guard. He struggled in his first two games, missing easy shots and only averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. In the third game versus the Denver Nuggets, Porter started the game off better than he had in the first two games with 4 points in the games first 6 minutes. Unfortunately, he injured his hamstring shortly after that and the injury caused him to miss the remainder of the summer league games. That comes to a big blow to DMV fans who were excited to see their first action of the Georgetown star play for the Washington Wizards.
Playing Porter mostly at shooting guard was perceived by some as a mistake but I disagree. I’ve never seen a huge difference between the positions of shooting guard and small forward besides shooting guards usually handle the ball a little more and small forwards are generally a few inches taller. So, seeing as the team needed to play Chris Singleton at either forward spot virtually every minute of summer league action to evaluate him more and/or show him off for trade bait, playing Porter more at shooting guard did make sense to me.
After these disappointments, it’s time to look at the bright side of what we’ve seen during Wizards summer league action. There are five players that I like what I’ve seen from in Vegas. Power forward Jan Vesley, small forward Chris Singleton, shooting guard Glen Rice, Jr., combo guard Marquez Hayes and stretch 4 candidate Dennis Horner.
Needless to say, thus far Jan Vesley and Chris Singleton have been disappointments in their first few years in Washington, and if they wanted to have a future on the Wizards, playing well during this years summer league action was immensely important. The two young forwards answered the bell and came out swinging. They haven’t been consistent every possession of the summer league games but they have shown flashes of their potential in all facets of their games and both look much improved on the offensive end.
Jan Vesley lead the summer league team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, rebounding with 6.8 rebounds a game and blocked shots with 1.6 per game. Vesley started off slow on the offensive end with 6 points versus the Golden State Warriors and 10 points versus the New York Knicks, but he caught fire in the third game versus the Denver Nuggets.
Seriously, versus the Denver Nuggets, Jan Vesely made Wizards fans jaws drop and to be honest, mine hasn’t closed yet! He went 9 of 11 and scored 18 points.. For the first time in my three years of watching him, he didn’t look lost on offense and he actually looked like the best player out on the floor. Heck, I’d even go as far as saying that he looked like a sixth overall pick. We all have heard the stories of Vesley working hard on his jump shot and seen videos of his workouts but it’s hard to believe it, unless you see it in person. During that game we saw him knock down a few mid range jump shots on pick and pop plays. He also scored from the post, and of course ran the court well and rebounded aggressively, which he seems to do every summer league.
On top of his offensive outburst, Vesley finally showed up and played exceptional defense in stretches.It is really refreshing that we are finally getting to see his hard work play off in a game, even if it is only just a summer league game. What Vesely needs most is confidence in his offensive game, and he needs to carry the confidence he showed tonight into the regular season when he gets his minutes. Vesley can’t expect to get many minutes playing behind Nene and probably Booker as well, but he still needs to take advantage of those minutes when he gets them. If Vesley continues to work hard and show confidence in his offensive game he’ll definitely earn more playing time.
Vesely followed up the Nuggets game with another good game versus the Memphis Grizzles scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 27 minutes. His front court partner Chris Singleton finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 29 minutes. But a real test came late, when Newman sent them back into the game with 4:12 left, the Wizards down 11. The pair had been part of a minor comeback early in the quarter, but it also was the sort of substitution made to gauge the players’ response, on and off the court. Both played hard, Washington whittled the lead down briefly and the Wizards afterward sounded as if they were on the same page.
Chris Singleton started the first two games as the teams leading scorer with 12.5 points per game and he also led the team in blocks with 2 per game. In the 3rd game vs the Denver Nuggets, Singleton had an off night scoring with only 4 points, but he chipped in with a game high 10 rebounds. Singleton bounced back the next game versus the Memphis Grizzles as he finished with a team high 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steal and blocks in 29 minutes. Singleton was third on the team behind Vesley, and Glenn Rice, Jr., averaging 11.25 points per game during summer league play. Singleton continues to be a defensive stopper and solid on the boards, if he can continue to steadily improve on the offensive end, he will prove to be the valuable forward off the bench we thought we were getting with the 18th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
For as much as Porter was a disappointment in summer league play, mostly because of his injury, his rookie classmate, Glen Rice, Jr has been a pleasant surprise. Rice has flashed the athleticism he showed off at Georgia Tech and in the Developmental League (D-League). Rice also has showed off a sweet stroke from the outside which may have surprised many Wizards fans.
People may, or may not know about Glen Rice, Jr’s past and why he had to play in the developmental league last year rather than playing at Georgia Tech. Rice originally enrolled at Georgia Tech, he was recruited by then-coach Paul Hewitt and he was a top 50 high school recruit. Hewitt benched Rice for the final five games of his sophomore season in 2010-11. In 2011-12 Brian Gregory took over for Hewitt and Rice was suspended for the first three games of his junior year for violating team rules. Lastly, and ultimately Rice’s 3rd strike at Georgia Tech led to him being suspended again on Feb. 15, 2012. He violated team rules again and finally was dismissed from the team when he was charged with “permitting unlawful operation” stemming from an incident involving a Yellow Jackets assistant driving Rice’s car while intoxicated and another passenger discharging a firearm.
The Reason I bring up Rice’s past is to show you how he’s grown as a young man the past 17 months. Rice had a choice, he could have transferred and sat out a year or join the D-League. Rather than transferring and sitting out a year, Rice opted for the D-League. He joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers as the No. 55 pick overall of the Houston Rockets’ affiliate.
With the help of Rice’s standout play, the Vipers won the D-League championship. Rice averaged a staggering 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks in the D-League Championship series on the way to being named finals MVP.
Glen Rice, Jr. has carried over the impressive play he displayed in the D-League to Wizards summer league play. He was the teams second leading scorer, after Vesley, averaging 12 points a game displaying athleticism and a sweet shooting stroke as well as showing the ability to play solid defense, rebound the ball well and find his open teammates at times.
Another forward who has flashed potential during the Wizards summer league action is Dennis Horner. If you are an ACC fan, you may remember his sharp shooting from North Carolina State. One issue with Horner is age. He is already 25 years old as he went undrafted after 4 years at NC State where he showed great range as a shooter, and has good size at 6’9 230 lbs, but he’s bounced around overseas, in the NBA and NBA Developmental League since 2010. It is obvious that Horner was brought in because the front office thought he may have the ability to be the stretch 4 the Wizards offense so desperately needs.
Horner chose to go overseas after not being drafted. He first signed a contract with RBC Verviers-Pepinster but he didn’t play, so he left and signed a contract in Cyprus for Omonis BC in 2010-11. He played well and averaged 11.6 points while playing 29.3 minutes a game. Horner felt he had improved as a player so he made himself eligible for the 2011-12 NBA Developmental League draft. Horner was selected and played for the Springfield Armor and he averaged 15 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists a game. He was called up by the New Jersey Nets, but didn’t stick with them.
This brings us to today, Washington brought Horner to this teams summer league in hopes of him showing off his range and proving enough to make the team as a big that can knock down some deep shots, which is something the Wizards have lacked since Antawn Jamison was traded away. In the first two games, Horner looked like he was forcing things and was erratic. He often took bad shots and made poor decisions. In the final games of summer league action the offense ran better and Horner was able to play within the flow of the offense, get open shots and he was impressive as well. He logged 15 points in just 18 minutes off the bench vs the Nuggets as he knocked down 3 of his 4 three point shots. Versus the Grizzlies, Horner chipped in 9 points in 26 minutes on 1 of 3 three point shooting. If Horner can continue to shoot the ball well from the outside, he very well could earn a training camp invitation from the Wizards. The Wizards are currently in the market for a stretch 4 and if Horner continues to play his cards right, he may fit the bill.
Lastly, I like what Marquez Haynes was doing for the Wizards. I think he could make the team as a back up PG/SG. At 6’3, 185 lbs he brings that scorers mentality to a point guards body such as Russell Westbrook or Kemba Walker. He was a great scorer in college. In his senior season he averaged 22.6 pts and 3.7 ast a game. He’s versatile and has a wide range of shots from floaters to jumpers and driving the ball to the basket. He needs to develop more of a playmaker’s mentality and on becoming a better facilitator if he wants to stick on an NBA roster at his size. Haynes has done what I’ve thought he’d do for us in summer league play. He’s been a scorer but not a great playmaker for others. He averaged 9.25 points per game, leading us in scoring versus the Knicks with 13 points, but he only had two games leading the team in assists, which is disappointing for a player starting at point guard for all of the team’s summer league games.
In the end, I think this summer league has shown we have potential within our young players. I think the team needs a stretch 4 on the roster, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dennis Horner made the team as the 15th player.