Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
After starting more games than all but three other rookies, the young Wizard might not even crack the rotation in 2013.
NBA rookies generally don't start a lot of games, especially if they're drafted outside of the lottery. Chris Singleton pulled it off, though, starting 51 of 66 games last year, primarily due to his hustle and grit on the defensive end. No, he wasn't quite a stopper , but he tried, and that's all a coach of a lottery team like the 2012 Wizards could ask for.
Enter Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. Both were acquired over the summer and defend at roughly the same level as Singleton while possessing more advanced offensive games. Ariza is likely to start and Webster is a good fit with a second unit that desperately needs offensive firepower, and as a result, Singleton could very well be the odd man out of the rotation this year.
Offense: The good news first - Singleton made a respectable 34% of his three pointers last year while taking almost two thirds of his shots from beyond the arc. The percentage isn't elite, but it's not terrible, and it does give him a defined offensive role as a spot up shooter, something a lot of defensive specialists don't possess.
Now, about those parts of NBA basketball that aren't defense or three point shooting ... Singleton isn't just a bad offensive player, he's a historically bad one, and it's the main reason he's unlikely to start another 51 games this season. Singleton is very athletic, but he's not particularly coordinated, and as a result, has a very weak handle and struggles to shoot accurately inside the arc. He doesn't create shots for his teammates (only five small forwards averaged fewer assists per minute last year, as per draftexpress.com) or himself (7.8 shot attempts per 36 minutes, second to last on the Wizards behind fellow rookie Jan Vesely). This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if the ball was going in the basket, but Singleton shot below the league average from every place on the court. He can carve out a really nice career as a James Posey or Trevor Ariza type if he can get to the line from time to time and finish around the basket in transition, but without an even league-average offensive skill, it's just too difficult for even the most defensive-minded coach to give him major minutes.
While Singleton flashed a more refined offensive game during the Summer League, it's unrealistic to hope that he's improved enough to steal minutes from established players like Ariza and Webster. One area where he might be able to improve is his finishing ability - he only made 59% of his shots at the rim last year, but with his athleticisim, he should be in the mid 60s. A full training camp and another year of work with NBA trainers and dietitians will likely help him enter the upcoming season with the strength to absorb more contact around the basket.
Defense: Singleton came to Washington as a stopper, having earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors while at Florida State. While he wasn't a world beater in that role last year (opposing small forwards averaged an above league average 16.2 PER as per 82games, and MySynergySports ranked him 166th among NBA defenders), he was good for a rookie and has the length and athleticism to become a legitimate stopper once he's gained more experience.
In addition to his solid man-to-man defense, Singleton is a very active and willing help defender who ranked seventh among qualified small forwards in defensive plays - a combination of blocks, steals, and charges drawn - per 36 minutes last year. These plays are largely a result of a player's motor and natural size and athleticism, indicating that at the very least Singleton is trying.
Outlook: Chris Singleton can hit a three pointer and defend at an NBA level, so there will likely be a role for him on next year's Wizards. Ariza and Webster are more complete players so that role will be smaller, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Singleton's offensive game is bad enough that it's hard to find similar players who had much of a career, but one hopes that with a reduced role he should be able to play to his strengths as a spot up shooter while polishing his offensive game in practice.
Best Case Scenario: Starts finishing plays around the basket, continues to improve as a three point shooter, and plays a very solid 20 minutes per game as the team's defensive stopper.
Worst Case Scenario: Regresses as a three point shooter, is made redundant by the Webster and Ariza acquisitions, and spends the season pouting on the bench.
Statistics, Per 36 Minutes
Most Similar At Age 22: Omri Casspi