NBA Draft 2011: Jan Vesely and 5 Best Prospects for the Washington Wizards

Alan ZlotorzynskiCorrespondent IIIJune 23, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Jan Vesely and 5 Best Prospects for the Washington Wizards

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    John Wall, last year's first overall selection
    John Wall, last year's first overall selectionRob Carr/Getty Images

    "Our mantra is picks and prospects.” This is a quote from Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during a March interview with the Washington Times.

    Leonsis went on to say, “When you get young players to start and they can become your core, you can create a culture and a style and an environment that they feel comfortable in and they grow up in. Then you can make trades to fill in some of the blanks.”

    Leonsis did not always believe this was the way. There was a time when he reached deep into his deep AOL built pockets and tried to buy a championship.

    Back in the late '90s and in the early part of the new millennium, Leonsis spent a lot of money on high-priced free agents as the then-new owner of the Washington Capitals.

    Leonsis took over a team that was just one year removed from appearing in the Stanley Cup finals. He believed that spending a lot of capital would ultimately get them back to the Promised Land.

    That never happened. In fact, the Capitals became one of the worst teams in the NHL.

    Realizing his fiscal mistakes was very difficult for a man not used to making them. However, Leonsis did make the realization and the Caps were torn down and rebuilt. After several losing seasons, which resulted in high draft picks, like Alex Ovechkin in 2006, the Caps are now the successful young franchise that has registered 106 consecutive home sellouts. 

    Much like his counterpart, Caps GM George McPhee, did on the ice side of the Leonsis operation, Wizards GM and President of Basketball Operations, Ernie Grunfeld is very much on board with the “Leonsis project.”

    “Our blueprint, as Ted has laid out many times, is to build through the draft, develop our young players, and continue to add pieces,” Grunfeld said during the same March interview with the Washington Times. “We’ve come a long way since last year, when we were way over the luxury tax, and we’ve turned over the roster."

    Grunfeld continued, "We’ve positioned ourselves very well salary cap-wise, so at the right time, we’ll also play the free-agent game. I think players like Washington, D.C. We won’t have a problem finding the right player to come here.”

    The Wizards have become free of the contracts that burdened them in recent years and have money to spend, but as Grunfeld stated, the time for spending will only come once the Wizards have a solid core of young talent to build around.

    They are well on their way with last year’s No.1 overall selection, John Wall.

    Wall averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 assists in 69 games, was a near-unanimous choice for the all-rookie team, and finished second to Los Angeles Clippers all-star forward Blake Griffin, the 2009 No. 1 pick, for rookie of the year.

    In any other season, Wall would have won the rookie of the year award.

    Griffin, a second-year player, missed the entire 2009-10 season after suffering a fractured left patella in the Clippers’ preseason finale and never appeared in a regular season game during his first year in the league.

    The Wizards have two picks in the first round. They will choose at No. 6, No. 18 and pick again at No. 34 in the second round. However, this draft is considered one the weakest in recent memory. Despite that fact, Grunfeld knows he cannot shoot an air ball. 

    If the Wizards miss their mark on Thursday, the rebuilding process will take a major hit.

    Last year's selection of John Wall was the simply the foundation to the championship. Tonight's draft must produce a big chunk of the support system needed for the foundation of this organization.

    Leonsis knows that unlike the NHL draft, where hall of fame talent can be found in the lower rounds and in some cases even go undrafted, NBA selections can be long shots to succeed as a mid- to late-first-round pick.

    Jan Vesely is the name many experts are predicting the Wizards will choose at No.6.

    Along with the Vesely, here is an in-depth look at five players the Washington Wizards will consider selecting during tonight's NBA draft.

Jan Vesely

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    According SI.com, Vesely is not ranked as high on the Wizards' draft board as Jonas Valanciunas, whom SI have the Wizards selecting with the No. 6 pick in Thursdays NBA draft.

    According to NBADraft.net, Vesely's game has been compared to Mike Dunleavy and Andrei Kirilenko. Vesely is high-energy player who has the ability to run the floor. 

    Vesely could eventually be the running mate John Wall is looking for in the Wizards transition game.

    He can post up smaller defenders and uses his height advantage to score over defenders. Vesely has a height and length advantage on almost every player in Europe.

    Most of his points are off dunks, put-backs and come from points in transition. He has good hands around the basket and is able to get to the rim quickly due to his quickness and good first step.

    The 6'11" 230-pound Czech native is very explosive off the floor when attacking the bucket and finishes strong. As a shooter, he improved since last year and feels more confident taking shots outside the three-point line and creating off the dribble.

    Vesely's length makes him disruptive on the defensive side of the ball. He can guard multiple positions and plays with lot of emotion. Vesely is a competitive player that hustles for loose balls.

    However, He must continue improving his offensive skills. He is still a work in progress as a player, as his athleticism and "wow plays" exceed his effectiveness and consistency.

    For his size, Vesely is not a good rebounder and lacks the strength to play in the paint in the NBA right now.

    He is limited to one or two dribbles when creating off the dribble and needs to improve his 1-on-1 game and ball-handling skills. 

    Vesely shoots free throws as well as Shaquille 'O’Neil, and has to become a more efficient and consistent shooter. 

    In the Euro league Vesely was 50 percent from the field, 46 percent from the line, and 46 percent from beyond the arc. He improved to 74 from the field in the NLB, but dropped to 32 percent from the three-point line. 

    It’s been said that the GM Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards like Vesely a lot, however, they do not love him. Vesely's game needs a lot of work and with the talent in this draft already average at best, he may be a bigger risk than Grunfeld wants to take at No. 6.

    Considering how big this draft is to Washington and their rebuilding project, Vesely would not be a bad pick or fit in D.C

    However, he could be one of the reasons the Wizards do everything they can to move up.

Kawhi Leonard

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    Three days ago, the foundation for this offseason was laid when the Wizards picked up the third-year options on the rookie contracts of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraph. They also extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Nick Young, Othyus Jeffers, Hamady Ndiaye and Larry Owens.

    With Wall, Young and Crawford, the Wizards have a nice little backcourt developing. All three are more than capable of putting up points, so what the Wizards need is a big rebounder, a player who is physical and can play defense.

    That player could be 6'7", 227-pound Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State.

    In a recent Washington Post interview, Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld said, "You’re looking at the total package. Can they play? Are they athletic? Are they versatile? Are they team players? Do they have good character? All those things come into play.

    “But you look for all types of players. We’ll try to get a balance.”

    Leonard can play, he's raw, but so is every player in this year's draft, including Kyrie Irving.

    While at San Diego State Leonard racked up 40 double-doubles in 70 career games, including 23 last season

    His double-double total is second in school history behind Michael Cage (60), who played four seasons to Leonard's two. Leonard and Cage are tied for the most in a season (23).

    He ranked 13th in the nation last year in defensive rebound rate and the Wizards desperately need that aspect of his game, as only Golden State finished lower than Washington last season in that stat category.

    Leonard is also athletic and versatile. According to Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, "He's multi-dimensional forward who can do so many things. He likes to handle the ball. He can shoot it. He gets double-doubles. He's a matchup problem from day one."

    Temple coach Fran Dunphy said, "Leonard is a very versatile guy. He can step away from the basket, make shots. He is very good at posting up. He is good at running the floor. He is good at finishing plays at the rim. He is a tough matchup."

    There are always weaknesses and this draft class has many. Leonard is no exception. He does not have one aspect offensively that stands out, or which allows him to consistently score with the ball.

    He does not have a true position and according to scout Borko Popic, Leonard’s jump shot, while definitely improved, is still very inconsistent. The numbers bare that as he hit on just 47.8 percent on his shots from inside the arc.

    His release comes high off his head and it is somewhat of a sling motion, which results in a flat shot that goes all over the place.

    The Wizards could do a lot worse than Leonard at No.6. He has as much potential and upside as any player in this year's draft. In any other draft, Leonard would be drafted in the mid to late first round but this is how the deck is stacked this year and at No. 6, the Wizards may just take him.

    I like Leonard but many Washington fans do not. Good articles such as this one point out reasons not to draft the steadily improving Leonard. Every point made about Leonard is a legitimate reason to pass on him.

    However, arguably, no other player in this year’s top 10 improved his game from one year to the next as Leonard did from freshman to sophomore seasons while playing for Steve Fisher at SDSU. 

    After seasons of losing and front office mismanagement, maybe Washington fans just look at Leonard’s first name and see a similarity to a former No.1 overall selection's first name. It is not Kwame, its Kawhi, Wizard fans.

    In the end, if the Wiz draft Leonard, it's a good possibility that you will be happier with Kawhi than you were with Kwame.

Enes Kanter

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    The Wizards have not exactly thrown glowing endorsements to power forward Andray Blatche and center JaVale McGee as the frontcourt of the future.

    Of course, Blatche and McGee have no one to blame but themselves for this and could be the reason Ernie Grunfeld moves up to draft Turkish big man Enes Kanter.

    Kanter will fill a need in D.C. and according Carl Berman, of Basketball Times & Net Scouts was the best player on the floor at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. Berman breaks Kanter down this way:

    Kanter, a 6-10, 255-pound power forward from Turkey is extremely tough and is a brute on the boards. He can step out for 20-footers and in one three-minute sequence during the Summit, Kanter pulled down five offensive rebounds and scored 13 points. He scored on seven consecutive World Team possessions, three times off the offensive boards." 

    During a 101-97 loss to Team USA, Kanter scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in only 24 minutes of play for the World Select Team.

    The Istanbul native was set to play for John Calipari at Kentucky in 2010-11. However, the NCAA ruled him permanently ineligible for receiving more than $30,000 in benefits while playing for the Turkish club Fenerbahce two years ago.

    Though he was not eligible to play in games or travel with the Wildcats, Kanter was allowed to practice with the team. Pushing center Josh Harrellson in practice every day, Kanter was instrumental in Harrellson's pleasantly surprising play during the Wildcats Final Four run.

    While facing his toughest competition in practice, Harrellson averaged almost 15 points and nine rebounds per game while shooting 76 percent from the field during the NCAA tournament.

    Kanter is a bull in a china shop and not a prototypical foreign-born player in terms of size. He has plenty of bulk and will be just fine banging inside with the big bodies in the NBA. As long as he is not banging knees, Kanter should hold up to the physical play.

    Despite being a big man, Kanter has soft hands and is a good passer. As a result of having bad knees, Kanter doesn’t jump well and isn’t considered a great rebounder,

    Kanter should be fresh coming after sitting out of game action for almost an entire year. Most believe he has the complete package for a big man.

    Some of the negatives in Kanter's game according to Draft Express.com is his lack of game experience and his defense.

    His fundamentals, instincts and positioning leave a lot to be desired. He can often be found standing straight up in the paint with his arms down, putting in little to no effort. He rarely boxes out his opponent and generally looks disinterested in anything that has to do with defense. He rarely bends his knees and often fails to get back in transition—doing very little to protect the paint when he does.

    NBA teams must also factor in the effect the last two years has had on his growth as a player. They should also consider the fact that an extended lockout could keep Kanter away from competitive basketball for a third straight season.

    Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.com is reporting via Twitter that the Wizards are in discussions to move up for the sole purpose of drafting Kanter.   

Jonas Valanciunas

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    At 6'11" and 240 pounds, Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas does not seem to have any issues playing around the hoop while facing it.

    The 19-year-old Euro league prospect comes to the draft with a ton of potential and upside. Aside from his size and length, Valanciunas plays with a high motor and has decent hands, which could make him a great pick and roll player for John Wall in the future.

    According to Draft Express, "Nearly 82.2 percent of Valanciunas's shots come around the basket in finishing situations and he made 68 percent of those attempts last season (fifth).

    He's a big target moving off the ball and a threat to score on the offensive glass, it is safe to say that Valanciunas thrived on catch and finish chances."

    According to many published reports, the Wizards have Valanciunas ahead of Vesely on their draft board and love his extremely aggressive rebounding on both the offensive and defensive boards.

    If you watch video of Valanciunas play, he boxes out well for his age. He is not afraid of the getting dirty down low, the problem is, his lack of bulk will prevent his body from playing the way he can. 

    He uses his length to the fullest of his ability by tipping out-of-area rebounds to teammates. He is not afraid to go right back to the rim and he shows signs of having some potentially great moves inside the paint.

    Valanciunas shows great potential in being a well above average shot blocker in the NBA someday. 

    According to Tyler Ingle of NBAdraft.net, "Valanciunas has great shooting mechanics and an extraordinarily soft touch for a big man and has a developing hook shot that could be deadly in time."

    According to the same breakdown by Ingle, Valanciunas has a budding set of skills in the low post, but needs teammates who can set him up. Anyone know a player capable of doing that in D.C.?

    Of course, Valanciunas is raw and has issues. He panics under double team situations, which NBA coaches and players will exploit immediately, and he needs to learn how to play good defense without fouling.

    He is still very lean and will get pushed around and could even get banged up inside.

    His contract may be his biggest weakness. He is currently signed with Lietuvos Rytas and the buyout option in his contract is over $3 million, so the NBA may be a year or two away.

    Valanciunas will be ready to contribute at about the time the Wizards are becoming serious contenders in the east. This is assuming that Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld continue to work their plan and nothing major causes it to derail.

Markieff Morris

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    With the first four slides, we profiled four likely draft prospects, one of which will more than likely be wearing the new red, white and blue at the big phone booth next season.

    With the last two slides, we will profile what the Wizards may do with their second pick in the first round. This is assuming they still have it when the time comes to use it tonight.

    The first player the Wizards may look to at No. 18 is power forward, Markieff Morris.

    Morris played three seasons at Kansas and was a key contributor who played the No. 4 and No. 5 positions. He was KU's leading rebounder and shot blocker in 2010-11, and ranks 18th on KU's all-time rebounding list with 662 and 17th on the all-time blocks list with 103.

    An All-Big 12 Second-Team selection, Morris played in all 38 games for the Jayhawks, starting all but three games. He was the second-leading scorer on the team with a 13.6 ppg average and led the Big 12 in field goal percentage (58.9) and rebounding at 8.3 boards per game.

    NBAdraft.net compares Morris to Drew Gooden, while draftexpress.com compares him to a player Wizards fans know a little bit about, Rasheed Wallace. However, they say that Morris would come without the crazy side of Wallace.

    Scout Jonathan Wasserman of NBAdraft.net says of Morris' game:

    He is a strong and muscular. At 6'10" with an NBA body at 21 years old, he does an excellent job at finishing around the rim and uses long and effective drop steps for better positioning when dealing in the paint.

    Morris shows nice touch on his short, over the shoulder baby hook shot, and he's become extremely efficient from the perimeter and fluent looking in spot up opportunities

    Defensively he plays with focus and passion, using his strength to force tough shots in the post. Both he and his twin Marcus exhibit an aggressive "bullying" demeanor.

    Wassermann writes that the weaknesses in Morris' game is strictly on offense:

    While Morris is effective within a few feet of the rim and as a spot up shooter on the perimeter, he is missing an in-between game.

    Facing up and using a dribble is not part of his repertoire. He is missing advanced high post moves, and struggles to draw fouls despite his physical interior play. His ceiling is not as high as some of the other longer more athletic big men.

    Morris could potentially become be a more secure pick for the future than any of the lottery picks. If Markieff had his twin brother, Marcus's offensive game, he would no doubt be the one No.1 overall selection in this year's draft. 

    Markieff has been projected to be selected anywhere from No. 13 to No. 19. Brother Marcus has been slotted in the top 15 in almost every mock draft.  

    Markieff worked out for Washington back on June 8 and impressed with his versatility.

    He is also a player that can that can help the Wizards on the defensive end. His 240-pound frame is big enough to bang in the post but he is also lean with good lateral quickness to get outside and guard the perimeter if necessary. 

Donatas Motiejunas

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    It is only fitting that the final player we profile is the final player to work out for the Wizards.

    A 7-footer with a soft left-handed jumper, Donatas Motiejunas was the only player on the floor at the Verizon center yesterday with Washington head coach Flip Saunders and GM Ernie Grunfeld.

    According to Eric Yearian of NBA draft net:

    Motiejunas is a legit left handed seven-footer with excellent offensive potential.

    Yearian broke down the Lithuania power forward this way. He can score from inside and outside. He has added weight to his frame in the past year, making him more effective in the low post.

    He has good ball handling ability for a big man and has a quick first step, which allows him to get by opponents. Motiejunas is a very confident player who is good at timing his jumps to contest shots.

    He runs the floor well, especially for a seven-footer and can be a mismatch nightmare for opposing teams. One of the most skilled players in the draft, he is very solid athletically and can shoot the three.

    Motiejunas has polished footwork, is skilled at passing out of the post and perhaps the most intriguing part of his game to the Wizards is his ability to eat defenses up with the pick and roll/ pick and pop.

    According to Aran Smith, his biggest weaknesses may be his ego:

    Motiejunas is extremely talented and he knows it. At times, he does not keep the pedal to the metal, exhibiting some lapses in focus and intensity. He can be lazy in practices and sometimes appears content to be better than others without dominating them the way he is capable.

    That is the type of thing that he will need to mature out of, learning to work hard at all times in order to reach the stature of a Gasol or Nowitzki. He still needs to add polish on his moves on the perimeter but has excellent potential to do so.

    Smith adds that the 7-foot, 220-pounder from Kaunas, Lithuania, is a poor rebounder for a big man and at times, it appears he is averse to doing the "dirty work.”

    His poor anticipation skills lead to defensive lapses and missed rebounding opportunities.

    His defense could use a lot of work; at times, he simply looks uninterested in defending. He can be punished in the post and is a streaky shooter. Considering his touch, Motiejunas is a poor free throw shooter.

    Free-throw shooting requires many hours at the stripe following practice to become better. This is a clear indication why he must gain maturity, discipline, and focus. Poor anticipation skills lead to defensive lapses and missed rebounding opportunities.

    The Wizards could use Motiejunas' help. The NBA has a way of making young cocky egotistical players, young humble NBA rookies in a hurry.

    Washington still has unanswered questions with JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.

    Issues ranging from maturity and commitment with Blatche to slower than expected development with McGee at times, will factor into the Washington's thinking in tonight's draft.

    The drafting of a player like Motiejunas will should send clear signals and messages to both players.