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Wizards player review: Jan Vesely


Wizards player review: Jan Vesely

As we saw in those YouTube clips before the Wizards drafted him last summer, Jan Vesely could run the break and dunk the ball in impressive fashion. The knock on him was that's all he could do -- dunk -- and for the most part, that's all he did in his rookie season in Washington.

Vesely averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds in 57 games but, like the Wizards, Vesely closed out strong.

Vesely scored in double figures in 7 of the final 15 games in April, highlighted by a career-high 16 points and 6 rebounds in a win over Charlotte. Vesely followed up that performance with 7 points and 12 rebounds in a victory against Cleveland. In a game in mid-April against a Milwaukee team still in the hunt for the playoffs, Vesely scored 8 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 3 assists.

Vesely has been praised by the coaching staff for his high basketball IQ and he does have a pass-first mentality. Now if he could just work on his shot.

Vesely rarely attempted a jump shot, scoring rather by a fast-break dunk or a put-back layup off an offensive rebound. Vesely only shot 53 percent from the free-throw line and you could tell by watching his attempts that he has a ways to go to get better from any distance beyond five feet.

The Wizards hired a shooting coach during training camp to help Vesely with his form, specifically with his hand and fingertip placement on the ball. Vesely even wore a contraption in practice to keep his thumb from being too close to his index finger when he shot.

Unfortunately, that didn't seem to help.

Drafted 6th overall by the Wizards, the 6'-10 forward got off to a slow start his rookie season with a hip injury, causing him to miss the first six games of the season.

Once healthy, it took Vesely time to get acclimated and involved with his new teammates. Once he did, Vesely would every now and then finish with a crowd-pleasing dunk.

Late in the year Vesely's game got better and he showed at times why the Wizards were so enamored to take him in the lottery out of the Czech Republic.

This summer, Vesely has to get up thousands of shots a day to try to improve his jumper. He can't be just a dunk-shot artist but he must add a jumper to keep defenders honest.

Vesely is athletic and can dunk, but that's like 90 percent of the players in the NBA. Vesely can separate himself from the pack by adding another dimension to his game besides dunking.

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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