With fans anxious to see their teams’ recent draftees in an NBA setting, rookies like Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter garner the spotlight in the NBA‘s summer leagues. Nonetheless, what’s going to grab my attention is the two third-year former first-round picks, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, Washington is sending to the Las Vegas Summer League this year.
With summer league rosters normally featuring rookie and sophomore players as well as NBA journeymen hoping to latch on as reserves, it’s not a good sign that Vesely and Singleton are playing in Las Vegas this weekend. With the deadline for Washington to exercise their fourth-year options on both players approaching in October, both will feel pressure to perform in Las Vegas and training camp.
While a lot of focus will be on Vesely, Singleton has more at stake. With Vesely being a former top-ten pick, sixth overall in 2011, he will be given ample opportunities to prove that he isn’t a bust. A poor summer league won’t keep Vesely from earning another NBA contract, even if it’s not with Washington.
Some team will gamble that they can turn the potential that made him a high draft pick into production. History tells us that much. Famed Wizard bust Kwame Brown is stealing money from NBA franchises to this day. Darko Milicic and even Adam Morrison found new homes after their dismal play on their rookie deals.
With that said, Singleton is a bad performance away from getting his ticket punched to Europe following next season. While he is a former first-round pick like Vesely, he was drafted in an area — 18th overall — where players typically flame out. He may have parlayed his NBA-ready body and defensive acumen into a spot in the first round, but Washington never had hopes of him being a superstar or even a starter for their matter.
So while cutting bait with Singleton would certainly qualify as another stain on Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld‘s draft track record, it wouldn’t be the black eye that Vesely’s seemingly inevitable flame out would be.
For Singleton, potential won’t be his saving grace. If he’s to avoid the NBA exodus that’s coming his way, he has to excel in Vegas and make sure that what happens in Vegas — good play — doesn’t stay there.