When the Washington Wizards selected Jan Vesely, the 6'11" forward from the Czech Republic, they knew what they were getting. He was a raw, but energetic player capable of making big plays around the rim, while keeping pace with the uptempo style of point guard John Wall.
What they didn't account for was a full-scale regression in his skills and his approach to the game.
There is no discounting the impact Wall's absence has had on the Wizards this season. Their 1-13 mark shows just how much the young team misses their franchise centerpiece.
Even so, Vesely, more than his fellow young teammates, has done very little to help himself—or the Wizards—fight through adversity.
Maybe the Wizards fell victim to some unseen curse surrounding the sixth pick in the draft. The last 22 years' worth of players taken with the pick is highlighted by Shane Battier, Brandon Roy, Antoine Walker and this year's Damian Lillard.
Those 22 picks have accounted for just nine All-Star appearances and two NBA Championships. For comparison, Dirk Nowitzki was the ninth pick in the 1998 draft and has 11 All-Star appearances and a championship.
But Vesely can't pin his regression on the off chance there is some sort of curse on the pick. He's averaging fewer minutes per game because he hasn't been aggressive on the floor this season.
Calling it a sophomore slump would imply that he was successful as a rookie, which is not the case. He struggled with injuries, and his nonexistent jump shot limited what he could contribute on offense
He's attempting fewer shots this season, and is hitting just 43 percent of them compared to the 54 percent of his attempts as a rookie.
He lacks the size to play the post, and doesn't have the range to play the wing or even 15 feet away from the basket. That lack of beef in the post means he doesn't get position for rebounds, as evidenced by his 2.1 rebounds per game average.
Somehow, some way, he's managed to drop his already putrid free throw percentage to sub-Shaq levels at 23 percent. This has dropped his two-year average to 48 percent, removing all charity from the stripe.
It is one thing to be hindered by the absence of Wall, with whom Vesely was drafted to run the floor with, and quite another to fail to be of any use on the floor otherwise.
Vesely was drafted to be complementary player to Wall, but even complementary players need to find a way to produce outside of ideal circumstances.
The Wizards overvalued Vesely when they selected him, and don't have much of a use for him considering his skills have failed to improve in any way, shape or form. Hindsight is 20-20, but Washington could have avoided the issue entirely by trading back or taking a shot on Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard was an all-around contributor coming out of San Diego State, and has developed into a solid young NBA prospect. He's much better than the resounding disappointment Vesely has turned out to be.
Vesely is young, and that may be enough for many fans to forgive his struggles. But it shouldn't obscure the truth of the matter.
For all the promise of fast breaks, highlight reel dunks, facials and posterizations, Vesely has been a disappointment. Every game, he looks like a bust more and more.
Maybe things will change once Wall is back, healthy and leading the Wizards on the floor. This may boost Vesely's numbers, but it won't change his inability to produce on his own—let alone become a leader or integral part of the Wizards.
Chalk this one up to Ernie Grunfeld's love affair with international players: Peter John Ramos, Vladamir Veremeenko, Oleksiy Pecherov, Nemanja Bjelica and Tomas Satoransky. None of them made any discernible impact on the NBA or the Wizards aside from a wasted pick.
Ultimately, it falls on Vesely for being unable to adapt his game to the situation presented to him. The surrounding circumstances just make it more frustrating to watch.
Just another drop in the overflowing bucket of problems that currently occupies the Verizon Center.
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