- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2011

NEWARK, N.J. — It’s hard not to give the Washington Wizards high marks for what looks like a pretty successful draft Thursday night. The Wizards took Jan Vesely at six, Chris Singleton at 18, and Shelvin Mack at 34.

“We like the players we got,” general manager Ernie Grunfeld said.

“We targeted these players. We tried to improve on the defensive end of the floor, we added a lot of athleticism and versatility to our team. We’re happy with the way things turned out for us. … They are all very competitive players who come from winning situations.”

Vesely is a 6-11 small forward/power forward from the Czech Republic who played for Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) in the Euro League.

It was clear at the start of the day that Vesely was going to be the pick, despite weeks of trade rumors that had the Wizards trying to move up to get Turkish big man Enes Kanter or Arizona’s forward Derrick Williams. Vesely’s passion for the game, his explosiveness and his love of running the floor could make him a natural fit with John Wall.

Jan is an outstanding athlete. He could be one of the best athletes in this draft,” Grunfeld said. “He really gets up and down the floor. He’s a good defender, he plays with great energy and intensity and he’s played at a very high level.”

At 18, the Wizards got a steal in Singleton, who’s already coming in with a chip on his shoulder for being the last man standing in the green room. Singleton is a 6-foot-9 small forward from Florida State who has three years of college experience and was considered one of the best defenders in this draft.

Singleton said 15 teams passed on him (actually 14) and he’s already marking them off in his head for a little payback when the time comes.

He has a defense-first mindset — something sorely needed on the Wizards — and talked about developing a defensive presence, locking down the opponent, and not just letting the offensive guy have whatever shot he wants.

That should be music to head coach Flip Saunders’ ears.

“We didn’t think he would be there at 18. We didn’t think it was realistic, but that’s the way the draft goes,” Grunfeld said. “We were very fortunate to be able to get him.”

At 34, the Wizards also did well with the selection of Shelvin Mack, a 6-foot-2 guard from Butler who helped lead his team to two straight NCAA championship games.

Like Jordan Crawford, Mack is a combo guard adept at playing the one and the two, and will bring another element of leadership into the locker room despite being a rookie. That’s what spending four years in college can do for you.

“We needed help in the backcourt backing up John [Wall]. Mack can play both spots, the one and the two, and he can contribute right away,” Grunfeld said.

Now that they have added some youth, what’s the next step?

“We do have a young team, but that’s our plan. We’ll try to add some veterans to bring some leadership and some guidance to our younger players,” Grunfeld said.

“We wanted to accumulate some assets and let these players grow together, and see which players can become part of a core group that will stay together for the future.”

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