The Wizards certainly need to get some defensive-minded players in the draft or free agency, which explains their interest in San Diego State swingman Kawhi Leonard, Texas forward Tristan Thompson or Markieff Morris from Kansas at sixth. But I had a recent conversation with an NBA assistant general manager who quickly offered another alternative: Florida State junior forward Chris Singleton.
Now Singleton is expected to go anywhere from the late lottery to 20th, so six might seem to be a tad high, since he might very well be around when the Wizards draft at 18th. But the assistant GM countered that Singleton wouldn’t last that long and the Wizards should scoop him at the first opportunity. “Look,” he said, “the Wizards need help on defense. You’d have [JaVale] McGee, [John] Wall and Singleton, length and athleticism at center, point guard and the wing. Defensively, they’d be tough.”
They would be better on the defensive end with Singleton, especially if you ask Singleton, who wasn’t short on confidence at the NBA combine in Chicago last week. He boldly proclaimed himself to be “a modern-day Pippen.”
“Because I can do everything,” Singleton said. “I really do believe that. I believe I can pass. I believe I can play defense. I think I’m the perfect role player. If I’m meant to be a star, I’ll be a star. But it all depends on the team and the situation. I feel like I’m the perfect guy in any system.”
Comparing yourself to a Hall of Famer with six championship rings before you put on an NBA uniform is pretty audacious, but Singleton has earned a reputation for being one of the best perimeter defenders in the upcoming draft. He’s 6-feet-9 with a 7-1 wingspan and considerable pride on the one side of the floor that really produces wins in the NBA.
“I’m one of those players, I don’t like to lose. Everybody wants to win, but I don’t want to lose,” Singleton said. “If my man beats me, I feel like I’m letting my team down. Every time you step on the court, it’s one-on-one, between me and my man, at some point in the game and I feel like if you hold him, you’re good.”
When asked what position he can defend in the NBA, Singleton replied, “One through four.”
Singleton gained great confidence in his defensive ability last summer, when he participated on the USA Basketball select team of college players — such as BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, Duke’s Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker — who scrimmaged the eventual gold-medal winner at the World Championships in Turkey. Singelton said that he found himself guarding Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups. “I guarded every single one of them. And I feel they didn’t do as much damage against me as other people,” Singleton said. “We had a good couple of scrimmages and we were going back and forth. We never felt like we were going to blow us out. I was on everybody. And they are considered some of the top 50 guys in the league.”
The assistant GM witnessed Singleton during the Team USA camps and concurred that he never backed down from the challenges. The question for Singleton is what position he’ll play and whether he has the ability to score. He averaged just 13.1 points, but the Seminoles played a low-possession slow-down game that led to few big scoring nights. He also missed nearly five weeks because of a right foot injury and wasn’t at full strength when he returned for the NCAA Tournament..
“Some people don’t think I can score the ball, because of me not taking enough shots, but I feel like I can score the ball. I just have to go out there and score the ball,” Singleton said. “I feel like I’m the most versatile player in the draft. I feel like I’ve got post moves, I got midrange and I can shoot the ball.”
“Like I have been telling some teams, on our team at Florida State, I felt like ‘Who was our scorer?’ I mean, everybody pointed at me, but if I went out there and had a bad shooting night, I think that sometimes we wouldn’t have had enough firepower to come back,” he said. “We were always a good defensive team, so I felt like if we kept close, and I feel like I’m a clutch player, so if the ball was in my hands it was going to get made at the end. I felt like if we kept it close, we were better off winning that way.”
Six still feels like a bit of a reach, but if Singleton is still around at 18...