Wizards at Halftime, Part III: Which young players will distinguish themselves as members of the team’s core?

Through the past three lottery seasons, the Wizards have just two lottery picks to show for it in John Wall and Jan Vesely. The other pick is currently in Minnesota, dazzling fans with his creative passing. Another is on the way in June.


Will they hold on to me? (PAUL CONNORS/AP)

Vesely will have the best opportunity to stick around long term, since the Wizards invested the sixth overall choice in him last season. Vesely hasn’t had an immediate influence, averaging just 2.9 points and 3.1 rebounds after missing the first few weeks of the season with a strained right hip.

The 6-foot-11 forward from the Czech Republic uses his athleticism, relentless activity and intelligence to make plays and keep balls alive. He has come off the bench, started, been put back in a reserve role and had some solid performances in recent weeks, scoring 10 points in two games this month and grabbing a career-high nine rebounds in Portland. His jump shot is a serious work in progress, but he knows enough about his shortcomings to realize that he shouldn’t take many shots other than dunks and layups.

Among the players taken in the past two drafts, Trevor Booker has been the Wizards most productive player not named Wall this season. Booker has seized control of the power forward position with Andray Blatche out with injury and has averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 15 starts. This month, he has had 15 rebounds in a loss to Miami and scored 19 points in a win over Toronto.

Jordan Crawford exploded onto the scene last season, after arriving in the Kirk Hinrich trade with Atlanta. Taking advantage of Nick Young’s absence, Crawford averaged 19.3 points in 18 starts, including a career-high 39 points against Miami and a triple-double against Cleveland. He entered this season expecting to compete with Young for the starting shooting guard spot, but was benched after starting the first two games. He had a sluggish run of inconsistency, but appears to have broken out of his slump in recent weeks. In his past five games, he is averaging 21.2 points while shooting 54.1 percent and topped at least 20 points four times. He had a season-high 32 against Sacramento in the last game before the all-star break.


Don’t forget about me. I play D. (H. Rumph Jr/AP)

Rookie Chris Singleton started out strongly, displaying an aggressive style on defense that earned him minutes and eventually a starting job. But the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player has become more challenging and his offensive production has been little more than the occasional spot up jumper.

Shelvin Mack rarely played early in the season as Saunders mistakenly tried to use Crawford as a backup point guard. Since Randy Wittman has taken over, Mack is getting more consistent playing time but his production is only slightly better than before. With Wall earning most of the minutes at point guard and the team reliant on the offense of Crawford and Young, Mack has a tough task of trying to earn more minutes in the backcourt.

The Wizards have already waived Hamady Ndiaye, a second-round pick in 2010, who contributed a total of just 14 points in 19 career games.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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