Long way to go for Vesely to be viable at center

Long way to go for Vesely to be viable at center
July 23, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Without question, the biggest surprise at summer league for the Wizards was the performance of Jan Vesely.

But the even bigger question is whether or not the 6-11 power forward can be a viable option at center for a team that is thin in the middle.

Vesely played at center in all five exhibitions in Las Vegas as the Wizards went 2-3 and failed to advance beyond pool play in the tournament.

Vesely shot 25-for-43, or 58%, to average 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. He also shot 67% from the foul line, more than double his accuracy from the 2012-13 regular season. He hit the open lane jumpers and broke down his man off the dribble away from the basket, even hitting turnarounds as he faded away.

“I try to come down and don’t rush it,” Vesely said of the reason for his success. “Slow down, keep pushing the ball and get the easy points.”

Still, none of these improvements vs. mostly second-level competition mean he can back up Emeka Okafor playing in a conventional offense. Vesely has a long way to go before he can log extended minutes, except for those stretches when coach Randy Wittman opts for "small ball" to combat other small lineups. 

If he can get minutes as a center, it clears room behind Nene at power forward, where Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton compete for minutes. 

While Vesely ran the floor well and played with good energy in Las Vegas, he ran into trouble when the games turned physical, particularly vs. the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Tyler.

He had 16 turnovers in all. His transition defense wasn't always up to par either as he struggled to adjust quickly and figure out the rotations. After that loss to the Knicks, assistant coach Sam Cassell wasn't pleased with how Vesely allowed himself to be pushed around. 

“It was (difficult) for our whole team. Sometimes we fell asleep on coming back,” Vesely said about their failure to get organized at time. “We wasn't that focused on coming back.”

The guess here is while Vesely has done plenty to impress going into his third season, five summer league games isn't an accurate barometer. What he has done in 108 NBA regular season games, with averages of 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds against the best opposition, is how he should be judged until he does more.

Vesely didn't compile those summer league numbers against centers such as Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Dwight Howard (Rockets), Tyson Chandler (Knicks), Nikola Pekovic (Timberwolves) or Omer Asik (Rockets).

When he's able to duplicate that summer league success against these players, or even the likes of Andrew Bogut (Warriors) and Kendrick Perkins (Thunder), then talk of him as a long-term option becomes more relevant. 

Right now, he's still a project.