The case of Chris Singleton is one that could've -- should've? -- ended better for him and the Wizards, who made the 6-8 forward a first-round pick in 2011 but has allowed him to leave as an unrestricted free agent.
This may seem hard to believe, but Singleton still was on their radar going into the offseason especially after Trevor Ariza was traded to the Houston Rockets. And according to a person with knowledge of the situation to CSNwashington.com, Singleton passed on a chance to play overseas because he intends to play in the league this year.
The Wizards have filled 14 of the maximum 15 spots with training camp looming Sept. 30 at Verizon Center. There's no guarantee that they'll fill it by then, or even when the season starts, but Singleton is no longer in their plans.
The writing was on the wall when before the 2013-14 season began when president Ernie Grunfeld decided against picking up his fourth-year option. In three seasons in Washington, Singleton's minutes and production gradually decreased. He was taken No. 18 overall in the draft, and then he fell prey to the numbers game and bad fortune.
Ariza was acquired in a trade in 2012 and Martell Webster had the best season of his career. Then instead of drafting a post player in 2013 at No. 8, the Wizards moved up in the draft lottery to No. 3 where they took small forward Otto Porter instead. Ariza had a career season while Singleton had to have left foot surgery, pushing him back his progress even more, and missed training camp. He went from starting 51 games as a rookie and averaging 4.6 points to 3.0 points and just 25 total appearances in his last season.
Part of the problem, according to multiple people close to the situation, was Singleton seeing himself as more of a finesse small forward in the mold of Chandler Parsons rather than the grit-and-grind type who generates his production closer to the basket. From Singleton's side, he was willing to adjust but he couldn't get the time to refine his game to make the transition.
In 2013 Las Vegas summer league, then-assistant coach Sam Cassell pointed to Singleton's hesitancy with the ball, and leaning back on a jump shot that had a habit of coming up short.
“I just want Chris to make quick decisions. Pick-and-roll, you catch, you shoot it. You drive it. I don’t want the fakes and indecisiveness,” Cassell said at the time to CSN. “You can’t be a good basketball player being indecisive. You’re either going to do it or you’re not going to do it. Once he understands that part, I think Chris will be OK.”
What made Singleton an attractive fallback option for the Wizards -- aside from being a first-round pick that they tried to trade multiple times in hopes of getting some value in return -- is that despite the quagmire he behaved like a consummate professional (see here) and didn't become a problem in the locker room. Coach Randy Wittman was in the last year of his contract and had a playoffs-or-else edict from owner Ted Leonsis. There was no time for Singleton to develop, and given that the Wizards won 44 games and advanced to the second-round of the playoffs, it's hard to second-guess that decision.
Singleton was supposed to be the future. Instead, the plans changed as soon as he arrived in D.C. By passing on a sure thing abroad, Singleton is betting on himself that he'll sign with an NBA team before the season starts and ultimately prove that he was worthy of a first-round pick. He recently parted with agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports and now is represented by Todd Ramasar, also a former agent with BDA, of Stealth Sports.
Hitting the restart button, and re-establishing himself as a defense-first player who can stretch the floor to the three-point line, is the plan. It worked for Bruce Bowen. It worked for Ariza, who scored a $32 million deal with Houston. It's all about finding the right job fit.