Vesely has had a much more problematic NBA career on offense, though. The vision the team had for Vesely just hasn’t materialized, mostly because the Wizards just haven’t played the fast-paced attack they planned. The 2016-2017 Wizards were a mess in every definition of the word and then last season, without Wall to lead the attack for a good chunk of the year, Washington ranked just 15th in pace.
Vesely shot 14-for-16 in transition but was useless in the half-court. He couldn’t shoot from anywhere outside the restricted area, going 13-for-49 (26.7%) outside of three-feet, and actually even had problems there, converting 27 of 28 dunk attempts but just 17 of 37 layup attempts. And he is also a very pedestrian passer, posting just 28 assists on 51 games.
As a result of mediocre defense and hideous offense, Vesely did not play due to coaching decision 31 times last season and logged just 601 minutes in the games he did play, which were over 400 fewer than the year before. In Vesely’s defense, he has played very little with Washington’s best players; Wall and Nenê. With such unrefined perimeter skills and no shooting range, it’s impossible to see Vesely shifting back to small forward in this day and age. He does not have the body type to play center for long stretches in this league.
Vesely allowed 15-for-23 shooting on post-ups last season. But that seems to be where he may have his best chance of providing any sort of contribution in the immediate future with his strange off season professional programs. The Wizards played him at center in the summer league and that was the best he has ever looked in the United States. He also played center for the Czech Republic national team at the Eurobasket in Slovenia this summer and posted averages of 17 points and 11.2 rebounds, a 26.5 PER and a 1.09 point per possession average on 24.3% usage-rate.
Trevor Booker might also be in the hunt but in the 887 minutes he logged the Wizards allowed 107.2 points per 100 possessions. Unless it strikes a preseason trade to acquire someone like Jason Thompson or JJ Hickson or Timofey Mozgov, Washington might simply be better off adopting smaller lineups for longer stretches, shifting Nenê to center and playing Al Harrington or Trevor Ariza upfront.
As Bullets Forever’s Thomas Pruitt argues in this post, while relying on Nenê for extensive minutes at center is a concerning proposition due to his injury history, the Wizards were very successful playing small last season, though in a short sample size.
Still according to Pruitt, in the 540 minutes the team logged with four perimeter players on the floor, Washington allowed just 97 points per 100 possessions and scored 103.4. Harrington was a nice value acquisition late in the offseason but it should be remembered he played just 10 games last season due to injury and is entering his age-33 season. Though he has been accustomed to playing this role as this was his exact position in Denver, Ariza might be the better option.
Ariza didn’t play well early last year and quickly lost minutes to a rejuvenated Webster at small forward, but eventually settled into a decent contributor off the bench and finished with a very solid statistical profile. Ariza was on the floor just 37% of the minutes he was available, which is probably the exact right amount for a player like him. He shot an above average 36.4% from three-point range, with 209 of his 451 shots (46.3%) coming from beyond the arc and another 123 at the rim, which he converted at a 59.3% clip. He took just 69 long-twos.
They scored about the same with him and without him. But defensively, the Wizards defended almost three points per 100 possessions better with him on the court in a team context and individually, he ranked 29th in the league in scoring allowed per possession, behind 33.3% (29-for-87) shooting allowed on pick-and-rolls, 27.7% on isolations (20-for-53), 33.6% (32-for-95) on spot-ups and 35.8% (19-for-53) off screens. That was mostly as a perimeter player, however.
Ariza played just 3% of the team’s minutes as a power forward. That’s perhaps not enough to feel comfortable with him as the primary option at the position. However, in that very small sample size, Ariza posted a 17.7 PER and allowed an 8.2 PER at the position. He allowed just 8-for-21 shooting on post-ups as well.
Okafor’s injury is a significant hit to this defense but Washington should have enough to keep the unit at least above average if everyone else stays healthy. From the moment Wall returned to the lineup, the Wizards defended like the second best unit in the league. Webster held opposing shooting guards to a compiled 8.7 PER and small forwards to an 11.9 PER. Otto Porter, Jr. ranked seventh in the NCAA in defensive win shares.
It was the other side of the floor that made the Wizards the first team in almost a decade to be as good as they were on defense and still not qualify for the postseason. Washington was dead last in the league in scoring per 100 possessions and 25th in effective shooting.
The Wizards were about fine in shot making, ranking 10th in the league in three-point shooting and hitting 65% of their shots at the restricted area. But quality shot creation was an issue. As Wall missed 33 games, AJ Price, Jordan Crawford and Garrett Temple logged a combined 3561 minutes in his absence and as his backups. As a result, in the final 14 seconds of the shot clock, the Wizards posted an effective field-goal percentage in the mid-40s.