Taking A Closer Look at Jan Vesely

Of all the prospects that seem to be in play for the Kings at the 7th pick, Jan Vesely is the most mysterious.  The team has scouted him heavily in Europe, and is also making the trip to New Jersey this Sunday to watch him in a private workout with a few other teams.  But to the casual and even to most hardcore fans, Vesely remains a bit of an unknown.

Here's what most people do know: He's an athletic freak of nature who loves to dunk, not the type of player you usually find in Europe.  He measures extremely well for either a Small Forward or Power Forward at 6'11 and 240 lbs.  He also was slated to be a lottery pick in last year's draft but opted instead to remain in Europe with Partizan Belgrade for one more year in order to improve his game (a bad decision in retrospect, as the coach he stayed for ended up leaving thanks to a better offer from CSKA Moscow).

But his game is a little bit different than most think.  While he likes to shoot, he's not particularly good at it, although he can get streaky at times and has good form.  His game mostly relies on hustle and athleticism, and less so on skill.  While he showcases a great motor and good work ethic, he still has a long way to go if he wants to fully realize his potential.  His athleticism and explosiveness will be less of a novelty in the NBA.

One of the main comparisons for Vesely is Andrei Kirilenko, mainly due to them both being hyper athletic forwards.  But digging into their statistics shows a few major differences.  (For this comparison I used Kirilenko's statistics from when he played for CSKA Moscow in 2000 and 2001).

Name

Age

MPG

PPG

   2P FG%

   3P FG%

   FTA

      FT%

RPG

APG

TOV

STL

BLK

PF

Kirilenko

19

26.9

11.5 

64.20%

20.00%

4.3

64.60%

6.20

1.80

1.30

2.50

0.50

2.60

Vesely

20

22

8.4 

65.50%

32.50%

2.7

64.50%

3.50

1.00

1.10

1.00

0.50

3.30

Kirilenko

20

33.7

13.9 

63.90%

28.10%

6.3

64.70%

9.20

2.60

2.50

2.00

2.10

3.30

Vesely

21

23.5

10.3 

71.50%

28.20%

4.1

54.20%

4.40

1.30

1.30

1.10

0.70

3.20

Here are the same Statistics Per 36 minutes:

Name

Age

MPG

PPG

   2P FG%

   3P FG%

  FTA

       FT%

RPG

APG

TOV

STL

BLK

PF

Kirilenko

19

36

15.4 

64.20%

20.00%

5.8

64.60%

8.31

2.40

1.74

3.35

0.67

3.48

Vesely

20

36

13.8 

65.50%

32.50%

4.4

64.50%

5.74

1.64

1.80

1.64

0.82

5.41

Kirilenko

20

36

14.9 

63.90%

28.10%

6.7

64.7

9.48

2.78

2.68

2.14

2.25

3.53

Vesely

21

36

15.8 

71.50%

28.20%

6.3

54.2

6.73

1.99

1.99

1.68

1.07

4.89

As you can see, Vesely seems to be the better and more efficient offensive player, although not by much.  Kirilenko meanwhile is a much better defender, rebounder and passer, things that translated when he came to the league.  His penchant for getting steals and blocks far surpasses Vesely's, despite Kirilenko being two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter.  Vesely also seems to be a bit foul prone, which is worrisome considering he was going up against inferior competition in Europe.  This helps explain why he didn't see more than 23.5 minutes a game despite being one of Partizan's best players.

Another worrying trait in Vesely is his miserable Free Throw Percentage.  For someone whose game relies on attacking the basket, getting to the line and converting is a must.  It also helps show why he's such an inconsistent outside shooter, as bad FT shooters are rarely good from the perimeter.

The tone of this post makes it seem as if I'm a bit down on Vesely, and to tell you the truth, I am a bit, mainly because he is a big risk to take.  He does have his redeeming qualities however.  His size, athleticism, and motor are all things you can't teach, while shooting and defense are.  He presents an instant mismatch problem for both Forward positions.  He also seems to be willing to put the work in to succeed.

If the Kings call Vesely's name next Thursday with the 7th pick, I hope they understand that they're not getting an instant impact player, and that they'll need to put in some good development time with him, as well as provide some stability, something they haven't done with guys like Omri Casspi, Donté Greene, and even Jason Thompson to an extent.

High-risk, High-reward.  That's Vesely in a nutshell.

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