Raptors HQ Draft Prospect Preview #2 - Chris Singleton


Continuing with their series of 2011 NBA draft prospect previews, the HQ turns their attention to Florida State's Chris Singleton...

Yesterday we launched into a look at some of the lesser-known players in the upcoming NBA draft, ones that while not slated to go in the top five, still seem to be of interest to the Toronto Raptors.

We kicked things off with Alec Burks, and today, we look at another slightly under-the-radar type, Florida State's Chris Singleton.

Singleton is one of my favourite players in this draft, and believe it or not, someone I think Toronto should take a strong look at, even with the fifth pick.

Why?

Well for starters, he's a perfect fit for this team as he would help address two big needs immediately; perimeter defence and long-range shooting.

Singleton is arguably the best overall defender in this draft class using his tremendous size (6-9, 230 lbs), strength and quickness to cause absolute havoc at that end of the court.  I saw it first hand as a Duke fan when he shut down the Blue Devils 3-point shooting this past season, ending in an upset for his club over the then ranked number one Dukies.

We all know how desperately Toronto needs to improve in this regard and there's no question the addition of Singleton would provide an immediate boost.

In addition, besides being a great defensive player, Singleton has been a long-range threat over his NCAA career, shooting 37 per cent from downtown last season for Florida State as one of the team's main offensive focal points. That percentage, despite the increase in distance of the NBA 3-point line, could even improve next season as it's doubtful he'll be counted on to provide much of a team's scoring, getting open looks as defenses collapse on his more offensively gifted teammates.

In a recent interview with Hoopsworld, Singleton declared himself to be a "modern day Scottie Pippen,"  however he has a long ways to go offensively before that occurs.

He's not a great offensive player by any stretch of the imagination, and to touch more on this and Mr. Singleton's other attributes, we turn to Michael Rogner, the basketball columnist for SB Nation's Florida State Blog, Tomahawk Nation, and author of "Run the Floor," an ACC-focussed basketball blog:

-Background:

Chris was a product of the Atlanta Celtics, one of the premier AAU programs in the south. When he committed to Florida State he was arguably the most important player landed at FSU in the past 15 years, as he caused other players like Mike Snaer, Ian Miller, etc... to view FSU as a potential destination. He was a starter from the time he stepped foot on campus, and following a freshman season where Toney Douglas took the ball and everyone else got out of the way, Singleton became the leader for his sophomore and junior seasons. In his tenure the Noles broke a ten year NCAA Tournament drought, and he leaves with the Seminoles having gone to three straight Tournaments. He's in the Seminole career top-10 for both rebounds and steals, and he has one of the only triple-doubles in NCAA history which involved steals.

-Strengths:

Singleton is the best all around defensive player in college. In 2010-11 the media robbed him of his 2nd straight ACC Defensive Player of the Year award because he missed several games with a broken foot, but the coaches - who obviously know better - voted unanimously in his favor. At 6'9" he's a rare player who could guard any 2, 3 or 4 in the conference, as well as most 5s and some of the 1s. And he did this without having elite lateral speed. He has remarkable foot work, balance, anticipation and perhaps the quickest hands of any college big man. He was often used by Leonard Hamilton to shut down an opposing scorer (see 1st half of Duke game), but just as often he was assigned to a lesser talent so that he could play off that player and use his anticipation and length to menace passing lanes and wreck shop. One-on-one he's intuitive and due to exceptional footwork rarely gets beat on the wrong side - he always knows where his help is and funnels his man toward it. And he plays with consistent, balls-to-the-wall intensity. He bought FSU numerous possessions each game through his rebounding, blocked shots and steals.

-Weaknesses:

While his offensive game was far more nuanced his junior year in comparison to his previous two, he's simply not a polished NBA level offensive player. With his feet set he's an excellent shooter out to the NBA 3-pt line, but off the dribble his mechanics break down. He also has a tendency to drift too much on the perimeter even when he has a mismatch inside, though any NBA coach worth his salt should be able to correct this. Coach Hamilton isn't exactly known for free-flowing, efficient offenses, so with the added practice time that comes with the professional game I'd expect his offensive decision making to improve. His interior passing is forced, and he doesn't have a good understanding of post-entry angles. He also needs to work on his free throw shooting, as a player who's gifted at getting to the line he's just a 60% career shooter (66.7% this season).

Defensively, his only real weakness is that he thinks he can take the ball from anyone at anytime, and in doing so commits a couple silly reach fouls each game.

-Upside:

Singleton falls into the "freak athlete" category, even in comparison to NBA players, and his offensive potential hasn't been tapped. His mechanics are solid, but inconsistent, and just prior to breaking his foot was playing the best basketball of his career - having scored 42 points on just 20 shots in his last 3 games, mostly by using his inside game to open up perimeter shots which he was hitting. He also excels in higher tempo situations, which should translate well to the pro game. And as just about any player who played multiple seasons under Coach Hamilton, he's physical, exerts maximum effort, and never backs down.

-Future as an NBA SF?

At the very least he'll be one of the best defensive small forwards in the league from the moment he signs his contract. But his value as a #1 pick will ultimately come down to his offense. And I doubt he'll blow anyone away his rookie season - though he'll certainly have breakout games. But with his work ethic, intelligence and willingness to be coached, I'm confident that he'll blossom into the type of player that is critical to a championship caliber team's success. He'll never be the offensive face of an organization, but the superstars out there would be negligent if they didn't appreciate the value of a teammate like Singleton. He's a unique commodity in this draft, but his uniqueness also makes his true value difficult to judge.

A big thanks to Michael for an incredibly insightful breakdown, and it's interesting to see just how far Singleton has to go offensively.

This is my biggest concern too, but considering how well he tested at the draft combine (one of the top 15 athletes based on Draftexpress' ranking system), how important having someone of his size and defensive caliber now is in the league, and his ability to stretch the floor, to me this is the safest pick the Raps could make come June.

He doesn't have the upside of a Knight or even some of the foreign players, but right now he's ahead of names like Alec Burks and Kawhi Leonard on our draft board, which will be re-introduced this weekend.

I couldn't find many great compilations from his time as a Seminole but here are some highlights of his career-high 23 points last season versus Georgia Tech:


 

One final thought that some may have upon reading Singleton's breakdown; does he become a James Johnson clone?

I don't think so.

Sure, we're talking two players with great size for the 3-spot in the league, but the scary thing is that Singleton is even bigger than Johnson.

Johnson's pre-draft measurements had him standing a shade under 6-8, with a 8 foot, 9.5 inch standing reach and a wingspan of just under 7 feet and an inch.

Singleton's measured out slightly taller and longer, in addition to being leaner, quicker, and more athletic.

Really, outside of immediate physical similarities, these are two completely different players in my books.  While Johnson has the potential to be a great defender, he was never a lock-down type even at Wake Forest.  He's also a lot more skilled in terms of his passing ability and ball-handling than Singleton, more of an offensive force off the bounce and in close, and not as good a long-range shooter.  In fact you could argue that these two players would be nice complements to each other on the court, a scary thought for opposing NBA teams.

So would I draft Singleton with the fifth pick of the NBA draft?

At this point that might be a bit high considering his offensive issues, however I can't help but think how much tougher an opponent the Raptors would be if they could at times throw out a 6-9 shooting guard in Singleton to stretch the floor and defend LeBron James' types, and a 6-8 small forward in James Johnson who could punish his opponent on the blocks.

The second coming of Scottie Pippen, Singleton is not, however if drafted, I'm hard pressed to think that he wouldn't provide a great return on investment for a woeful defensive club like the Raps.

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