Washington Wizards Stock Watch: Risers and Fallers at NBA All-Star Break
At 15-36, it's hard to say that the Washington Wizards are having a successful season.
By most standards, they're not.
But with seemingly young talent at almost every position, the Wizards are, in fact, showing signs of improvement. Furthermore, when you factor in point guard John Wall missing all but 18 games during the first half of the season, it lessens the pain of the numbers seen in the standings a little.
Washington fans don't—or at least shouldn't—expect to see a contending team on the floor this season. Instead, they should be focused on the growth and development of the plethora of youth the franchise has at its disposal.
With All-Star Weekend festivities getting started tonight, now is a good time to take a look at the Wizards roster to see whose stock is rising and whose stock is falling.
Rising: Bradley Beal
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Despite missing a stretch of games recently, Bradley Beal is proving he can play on the NBA level.
The 19-year-old rookie out of Florida is proving that the Wizards made the correct choice when they took him third overall last summer in the draft. Coming off of back-to-back Rookie of the Month awards in December and January, Beal heads into the halfway point on a high note.
Beal ranks third among rookies in points per game at 13.2, sixth in assists at 2.5 and 16th in rebounds at 3.3 a night.
From a physical standpoint, Beal hasn't had too much trouble adapting to the NBA game. At 6'3", he's a little small for the shooting guard position, but that hasn't stopped him due to his great athleticism and knack for scoring.
Perhaps what's most interesting about the numbers he's putting up is that he's not shooting great.
A shooter capable of knocking shots down at a much higher rate, Beal is at just 39.3 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from behind the three-point line. As these numbers go up, obviously the others will too.
For now though, it appears as though the Wizards made a wise choice when they drafted him.
Falling: Trevor Ariza
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Following his solid play during the 2008-09 season with the Los Angeles Lakers—and his subsequent solid play that year in the postseason—Trevor Ariza showed all the signs of becoming a major contributor.
Prior to the 2009-10 season, Ariza signed a five-year, $33 million contract with the Houston Rockets and went on to post career highs in points, rebounds and assists.
Since then, however, Ariza has failed to live up to those expectations, and it's become quite noticeable in the nation's capital.
Despite missing 17 games early on, Ariza is averaging just 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 24.6 minutes a night so far this season.
And while Ariza is still a very capable defender for a team that ranks last in the league in scoring, the Wizards need him to be a more consistent threat on offense.
Over his last five games, he's shown a bit of a spark, but he'll need to do so even more after the All-Star break.
Rising: John Wall
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Some of Stan Van Gundy's criticisms of John Wall are probably legitimate.
It's true that Wall needs a lot of work when it comes to his jump shot, and it's true that he needs to become a more consistent, reliable scorer. It would also help a lot if he could cut down on his high turnover rate.
That said, Wall has the natural ability to become a great player in the league. His quickness is second to none, and his ability to get to the rim and either draw a foul or finish is right up there with the best point guards in the league.
And for a guy that missed all but 18 games during the first half of the season due to a knee injury, it appears as if he's picking up where he left off.
Wall is averaging 14.7 points, 7.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 42.8 percent from the floor. These numbers—other than shooting percentage—are just slightly below his career numbers.
There is definitely room for improvement. However, with just 18 games under his belt, Wall is well on his way to a productive second half of the season.
Areas of his game certainly need work, but there is no reason to believe that Wall's stock is going in any direction other than up.
Falling: Jordan Crawford
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The first half of the 2012-13 season for Jordan Crawford is one that could best be explained as a tale of two halves itself.
From October through December, Crawford averaged 14.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. This included an impressive month of December that saw him averaging 19.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.
His scoring can partially be attributed to the fact that he is a volume shooter and that John Wall was injured. Nonetheless, he was contributing in other aspects of the game as well.
But as the calendar changed to 2013, it seemed as if Crawford left his game in the previous year.
Since the start of the new year, Crawford has struggled mightily. In January and to this point in February, he's averaging 7.1 points, 1.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds per game.
Not only that, but in the final five games prior to All-Star Weekend, Crawford played a combined 11 minutes and scored just three points. By all indications, he has found himself in Randy Wittman's dog house.
Only time will tell the Wizards which version of Crawford they'll get after the break, but if the last two months are of any substance, things aren't looking good.
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For struggling players, All-Star Weekend is often a welcome sight. For others, it couldn't come at a more inopportune time. Wizards center Nene falls into the latter category.
After missing nine games at the start of the season and struggling a bit in January, Nene has started February off on a very high note. Averaging 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, Nene has provided a much-needed post threat for the Wizards.
Not only is he posting his best scoring numbers of the season so far this month, but he's doing so at a very high rate. Shooting 56.6 percent from the field, Nene is scoring with great efficiency. This is especially crucial when guys like Beal and Wall are struggling with their shots.
This is the Nene everyone in D.C. expected to see when he came over via trade last season. If he continues this play throughout the second half, his stock will keep going up.
Falling: Kevin Seraphin
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From the start of the season and through January, Kevin Seraphin looked like he was finally starting to get it. He was proving that, at worst, he could be a valuable big man coming off the bench.
However, in seven games thus far this month, he has looked completely different.
Naturally, with a decrease in minutes, numbers tend to go down as well. But for Seraphin, his scoring has taken quite a bit of a hit. His average of 4.7 points per game is down from 10.8 in January, and he's also averaging one less rebound a night.
Perhaps the increase in quality of play from guys like Emeka Okafor and Nene is getting into Seraphin's head. Or perhaps he's simply starting to level off and revert back to his career averages.
Seraphin is a crucial piece for the Wizards coming off the bench, and his consistency plays a vital role to the success of the team. He'll need to get things turned around if Washington looks to continue to improve during the second half of the season.
Whatever the reason for his recent struggles, his stock is currently on the decline.