Initial Report Card Grades for Every Key Washington Wizards Player
After heading into the season being expected to answer problems from last year and make the playoffs, the Washington Wizards have only ended up with questions so far in 2013-14.
Between Bradley Beal's recently announced leg injury that will keep him out at least two weeks (per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today), John Wall's up-and-down play and the overall poor performance of the bench, fans have begun to question how far this team can actually go this season.
Surprisingly, the offense has managed to score enough points to get the Wizards to a 6-8 record as of Tuesday night, and this can be attributed to 10 specific players on the roster. However, it's important to look at how these 10 guys are playing and what they need to improve upon if Washington has any hopes of getting to .500 or better.
Some of the players with higher grades on this list don't necessarily have the best statistics on the team, but rather they have contributed more to the overall team performance (which, in the Wizards' case, is essentially the starting five).
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com and accurate as of Nov. 27.
10. Jan Vesely
Who would have thought that Vesely would be playing 17 minutes per game heading into this season? Probably no one.
After some uninspired performances from Kevin Seraphin, though, Vesely got the nod from head coach Randy Wittman.
Despite the increased minutes, however, Vesely has yet to show that he is worthy of the extra playing time, averaging just fewer than three points per game.
While Vesely has been able to pull down more than five rebounds per contest, the same things continue to pull him down: little to no offensive production and poor free-throw shooting.
Vesely has yet to make a free throw this year, and his offensive highlights consist of a dunk or two and not much else. He'll be on his way out of Washington (and maybe the NBA) at the end of this year.
9. Trevor Booker
Booker has been getting fewer minutes than Vesely, but he has at least been slightly more productive.
After getting the nod to start in the first game of the season, Booker has only seen about 12 minutes of floor time per game.
In those 12 minutes, Booker has only been averaging just more than three points and three rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
There's honestly not much more to say about Booker, who isn't blocking or stealing shots and—like Vesely—has yet to make a free throw. If Nene were to go down, Booker would likely be the next man up, but he needs to improve before fans should feel comfortable with that.
8. Kevin Seraphin
Keeping with the theme of awful bench play, Kevin Seraphin comes in with the same grade as the other big men mentioned thus far.
Seraphin was expected to be a much larger contributor to the team than he has been, at least on offense.
In 10 games, Seraphin has played in just more than eight minutes per game, posting averages of fewer than three points and two rebounds.
As you'd expect from Seraphin, he is also completely unproductive on defense, leading to Vesely getting more minutes.
If the bench is going to get any better, Seraphin needs to be the first player to make the move toward increased productivity.
7. Al Harrington
Finally, a breath of fresh air.
Harrington has been serviceable off the bench in seven games this year, and he has essentially done what he was brought in to do: shoot threes.
Harrington is shooting 42.9 percent from the three this year, and he is averaging just fewer than eight points per game. However, he has missed the last two games with a sore knee, and the last thing the Wizards need is less depth on the bench.
Throughout his career (especially last year), Harrington has had to fight off various injuries, and seeing him dealing with an ailment so soon is not promising for the rest of the year.
Harrington's presence has allowed the Wizards to stretch the floor more, though, and he has changed the way the Wizards approach their offensive strategy.
The Wizards are currently eighth in the NBA in three-pointers made per game, and while that's not all due to Harrington's presence, he has certainly been a factor.
6. Martell Webster
As the Wizards continue to become more of an offensive-minded team, Webster has been given a bigger role off of the bench as a spark who can make threes in bunches.
In 13 games but only five starts, Webster is shooting 38.2 percent from three, making more than two threes per game.
Webster has simply not lived up to the $22 million that the Wizards spent on him this offseason to bring him back as a presumed starter, though.
Despite Webster having back-to-back games of more than 50 percent shooting, his poor performances are hard to overlook. This season, Webster has posted point totals of zero, five and six and has often tried to shoot himself out of slumps, which has yet to work in a poor shooting game for him. When Webster is off, he's off.
Trevor Ariza has really taken over as the main small forward in Washington, and even 43.9 percent shooting isn't good enough to give Webster a higher grade thus far.
5. Trevor Ariza
A lot of fans will give Trevor Ariza credit for the huge point totals that he's been able to rip off in his eight starts, but points don't tell the full story in this case.
The small forward has been a starter but has recently had to fight off a hamstring injury. In his eight starts, Ariza is averaging just fewer than 15 points and more than six rebounds per game.
Prior to missing five games, Ariza had point totals of 27 and 28, respectively, but he's only shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and 40 percent from behind the arc.
Ariza continues to be a strong defensive option, averaging more than two steals per game while pulling in just fewer than five defensive rebounds per game. He can get into shooting grooves where he'll put up poor shots that just don't have a chance of going in.
In the second and third games of the season (against the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat), Ariza shot 5-for-15 and 4-for-16, respectively. He also is shooting just 58.3 percent from the charity stripe (a common theme among Wizards players).
Ariz has been a very capable scorer at times, but he'll need to be more consistent if he wants to continue getting starts over Martell Webster.
In his 11 games this season, Nene is on pace to pass his averages from last season in terms of points, assists and blocks. He is also shooting 53 percent from the floor.
That's not bad for a guy who was expected to struggle after the acquisition of Marcin Gortat from the Phoenix Suns earlier this season.
Defense hasn't been one of Nene's strong suits throughout his career, but poor defensive play is holding Nene back from getting higher marks so far this year.
He is allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference, and he is averaging his lowest number of defensive rebounds since the 2007-08 season, when he played in just 16 games for the Denver Nuggets.
The big man is playing well on offense, but he isn't the same on defense without Emeka Okafor's presence down low.
3. Marcin Gortat
Despite losing out on Emeka Okafor's defense in this trade, Marcin Gortat seems to be making a big difference on the court on offense.
Through 13 games, Gortat already has six double-doubles, which is on pace to beat his season-high number of 31 double-doubles that he set in the 2011-12 season.
Gortat is shooting more than 51 percent from the floor while scoring more than 12 points and picking up just fewer than 10 boards per contest. The Polish Hammer leads the team in rebounds and blocks since he arrived, and he has formed a good relationship with Nene, on and off the court.
Inside eight feet, Gortat is shooting more than 62 percent, according to NBA Stats, which is above the league average.
He can block shots, but Gortat is often a passive defensive player and can easily be blown by, leading to the loss of a few points on the grading scale. However, he is already showing that the Wizards' trade for him will pay off.
2. Bradley Beal
Not even the biggest Bradley Beal fan could have predicted the great start that he has had this season.
Before being slowed down with a leg injury, he was averaging more than 20 points and four rebounds per game and was leading the Wizards in scoring.
The biggest knock against Beal is his shot selection and the fact that he has barely managed to keep his field-goal percentage above 40 percent. However, his ability to put up serious points overshadows his poor shooting percentage.
In two games this season, Beal has led all players in scoring, and he has contributed to Washington's newfound offense, shooting 43.9 percent from the three.
If he keeps this up, Beal could find himself in the All-Star Game come February.
1. John Wall
There shouldn't be any doubt at this point that John Wall is the Wizards' best player, flaws and all.
Although he's shooting just 41.1 percent from the floor, Wall is second on the team in scoring and has taken over games when necessary, making a serious early case for an All-Star appearance.
Scoring aside, Wall is second in the league in assists per game (8.9) and has improved on his defense, so far increasing his steal and defensive-rebounding averages from last season.
Wall has once again taken a liking to driving to the basket, but if the Wizards really want to make some noise, he'll have to improve his jump shot.
Between eight and 16 feet, Wall has made only eight of the 28 shots he's taken. But he is on a mission to prove that his leadership shouldn't be questioned and that he is ready to take this team to the postseason.