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Grading Every Key Washington Wizards Player Heading into the NBA All-Star Break

Jonathan MunshawCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2014

Grading Every Key Washington Wizards Player Heading into the NBA All-Star Break

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    The Washington Wizards are in position to make the playoffs, but which players are getting them there, and who needs to step up for the Wizards to grab the third spot in the Eastern Conference?
    The Washington Wizards are in position to make the playoffs, but which players are getting them there, and who needs to step up for the Wizards to grab the third spot in the Eastern Conference?Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Barring a major collapse, the Washington Wizards are going to make the playoffs. That last time fans were able to talk about that, Gilbert Arenas was the team's starting point guard. 

    But heading into the All-Star break, it looks like the Wizards are going to get back to the Arenas days.

    After the break, they need to get back (or over) the .500 mark, something they did last week for the first time since October 2009. 

    It doesn't depend on them making the playoffs, but at some points during the season, they have looked as if they could take the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference. 

    Despite some serious bench issues, the Wizards seem like a great candidate to take over the spot over a Derrick Rose-less Bulls or the slipping Atlanta Hawks

    They still sit at two games under .500, but these 10 key players for the Wizards are talented enough to get them over that mark again and into the postseason. 

    Although we've graded these players throughout the year, these grades reflect their performances from the first game of the season to the All-Star break. 

    Note: All stats are from ESPN unless otherwise noted and are current as of the morning of Feb. 14.

Jan Vesely

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    Despite playing some quality defensive minutes early on in January, Jan Vesely has since been relegated to being a benchwarmer.
    Despite playing some quality defensive minutes early on in January, Jan Vesely has since been relegated to being a benchwarmer.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Jan Vesely started out the season has a depth guy who could play defensive minutes.

    Since then, he has fallen almost completely out of favor with the coaching staff. 

    He continues to be awful on offense, averaging just 3.3 points per game and shooting less than 30 percent from the foul line. On the positive side, he can pull off some sweet dunks and is pulling down more than three rebounds per game. 

    But with Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker improving, Vesely's minutes have dwindled, with head coach Randy Wittman often choosing to just sit him outright. 

    In February, Vesely has only played a total of 24 minutes in seven games. 

    Some people will blame the coach for sitting Vesely and throwing off his confidence, but even early on in the season, he didn't do much to show that he was worth playing during this second-half playoff push. 

    Vesely played in nine games in December, shooting just 13.3 percent from the charity stripe and pulling down less than three rebounds. Seraphin and Chris Singleton will provide better numbers than that at least.

    Grade: D+

Garrett Temple

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    Garrett Temple hasn't been effective on offense, but he's logging some quality defensive minutes as a depth guy.
    Garrett Temple hasn't been effective on offense, but he's logging some quality defensive minutes as a depth guy.Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    Despite playing some shooting guard and small forward, Garrett Temple has been almost as bad as Vesely on offense. 

    Granted, he is a defense-first kind of player, but he's still shooting just 36.3 percent from the floor and averaging less points than Vesely. 

    But Temple is only attempting about two shots per game, so there's not much to expect from him in the scoring category. 

    He's playing 11.5 minutes per game, but that's mainly because no one else can play shooting guard after Bradley Beal. Martell Webster has been playing backup shooting guard and small forward, but if Trevor Ariza isn't on the floor, Temple probably is. 

    Temple hasn't been as openly bad as Vesely, but the Wizards need more out of him offensively going forward. 

    Grade: C-

Kevin Seraphin

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    Head coach Randy Wittman hasn't been playing Kevin Seraphin consistently, but he's heated up in the last month or so and should see some increased playing time with improved offensive play.
    Head coach Randy Wittman hasn't been playing Kevin Seraphin consistently, but he's heated up in the last month or so and should see some increased playing time with improved offensive play.Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Kevin Seraphin got off to a slow start to the season, getting passed up on the depth chart for Jan Vesely. 

    But in 2014, his offensive game has come on, and he is getting more minutes because of it. 

    In seven games in February, he is shooting almost 57 percent from the floor and averaging eight points and 4.4 rebounds per game, according to ESPN

    Seraphin was a big reason why the Wizards were able to break the .500 mark against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 3, scoring 19 points in 23 minutes and making seven of his 10 shots. 

    And two games ago against the Memphis Grizzlies, he had four blocks.

    He's always been a defensive liability and continues to show lapses in defensive awareness, but his offensive game as picked up enough to make him deserving of double-digit minutes every night. 

    But because of his slow start to the season, his grade is lower than it would be if it was just based on last month's play. 

    Grade: C

Trevor Booker

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    Trevor Booker has been the most surprising player for the Wizards this season, starting in some games over Nene and logging quality minutes off the bench.
    Trevor Booker has been the most surprising player for the Wizards this season, starting in some games over Nene and logging quality minutes off the bench.Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    For the hypothetical Washington Wizards' most improved player award, Trevor Booker is the early favorite. 

    He is on pace to surpass his numbers from last year in points, field-goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks. 

    He isn't scoring as much as he did during the 2011-12 season when he averaged more than eight points per game, but Booker has been a valuable asset to the Wizards. In an effort to keep Nene healthy, Booker has even started in certain situations, and when he has been injured this season, the defense of the team has taken a clear blow. 

    Booker has improved under the hoop, making 61.69 percent of his shots from inside eight feet, compared to 55.92 percent last season, according to NBA Stats

    He's not going to make many highlight plays, but Booker has been a bright spot on a bench that has been otherwise disappointing this season. 

    Grade: B

Martell Webster

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    Martell Webster is Washington's sixth man and has shown versatility, playing at the 2 and 3 spots and putting up some solid offensive numbers.
    Martell Webster is Washington's sixth man and has shown versatility, playing at the 2 and 3 spots and putting up some solid offensive numbers.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Although Martell Webster isn't going to start as many games this year as he did last season, he's on pace to play more minutes. He has been Washington's sixth man, playing either small forward or shooting guard depending upon who else is on the floor. 

    In almost 30 minutes per game, he is averaging 10.7 points and 3.4 rebounds—not great numbers but ones that the Wizards need off the bench. 

    In February, he has started to struggle with his shooting, going 3-of-9 against the Thunder, 3-of-10 against the Kings and 1-of-5 against the Grizzlies. 

    Match those shooting percentages against his games earlier this season of 30, 21 and 20, respectively, and you have a perfectly average season from Martell Webster. 

    Grade: C+

Nene

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    Nene has largely avoided the injury bug that has plagued him the last three years or so, and he makes the Wizards a significantly better team when he's in the lineup.
    Nene has largely avoided the injury bug that has plagued him the last three years or so, and he makes the Wizards a significantly better team when he's in the lineup.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    All things considered, this has been a pretty healthy season for Nene so far (knock on wood). 

    He has only missed seven games this season on just one injury, and the Wizards have done a good job of sitting him on occasion to keep him healthy. If the Wizards are serious about making a playoff push, they'll want to continue to limit his minutes because they'll need him fresh. 

    He is pulling down almost six rebounds per game, and he's on pace to have a career-best three assists per game. 

    It's hard to forget the image of Nene missing some last-second mid-range jumpers in at least two games this season, but he is still averaging 14 points per game. 

    Against the Kings the other night, he shut down DeMarcus Cousins, forcing him to miss 13 of his 16 shots. 

    Nene's stats haven't been amazing (the team could do without his 60 percent free-throw shooting) but he is so valuable to the Wizards that his grade gets elevated. 

    Grade: B+

Trevor Ariza

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    Trevor Ariza has shown that he can be a great defensive player  with some range on offense, leading the Wizards in three-pointers made.
    Trevor Ariza has shown that he can be a great defensive player with some range on offense, leading the Wizards in three-pointers made.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    The Wizards are fifth in the league in three-point percentage, and who is leading the team in three-pointers made? Trevor Ariza. 

    It's tough not to inflate his grade because of his 10 made three-pointers against the Rockets, but he has definitely been impressive from behind the arc. 

    On the defensive side of the ball, he has been one of the best players for the Wizards, posting almost five defensive rebounds per game along with 1.9 steals. 

    He has also already eclipsed his career-best double-double total, with eight so far this year. 

    Even better news, the Wizards aren't looking to trade Ariza with his expiring contract before the deadline. In fact, they are looking to re-sign him in the offseason, according to J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet Washington. 

    The Wizards can't afford to lose him at this point, as he's far too valuable in the current roster. 

    Grade: A-

Marcin Gortat

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    Marcin Gortat has played in every game for Washington this season and has logged 17 double-doubles.
    Marcin Gortat has played in every game for Washington this season and has logged 17 double-doubles.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Aside from literally replacing Emeka Okafor in Washington's lineup, Marcin Gortat has figuratively become this year's Okafor for the Wizards. He is the defensive anchor in the paint, leading the team in rebounds and blocks and posting 17 double-doubles. 

    After complaining earlier in the year that he wasn't getting the ball close enough to the basket on offense, he's caught fire from near the rim, shooting 78.2 percent at the rim, according to Basketball Reference

    On defense, the block numbers look good, but at times his defense hasn't been as good as it could be when playing off offensive screens. 

    His status with the Wizards for the future is still in question with his contract expiring at the end of this year, but as long as he is on the roster, Gortat is one of the three best players on the team. 

    Grade: B+

Bradley Beal

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    Besides John Wall, Bradley Beal has been the best player for the Wizards and has improved significantly over his rookie year.
    Besides John Wall, Bradley Beal has been the best player for the Wizards and has improved significantly over his rookie year.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    If there were any questions about Bradley Beal heading into this season, he's answered all of them, proving that he is one of the up-and-coming shooting guards in the NBA

    He isn't an All-Star, but he is participating in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Three-Point Contest. 

    Compared to his rookie campaign, he is averaging almost four more points and has improved his three-point shooting by about four percentage points. In 12 games this season, he has scored 20 or more points, including a career-high 37 points two games ago against the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    But on the other side of the floor, Beal has struggled defensively. According to Basketball Reference, his defensive rating (an estimate of how many points he allows per 100 possessions) sits at 107, two points higher than his rookie year. 

    Still, it's tough to look past how good he is as a shooter, especially from behind the three-point line, and Beal will only continue to get better. 

    Grade: A-

John Wall

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    John Wall has been the Wizards' MVP this season, making the All-Star team and leading the team in points, assists and steals.
    John Wall has been the Wizards' MVP this season, making the All-Star team and leading the team in points, assists and steals.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    This upcoming grade isn't going to be a surprise to anyone. 

    John Wall is an All-Star, leads the Wizards in points and assists, is third in the NBA in assists and is the heart of the team.

    But where does he go in the second half of the season? 

    He isn't getting to the foul line nearly as often as last season, and he is taking more jump shots than in the past. 

    Wall is better when he is driving to the hoop, kicking it out to Beal or Ariza for a jumper. Sometimes he settles for jump shots, but as of late he's done better with driving to the basket. 

    Other than that, there isn't too much you can point out to dismiss Wall's strong season. He's in the Slam Dunk Contest and might have been a starter for the East in the All-Star Game if not for fan voting. 

    This is Wall's best year of his career, and he deserves to be considered one of the top five point guards in the NBA. 

    Grade: A

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