Power Ranking Every Key Washington Wizards Player Before Season's End
At the beginning of the season, who would have thought that a group of 30-year-olds would be a big reason for the Washington Wizards' success?
Everyone knew about the young guns on the roster, but it would have been tough to expect Al Harrington, Andre Miller (who started out the year in Denver) and Drew Gooden (who wasn't even on a team when the season started) to make the difference.
The Wizards now consist of young starting talent—mainly John Wall and Bradley Beal—and a strong veteran bench.
Going forward, though, will the Wizards continue to lean on these veterans, or will they go back to focusing on the younger (at least compared to Gooden) players?
That's why it's important to rank the players with only a few weeks left in the regular season. Washington needs to know who it can rely on down the stretch to lock up a playoff seed and what the rotation should be in the postseason.
These rankings will take into account each player's whole body of work, but because of the recent emergence of the veterans, recent performance will weigh heavily.
10. Al Harrington
Fifteen-year veteran Al Harrington missed most of this season with a knee injury but has since returned to provide some valuable bench minutes to the Wizards.
His numbers aren't very good, and his offense has been mediocre at best. In 20 games this year, the stretch 4 is only averaging 6.1 points and 1.9 rebounds, but his shooting hasn't been bad.
He is shooting almost 38 percent from three-point range and gives the Wizards the ability to stretch the floor.
This has been even more important with the addition of Gooden, who is anything but quick at this point in his career. Playing Harrington at the same time as Gooden gives Washington the ability to spread out the floor and play Gooden in or near the paint with Harrington patrolling the perimeter.
On the defensive side of the ball, he also brings some energy to the team and is a reliable defender.
Although Harrington hasn't been a knockdown shooter this season, the experience he brings to the roster puts him above the guys who didn't make this list (Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton).
9. Trevor Booker
With Drew Gooden and Al Harrington taking on bigger roles, Booker hasn't played nearly as big of a role as he was expected to once Nene went down.
But he is still playing more minutes this month than he has in his entire career, averaging just more than 27 minutes per game.
He has been one of the most reliable big men for the Wizards over the course of the year, but he appears at the back of this list due to his lack of offensive production. His point average per 36 minutes is actually lower this season than it was in his second year in the NBA, but he has an impressive field-goal percentage of 54 percent.
Still, he doesn't provide much on the offensive end, averaging a little more than four points in February.
In nine games in March, he is approaching 10 points per game, but he's not being as productive on offense as the other big men on the roster.
From the defensive perspective, Booker has been reliable, posting 5.7 defensive rebounds per game and just under one block.
When it comes time for Randy Wittman to find out who will get minutes in the playoffs, Booker deserves some playing time because of his effort on the court and his high shooting percentage.
8. Andre Miller
Statistically speaking, the trade that brought Andre Miller to Washington and sent away previous backup point guard Eric Maynor was kind of a wash.
If Maynor had gotten the same amount of minutes that Miller is currently getting, they would probably be averaging the same number of points and assists.
But Miller brings so much more than what shows up in the box score.
Before, with Maynor, the offense stagnated when John Wall had to come off the court.
Miller isn't putting up huge numbers, but he is more than capable of running this offense, and he is the "captain" of the so-called "AARP group" of him, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden.
As the playoffs approach, the Wizards should feel comfortable with giving Wall more time to rest as long as Miller is around, and he will be a part of this team's second unit in the postseason.
Are the Wizards a much better team with Nene in the lineup than without? Yes. But because he's been missing from the lineup and the Wizards keep finding ways to win, he is not as highly ranked here as he would have been three weeks ago.
Until he went down with a sprained MCL, the argument could be made that Nene was the third most valuable player to the Wizards. In 49 games, he has eclipsed his numbers from last season in points, steals, assists (barely) and field-goal shooting.
Nene and Marcin Gortat have developed a strong bond since Gortat came over this offseason from Phoenix, and they make up a strong frontcourt for Washington when Nene is in the lineup.
The Wizards seem to be OK without him for the time being, but they'll be a much better team when he comes back healthy.
As Umair Kahn from Bullets Forever pointed out, the Wizards are still lacking a player who can drive to the basket. When he's in the lineup. Nene can roam seven feet away from the basket, which opens up more lanes for John Wall or Gortat: "Washington has become overly-reliant on dribble-drives, but what happens when teams are either staying home on shooters or the three-ball simply isn't falling? There's no semblance of misdirection or shooters running of screens, and that's only going to haunt them in a seven-game playoff series."
6. Martell Webster
The Wizards have been starting with Trevor Ariza at small forward and finishing with Martell Webster, and Webster seems to accept it.
He has only started 13 games all season, but he has come through for the Wizards when he is needed most: at the end of games.
Although his overall scoring is down from last year (a year that got him a three-year deal with the Wizards), he has been great in the fourth quarter of games when Randy Wittman chooses to put more shooters on the floor and stick Drew Gooden or Marcin Gortat in the paint.
In fourth quarters this season, Webster has shot 44 percent from three. He really only occupies the perimeter, occasionally taking the ball to the hoop but mainly waiting on the wings for John Wall to kick it out to him.
He's also become the master of the four-point play, coming through at the end of games by drawing a foul while sinking a three-pointer.
Ariza has dominated the small forward position overall for Washington, but Webster has been a great role player and will have a position on this team off the bench for the foreseeable future.
5. Drew Gooden
Drew Gooden has a lot of people on his side right now, and rightfully so.
In just nine games since being signed by the Wizards to initially be a stopgap until Nene could return from his MCL injury, he has scored double-digit points in five games, most recently scoring 21 and 18 points, respectively, in the last two contests.
After a shootaround in Miami back on March 12, Randy Wittman told Michael Lee of The Washington Post that he was impressed at how quickly Gooden has gotten into game shape after not playing at all most of this season: "It’s hard considering you haven’t played all year, but obviously, he’s showing he was doing something rather than just sitting on the couch. That’s a credit to him. Because he’s gotten his legs under him pretty quickly."
Gooden hasn't started a game yet, but he earns this high ranking mainly just because of how much he has added to the Wizards since his first night on the court.
After Nene's injury, the Wizards could have easily dropped down to the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs with a few losses, but Gooden has been a big part of the m winning six out of their last 10 games.
The Wizards made sure that he was part of their roster for the playoffs too, signing him for the rest of the season once his initial 10-day contract expired.
4. Trevor Ariza
Sticking at the same position, Trevor Ariza deserves a top-five spot on this list for one reason: He is the best three-point shooter on the second-best three-point shooting team in the NBA.
Ariza has had a career season, making almost 42 percent of his shots from beyond on the arc. He has made eight or more three-pointers twice in the last 35 days.
He's been able to do it all—from catch-and-shoot jumpers to creating his own shot off the dribble.
This has been the nine-year veteran's best season since his one-year stint with the Houston Rockets during the 2008-09 season.
Drew Gooden has been great for the Wizards since he's joined the team, but it is difficult to argue against a guy who is having a career year and someone who has improved his shooting by four percentage points from last season.
3. Marcin Gortat
Say what you will about Drew Gooden's recent performance, but Marcin Gortat has been the primary big man for the Wizards all season.
Besides leading the team in blocks and rebounds, he is third in player efficiency rating. He has yet to miss a game and is third on the team in field-goal shooting, which makes him one of the most reliable players on the roster.
With Gooden's recent success, Randy Wittman has been playing Gooden over Gortat in the fourth quarter. But instead of sitting on the end of the bench, Gortat is the first person to high-five Gooden during timeouts and maintains great body language even when he's not playing in crunch time.
There's a strong argument out there that the Wizards could have waited on the Gortat trade and kept their first-round draft pick; however, most Wizards fans would probably do that trade over and over again just to have the strong frontcourt of Gortat and Nene (when healthy) this year.
2. Bradley Beal
Going forward, there should be some concern over Bradley Beal's shot selection.
In the last month, he has had three games of sub-40 percent shooting and often struggles to find his shot.
But you can't discount what his scoring ability means to the Wizards. He is the second scoring option and makes up one of the most promising backcourts in the NBA along with John Wall.
The second-year player out of Florida hasn't scored in the single digits since Feb. 18, and March has been his best month in terms of scoring since December.
Also, keep in mind that Beal has been restricted for parts of this season by a minutes limit imposed by Randy Wittman. When he can regularly play 36 minutes per night without fear of being benched, it's scary to think of what kind of numbers he can put up.
His defense could use some work, as he struggles to see screens unfold around him. Still, there's no doubt that Beal is the second most valuable player to this team.
1. John Wall
This has been the same since the first game of the season: John Wall is the best player in Washington and is now a top-five point guard in the NBA (given the number of injuries this season).
He is fifth among all point guards in scoring, fourth in assists, tied for third in steals and first in blocks.
The team (on offense and defense) runs through Wall, and he will be the leader of this team for years to come.
Last week, I documented some of the things that he needs to improve, but he can become a top-three point guard in the league.
Wall is set to post career-high numbers in points, steals, assists, free-throw shooting and three-point shooting.
At this point, if you don't know about him, you probably don't watch the NBA. It's obvious that Wall is the most important player to the Wizards.