Washington Wizards: John Wall and Rookies Benefit From Late-Season Injuries

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent IMarch 23, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on against the Oklahoma City Thunderduring the second half at the Verizon Center on March 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards always seem to struggle with injuries. Injuries claimed former franchise guard Gilbert Arenas, hampered more than a few postseason pushes, and has left the roster thin this year. Injuries to Josh Howard, Rashard Lewis, Nick Young and Andray Blatche have opened the door for a few rookies, and introduced a trial-by-fire type atmosphere over the final handful of games left on the season.

They haven't won many games, but seeing Jordan Crawford and Trevor Booker alongside John Wall has brought even more hope to a bright future.

Wall has had to deal with a lot in just his first season as a pro. He had to coexist with Arenas and learn the ropes from Kirk Hinrich. His numbers have evened out over the last month of the season, but it is to be expected with the injuries to his teammates, and himself. More than that, he is just a rookie and it isn't as easy to dominate over an 82-game schedule.

He had it easy at Kentucky, but Wall has shown his willingness to face adversity head-on in his first year.

It has not been easy for Wall to bear the burden of being a Wizard. Averaging 15.8 points and 8.7 assists per game is on par with Chris Paul's rookie season (16.1/7.8), and offers plenty of promise for the future. This late-season injury bug that has robbed Wall of most of his regular starting line-up has proven to be the perfect test for his ability to adjust when necessary.

It hasn't been pretty, but Wall has managed some great scoring on nights when his teammates couldn't score. He has a lot of work to do as a shooter, but he can score at will off the dribble.

Wall wasn't the only player to benefit from the midseason moves, as Crawford wasn't getting many opportunities with Atlanta.

With the Hawks, Crawford was seeing an average of 10 minutes per game and averaging just 4.2 points in those minutes. Since joining the Wizards, he has played in 12 games, started four and is averaging 13 points per game in Young's place. Playing 25 minutes per night gives Crawford much-needed experience and has given Washington a good look at what he can do for them moving forward.

Young may be the starter for now, but Crawford could provide a push for minutes or a solid sixth man spot. If he shows some consistency and improves his play away from the ball, he's invaluable for a team needing depth and youth.

In Booker, the Wizards have a strong but undersized power forward. He is everything Lewis and Blatche are not in the dirty work department.

With Blatche in the lineup, Booker's opportunities have been few and far between. Over the last few weeks, with Blatche out with a shoulder injury, Booker has had some big performances despite being "small" for a power forward. 

Booker has recorded two double-doubles in March, including a 26-point, 13-rebound performance against Toronto. He fights on the boards and gets position to use his strength against taller opponents. 

Even though the Wizards seem invested in Blatche, it is not out of the question for someone with Booker's work ethic to get enough minutes to make an impact. In some situations, he may even slip into the small forward spot to give a different wrinkle to the many lineups head coach Flip Saunders had had to patch together.

No team welcomes injuries, no matter how far out of competition they may be. The Wizards are now able to assess their young players knowing just a little of what they can do in starting roles and in the face of adversity. Having lost six out of their last 10 by double digits is not comforting, but every minute the Wizards can get for their rookies is time well spent.

Things may be different once everyone is healthy, but with an important offseason in the horizon, it is never too soon to start roster evaluation. 

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