The all-star break has actually given Wizards fans something to cheer about this season. John Wall was named MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore challenge after dishing out a game record 22 assists (including this amazing bounce pass alley-oop) and scoring 12 points (with Wall getting an assist from college teammate DeMarcus Cousins). JaVale McGee meanwhile finished in second place of the dunk contest, with this double-dunk earning a perfect 50. But despite Wall and McGee performing admirably in Los Angeles this weekend, it is time to grade this Washington team after 47 games.
John Wall, PG - C+ – Injuries and a lack of consistency hurts Wall’s grade, but his leadership and desire to be great is already evident. His jump shot is already improving (although shooting 41% from the floor proves he has a ways to go) and he has started to limit his turnovers. His 8.9 assists per game is good for seventh in the NBA, ahead of names such as Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller and LeBron James. Wall’s on-ball defense has been decent, but his help defense has been tremendous (1.7 steals per game). Wall must become a more reliable scorer and lead this team to some more wins in the second half to improve this grade.
Kirk Hinrich, G – B- - This grade does not mean Kirk Hinrich has been a better player than John Wall this season, but his unselfishness and versatility has been under-appreciated. Hinrich has started games at point guard, shooting guard, and even small forward, and he never complained. Hinrich is quietly averaging 11.1 points a game and his 4.4 assists per game is second best for the Wiz. Hinrich has never been a great defender due to his lack of size and athleticism, but he is disciplined and is rarely out of position. His maturity has also been good for both Wall and Nick Young, both of whom passed him over in the starting lineup.
Nick Young, SG/SF - A- – If the Wizards could win some more games, Nick Young would be getting much more respect outside the beltway. Instead, he is quietly a lock for NBA’s most improved player. Gilbert Arenas launched Young into our consciousness this preseason when he decided to fake a leg injury to ensure Young started. At the time of this incident, Nick was seen as a chronic under-achiever and draft bust, and that belief was seemingly cemented when he failed to nail down a starting role to begin the season. As November drew to a close, Young began to be a key scorer off the bench, and when he finally earned his first start of 2010, he almost sprung a huge upset of the Miami Heat, scoring 30 points in a 95-94 loss. That was December 18, and Nick hasn’t looked back. A notoriously streaky shooter, Young has finally found consistency, shooting 45% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. His 17.6 points per game is good for top-40 in the NBA, but since starting Young is averaging 20.6 points per game, which would rank him 20th. Young’s rebounding and defense could improve moving forward, but overall this has been a career year for Young.
Andray Blatche, PF - D - Who the hell is this guy? This can’t be the same Andray Blatche that took the NBA by storm during the second half of last season, averaging 21 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game. The Andray Blatche I and other Wizards fans have watched this year is a sluggish, lazy, jump-shot happy shell of himself. Blatche is a talented player, but he doesn’t seem to mesh well with fellow big-man JaVale McGee (as evidenced by their fight at a D.C. nightclub on Christmas Eve) and when Andray isn’t happy his play suffers greatly. Blatche has decided to give up on developing his post-game, and instead is content with relying on his sweet shooting stroke. However, defenders have decided to dare Blatche into shooting mid-range jumpers, and instead of pounding down low, Blatche drifts further and further away from the paint, and thus out of his comfort zone. Andray’s defense has never been a strong point to his game, but he seems to have gotten worse this year. All in all, Blatche has gone from a key piece to Washington’s future to being likely trade bait in the next few days or during the off-season.
JaVale McGee, C - C- – I had very high hopes and expectations for McGee this season, and so far he has been hit and miss. JaVale began the year as a rebounding monster, averaging 9.2 boards per game in November, but he has since slowed down, and is grabbing just 7.5 rebounds per game going into the break. In fact, McGee is actually grabbing less rebounds per game than Blatche, although his interior defense has been much better than Andray’s. One thing I wish we would see from McGee is a nice jump-hook and a wider array of post-moves, or in other words not just dunks. JaVale’s athleticism is elite and his wingspan is amongst the longest in the NBA, but it seems he still hasn’t found a way to use these gifts to his advantage. Once he does though, look out.
Rashard Lewis, SF/PF - B+ – Since his arrival from Orlando, Lewis has been the ultimate professional. It has to be tough to stay focused and driven when you go from a top ten team to a bottom ten team, but Lewis has given his all for the Wiz, and his outside shooting and length has helped spread the floor on offense. Lewis has never been a very good defender, so he doesn’t help cover for the defensive liabilities of Nick Young and Andray Blatche, but he is a willing rebounder and his leadership, experience and professionalism will hopefully rub off on Blatche, McGee, Young and the other young wing and post players for the Wizards.
Al Thornton, SF - D+ - If it weren’t for the flashes of his tremendous scoring ability, Thornton would have gotten a lower grade. However, it is hard to hold injuries against Thornton, but even as a starter he was incredibly erratic and was unable to lock down a starting role. Also, his lack of three point shooting condenses an already compact Washington offense.
Trevor Booker, SF/PF – C - A cop-out grade, but it is hard to rate Booker’s first half performance because he didn’t really do anything until late January. Booker showed flashes of his ability in a couple appearances earlier in the season, but since Washington’s January 24th game against the Knicks, Booker has played double-digit minutes. The best thing about Trevor is he knows his role in this team, and he isn’t afraid to bang in the paint despite his lack of ideal size. When given ample playing time (20 minutes or more) Booker’s average stats are 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Expand those numbers to 48 minutes, and Booker would average about 15 points and 12 rebounds. Hopefully this rookie from Clemson will get more playing time during the final 35 games.
Yi Jianlian, PF - F – Is this really the guy who was fifth at the FIBA World Championships in scoring and tops in rebounding? I thought Yi might be a crafty signing for the Wiz, both on and off the court, but instead he has been a complete bust. Injuries have kept him off the court, but he hasn’t really proved he deserves to be on it when healthy anyway. A player worth the gamble, but it seems as though he will never payoff.
Cartier Martin, SG – B – A very nice player of the bench for Washington, his three point shooting has been a huge boost, and he is a physical defender who is making the most of his NBA opportunity. A nice bench option for Flip Saunders and a good change of pace compared to John Wall or Kirk Hinrich.
Everyone Else - F – No one else on this team has done anything. One of the most limited benches in the NBA.
About the Author
Written by Robert Bode
A sports die-hard through and through. I grew up playing almost every sport possible, and to this day I try to stay as active as possible. However, since I'm not a professional athlete, talking and writing about sports is the next best thing. A University of Florida graduate but living in my hometown of Washington D.C. (well Northern Virginia), my favorite teams are the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Real Madrid, good up-tempo NBA teams (so not the Knicks), and Washington Capitals.