Last week I looked at the Wizards performance as a team, while the overall team statistics were pretty depressing, there were some real positives that can be taken from the individual performances below.
John Wall (Key stats: 16 ppg/8 apg/1.8 spg/3.8 tpg/40% shooting): But for Blake Griffin missing last year with a knee injury, Wall would have been Rookie of the Year. He finished seventh in the league in assists and tied for fifth in steals. Only one other rookie in NBA history averaged ppg, apg and sgp numbers similar to Wall, and Damon Stoudamire was two years older when he did it. Wall improved as the season progressed — beginning in December his scoring average improved every month as he took over more of the scoring load and his shooting percentage reached a season high of 45 percent for the month of April. Wall needs to work on his jump shot and his turnover numbers should come down next year as his teammates improve.
JaVale McGee (10 ppg/8 rpg/2.4 bpg): McGee took another step in his development this year: among centers, only Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut averaged 10/8/2. In team history Gheorghe Muresan, Elvin Hayes and “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison are the only players to ever do that. McGee needs to expand his offensive repertoire, improve his free throw shooting and commit himself to making better decisions on the court. That means no more dribbling the ball down the court like a point guard, no more going for the highlight reel block when a more controlled one would give your team possession and no more committing stupid fouls that limit your effectiveness later in the game. His decision-making in the post is particularly frustrating — I can tell within his first two seconds of getting the ball with about 90 percent accuracy whether he will be successful. If he’s that predictable to me, imagine how easy it must be for his opponents.
Andray Blatche (23 ppg/10 rpg/50% shooting in April): Dray, why must you taunt us? Is this yet another mirage? In a repeat of last year, Dray played with an intensity and effectiveness over his last 13 games that was a far cry from the rest of his season when his lackadaisical defense and poor shot selection were a nightly occurrence (14/8/40% in Jan.). So which Dray will we get next year? If he can stay out of the clubs at night and the doctor’s office during the day this summer, he should be in good shape for next year. The Baron Davis approach to off-season conditioning (play yourself in to shape as the season progresses) doesn’t work, even for Baron Davis. The best case for Dray is that he forces the team to put him in their-long term plans with his on-the-court performance, rather than from a lack of alternatives.
Nick Young (17 ppg): More than any other player, Nick took advantage of his increased playing time to improve his standing with the team. He had one of the lowest turnover rates in the league, although that could have more to do with the fact that the only time the ball left his hands was in the form of a shot (he had the third lowest assist rate among starting guards). This summer Nick is a restricted free agent. If some team in a desperate bid for scoring offers him a big contract (in a weak free agent class), the Wizards could match it. With the emergence of Crawford at shooting guard, is Nick really the long term solution at small forward? For $3.6M (his qualifying offer) absolutely, for $8M or $9M, I’m not so sure.
Jordan Crawford (19 ppg/4 apg in his last 18 games): One of the more pleasant surprises to emerge this year, Crawford is a dynamic scorer, and for a guy who never met a shot he didn’t think he could make, a surprisingly good passer. He needs to improve on his 38 percent shooting (and 25% from three), but he could make an argument to be the incumbent shooting guard going into training camp.
Trevor Booker (10 ppg/7 rpg/55% shooting as a starter): Booker is another rookie who has a case for increased playing time next year. He’s one of the team’s most athletic players, and while he’s already 23 years old and slightly undersized as a power forward, he definitely has the skills to be a solid rotation player and occasional starter at either of the forward positions.
Kevin Seraphin (10 mpg): Seraphin had trouble finding playing time stuck behind Hilton Armstrong early in the year but his playing time increased after Armstrong was traded. It is doubtful Seraphin will develop into a starting center, but he could turn into a good backup, and he showed some nice offensive post moves around the rim.
Mo Evans (6-6 record for the Wizards when he started): After being what seemed to be a throw-in in the Hinrich-Crawford deal, Evans gave the team a veteran presence and he played well whenever he got on the court, whether off the bench or as a starter. As a starter the last 10 games, the Wizards went 6-4 and he averaged 10 ppg. He’s a free agent this summer, and the Wizards should consider bringing him back.
Yi Jianlian (too many to choose from, and not in a good way): I started off the year positive on Yi. I thought this would be the year he’d break through, maybe not as a star, but at least as a solid bench player and occasional starter. Unfortunately, Yi yet again failed to live up to expectations. He was occasionally a good-shooter-for-a-seven-footer and was a great rebounder as long as the ball fell directly into his hands when he soared the 5-6 inches off the ground that he was capable of. Yi finished dead last among the 21 7-footers who played at least 60 games this year in Effective FG % and he had the third-worst PER among that group. He also finished third-worst in both offensive and defensive ratings. On the plus side, until Yao stops paying his orthopedic surgeon on a monthly retainer, Yi is still the best Chinese player in the NBA.
Mustafa Shakur (He was a better point guard option than Josh Howard): He was about what you’d expect from a D-League pick-up. Not too bad running the offense, good energy with a major hole in his game (awful jump shooter, especially from three). He could always make the team next year as a third PG, but he probably shouldn’t be your main alternative.
Rashard Lewis (11 ppg, 43% shooting): He had his lowest scoring average and shooting percentage since before he could legally drink so Lewis certainly didn’t earn his position as the second-highest paid player in the NBA. Depressingly, he was still an improvement over Gilbert Arenas. Lewis added a veteran presence to the team (when he wasn’t sidelined by injuries) and served as a no-drama replacement for Arenas. Even his outrageous contract is better than Gil’s. The year after next is only partially guaranteed. Hopefully he won’t be starting next year (either Nick Young or a rookie would be preferable), but his acquisition turned a situation from a complete train-wreck to just a totaled car.
Josh Howard (18 games played): The team went in to the season knowing Howard was going to be rehabbing from a major knee injury and might be limited, and he was never in any danger of exceeding those expectations. His contract was only for one year at $3M so there was limited risk, but he was essentially a non-factor for most of the year.
Othyus Jeffries (48% shooting): He brought energy and hustle when he took the court for the Wizards late in the year, but at 25 he may have passed the “prospect” portion of his career and be rapidly moving in the direction of 11th or 12th man.