He was billed as a top defender when the Wizards traded for him in the offseason and he's lived up to that billing, as one of the top 20 or 30 defensive players in the NBA. The Wizards have the 4th-best defense in the NBA and Ariza is probably the single biggest reason why. The defense is 2.6 points per 100 possessions better when he's on the court and he does this despite usually playing the opposition's top scorer. Ariza plays the passing lanes beatifully, consistently coming up with steals and harassing other teams into mistakes.
On the other hand, he's still not a good offensive player. He's been less efficient than in years past, but he still has a poor shooting percentage and his shot selection is mystifying, with far too many 3-pointers taken when better options are available. Ariza appears to continue to suffer from an over-abundance of misplaced confidence in his scoring and shooting ability.
Grade: C+. The defense has been great, the offense has been predictably poor, but if Ariza can improve his shot selection, take fewer outside shots and continue to play very good defense, he'll be a valuable, albeit expensive, part of Washington's rotation.
The third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft struggled mightily to start the season and frequently embarrassed himself in November. He improved markedly in December, though, and in 2013 he's been a very good scorer, putting in 17 points per game and sporting a .533 effective field goal percentage -- putting him among the elite in that latter category. It seems unlikely Beal can keep up that torrid pace going forward, though getting fully healthy from a nagging wrist injury would help.
What Beal needs to do is improve his shot selection and stop taking so many bad outside jumpers. Beal is more than just a sweet shooting stroke -- he's also a fine athlete and he needs to use his athleticism more to get to the hoop.
GRADE: B-. He needs to shot fewer bad long jumpers and attack the hoop more often -- and more effectively -- but he's made big strides in this calendar year and continued improvement can reasonably be expected.
He's been injury-prone his entire pro career and it has set his game back. Booker needs to be a high-energy player who grabs rebounds, defends several positions well and plays the passing lanes aggressively. Instead, there have been efforts to turn Booker into a scorer, a role he's not suited to play. As a result, his shooting percentage has fallen dramatically to 44 percent this season. He's played about 330 minutes in 19 games this season and has seemed to fall out of the playing rotation at times.
Booker isn't hopeless, though. He's a hard worker who continues to finish very nicely around the hoop. His problem this season has been a nonsensical tendency to take outside shots -- which is a poor idea since Trevor is a very poor outside shooter. If Booker stops with the outside shots and goes back to playing around the hoop, he should be able to contribute more consistently.
GRADE: F. This season has been a small disaster for Booker, but he's capable of better. His injuries shouldn't cripple his game so he ought to be able to bounce back if he can get his game straight. Despite this murderous stretch for Booker, the team should not give up on him.
He's carried the Wizards at times this season, particularly when John Wall and Nene were injured. Crawford can score and handle the ball and it doesn't seem to affect him if he comes off the bench. He's the sort of player who can score 25 points on any given night, whether you expect it to happen or not. He's also made some big shots this season, beating the Portland Trail Blazers twice on big outside shots.
However, Crawford has fallen out of Randy Wittman's rotation because of his atrocious defense, his tendency to jack up shots from anywhere on the floor, regardless of the game situation, and the way his mindless dribbling brings the offense to a crashing halt almost every time he gets the ball. While Crawford's shooting has improved and his percentage of bad shots heaved at the hoop has declined from recent seasons, it isn't good enough and Crawford has lost his playing time to Garrett Temple, a demonstrably inferior player who tries hard on defense and understands that his job is not to slow the offense down by pounding the ball against the floor.
Grade: C-. Craword is a prime candidate to be traded, since he can score and the Wizards appear to have no use for him right now. If he isn't traded he will probably work his way back into the rotation because he's got so much more ability than Temple. However, he will have to stop shooting deep three pointers for no apparent reason and get into the flow of a moving offense.
I thought he would be useful on a team desperate for outside shooting -- the one part of his offensive game that really stands out -- but injuries have derailed the season. His knee hyperextension has kept him out of the roster since before John Wall's return and there is no timetable for his return. When he does return I think he could offer the team something as a 2-3 scorer off the bench, but Coach Wittman may balk at giving him minutes at the expense of players like Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza.
GRADE: Incomplete. I'd love to see what Martin can do with John Wall running the offense.
The Wizards are much better offensively -- 9 points better -- when Nene is on the court. The Wizards are much better defensively -- 6 points better -- when Nene is on the court. So he's had a huge impact on this team. When Nene is healthy the offense flows better due to his ability to pass, his ability to score in the paint and his ability to step out and knock down a 14-footer.
The problem with Nene is health. He missed a lot of time after being traded to the Wiz last season and he's missed plenty of time this year, too. He's also not as efficient a scorer as he once was and I think his injuries have a lot to do with that, forcing him to work harder around the basket.
GRADE: B+. Nene has been the best player for Washington this season, scoring, passing, rebounding and playing solid interior defense... when healthy. A Nene that plays the final 31 games of the season would go a long way to the Wiz posting a much better record after the All Star break than they did before it.
Washington would not have the 4th-best defense in the NBA without Emeka Okafor's interior defense, protecting the rim and intimidating opponents in the paint. I particularly like Okafor on the floor with Nene because the bulkier, more physical Nene works well with the more agile Nene.
Okafor has never been paid for his offense and it is no different this season. You'd like a guy earning eight figures to score more often than Okafor does, but the money has already been spent so there isn't much use in going on about that. He's not a particularly efficient scorer, but if guys like Wall, Nene, Beal and Webster can carry the scoring load in the second half, Okafor can do less on offense and get his points more efficiently, mostly off the offensive glass.
GRADE: B. He needs to do less as a shooter so he can improve his efficiency, but his rebounding is solid and his defense is excellent.
He was supposed to be the backup point guard this season, providing the defense and careful generalship that teams want from the guy who takes over when their starting point guard is getting a rest. Unfortunately, Wall missed half the season with a knee injury and Price was forced into the starting lineup, getting huge minutes in November, December and the first part of January. It's not a role that looks good on him.
Price has provided the good defense -- Washington was a solid defensive club even before the return of John Wall -- and his assist-to-turnover ratio is very respectable. In other words, he's been a perfectly acceptable backup point guard. However, as a starter he was dismal and the team was awful. Price cannot shoot, cannot create for others, does not penetrate or get a lot of points in early offense. He can't make up for the fact that he's a bad shooter the way John Wall can.
GRADE: C-. Miscast as a starter, a healthy AJ Price should do well in a backup role, getting 10-15 minutes a night, playing good defense and not making many mistakes when he's on the floor. He needs to cut down on his shots when he is on the floor, though, since he's such a terrible shooter.
The good news is that Seraphin has really improved his defense this season and become one of the league's better post defenders. The bad news is that he's one of the most inefficient offensive players I've ever seen. Oh, and he still stinks as a rebounder.
Seraphin shoots constantly, but poorly, making only 44 percent of his shots, which is truly hideous considering the vast majority of his shots are close to the basket. The Wizards have the worst offense in the NBA this season, but it is markedly better without Seraphin on the floor. In other words, he's a major reason the team is so terrible at scoring.
Seraphin is a turnover machine who almost never gets to the line, shoots poorly from the field and rebounds his position terribly. Other than that, he's doing fine.
GRADE: D-. I like the defense a lot, but everything else is awful. I'd trade him right now if I thought a team would give up something useful for him.
Coach Randy Wittman had had enough of Singleton's terrible offense and inability to fix it so he benched the sophomore player, who missed 17 games before the All Star break. Instead of pouting, though, Singleton worked hard to improve and satisfy his coach. It worked and he's played much better since getting back into the player rotation.
As a small power forward, Singleton is playing solid defense -- as he must to stay in the NBA -- and rebounding reasonably well. This is the role Singleton has to carve out on this team. He's not a starter on a decent club and his offense will never set the world on fire. However, he can add a lot to the team as a tenacious defender off the bench, able to guard at least three positions. That sort of versatility is rare and valuable and if Singleton truly does understand how to play for this team now, he should get decent playing time in the second half of the season.
GRADE: F. Despite playing better in the last week-and-a-half before the All Star break, Singleton was essentially in the doghouse for the month of January because he seemed to have no idea what to do on offense or defense. Therefore, he made few, if any, contributions to the team.
On a team that wins, when it does win, because of defense, Temple is a prime example of what the Wizards do well. He's good length, decent athleticism and committment to hard work has helped make Temple a good defender and he's gotten a ton of minutes, mostly at the expense of no-defense Jordan Crawford, for that reason.
Unfortunately, there really isn't anything Temple gives this team or any other on offense. He's a bad outside shooter and he doesn't drive to the hoop either. He can pass a little, but nothing that other players can't do as well or better. There really isn't any reason to have him on the floor on offense, but at least he doesn't slow the offense down the way Crawford does. Temple understands he is limited and quickly moves the ball to players who can do more, which is pretty much anyone in a uniform.
GRADE: C-. He's a nice guy to have on the team, but you don't want him playing much and you want him shooting pretty much never.
He's played a bit better with John Wall on the floor, but that's true of almost anyone and really does not tell you much about Vesely. He's been terrible this season and the stuff that caused trouble for him last year has caused even more trouble this year, leading him to play very little in Randy Wittman's player rotation.
He's a terrible outside shooter and hits less than 28% of his free throws, which is both disgraceful and laughable. He was a foul machine last year and he's even worse this year, demonstrating he still has no idea how to play defense. Also, his rebounding is worse. Basically, everything is worse and nothing is better.
GRADE: F. He needs to find a way to become a rebounding, defensive contributor who can get some garbage points in transition with John Wall on the floor. I see little chance that Vesely will do this, however.
We know once-legendary player agent David Falk thinks John Wall isn't much of a player. Is he correct? No. Wall has shown a real ability to elevate the Wizards this season with his defense, his passing, his penetration and inspiration to teammates. He still can't shoot the ball, though, and that's a major flaw in his game that shows no sign of improving. In fact, it might be getting worse.
Is John Wall a franchise player? That's the question that has been asked many times in the past few weeks and will be asked many times over the next few months. The answer, it seems to me, is no. He has the ability to be a very good player and sometimes he is, but a franchise player -- one who can make a team a contender almost all by himself -- is not what John Wall is. That's what LeBron James is. That's what Kevin Durant is. That's what Chris Paul, maybe, is. John Wall is not.
But he's a good player, usually the best player on the Washington Wizards. He certainly has the potential to be a very good player on a very good team, particularly if paired with Bradley Beal, who perhaps has more potential than Wall does. The worst thing that happened to Wall, apart from the knee injury, was being drafted first overall. It put far too much pressure on him to be a superstar when a superstar is not what he is and probably not what he will ever be. Is he Derrick Rose or Chris Paul? I see no evidence that he is.
However, Wall is the next step down from those guys, when healthy and his talent is maxed out. That should be good enough if the Wiz can get some nice players around him. Bradley Beal is a good start. But now they need more.
Who has been the most pleasant surprise for the Wizards this season? Clearly, that's been Martell Webster. He's averaging over 10 points per game and at 44% has become one of the top 3-point shooters in the NBA. He runs the break, finishes nicely, plays solid defense, rebounds decently and, to top it all off, he's inexpensive.
Webster is on a one-year deal and will want a nice raise -- and will deserve one -- if he continues to play at this level in the second half of the season. Without Webster Washington's offense will be even worse than it is and he's been one of the few fairly consistent scorers on the team who can also stay healthy.
GRADE: A. What's not to like from Webster. He's done everything they've asked of him and more. Let's hope he keeps up the good work.no comments