Washington Wizards Player Power Rankings: Stacking Up the Roster in December

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2014

Washington Wizards Player Power Rankings: Stacking Up the Roster in December

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    Which Wizard has played the best ball to start the season?
    Which Wizard has played the best ball to start the season?Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Roughly a quarter of the way through the 2014-15 NBA season, the Washington Wizards' rotation is finally beginning to take shape.

    We entered the season with an idea of who the major contributors would be on this Wizards squad. But there was still a great deal of mystery surrounding which role players might emerge for Washington. That mystery isn't entirely solved—not yet, anyways—but 17 games is certainly enough to get a feel for who's really stepped up their play and who might be falling out of favor.

    Let's take a look at the Wizards roster and dole out some rankings for the early part of the season. Rankings are based on both production and preseason expectations. 

Nos. 14-11

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    Kevin Seraphin's a decent post scorer, but he's struggled with turnover issues.
    Kevin Seraphin's a decent post scorer, but he's struggled with turnover issues.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    N/A: Martell Webster

    Webster is still recovering from his offseason back surgery, and it's unclear exactly when he'll return. Hopefully it's soon—the Wizards could really use his shooting.

     

    14. Glen Rice, Jr.

    Rice was expected to be a contributor this season, but off-court issues from his days at Georgia Tech and strong play from a few of the Wizards' other wings have prevented him from establishing a spot on the team. He was recently sent down to the D-League. He'll likely return to the roster at multiple points this season, but real minutes appear out of reach.

     

    13. DeJuan Blair

    Who saw this one coming? Blair's been the odd man out in the Wizards frontcourt, having played just 30 total minutes to this point. Blair's a very poor defender, but he's also a mammoth rebounder with a quirky offensive game. It'll be interesting to see if that's enough to buy him at least some situational minutes as the year progresses.

     

    12. Kevin Seraphin

    One reason for Blair to feel optimistic about his playing time moving forward: Seraphin's lack of production. Seraphin has been inefficient offensively and clunky defensively. He protects the rim well, but that's partially negated by his horrific foul rate. He also turns the ball on nearly 20 percent of his possessions.

     

    11. Kris Humphries

    Humphries serves as the Wizards' primary pick-and-pop option, and over a third of his shots are coming from between 16 feet and the three-point line. While that spaces the floor nicely for John Wall and other ball-handlers, Humphries is hitting on just 35.4 percent of those jumpers. That mark should improve with time, but as it stands, he can't be ranked much higher than this.

10. Drew Gooden

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    Gooden's outside shooting has given Washington a different look.
    Gooden's outside shooting has given Washington a different look.Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Drew Gooden's minutes have fluctuated wildly to start the season, but that could be ending soon. He's certainly played well enough to deserve a permanent spot in the rotation.

    You've got to give Gooden some credit: He's overhauled his offensive game to fit what Washington needs. Gooden's usual diet of post-up attempts is gone, replaced with pick-and-pop three-point shooting.

    Exactly 25 percent of Gooden's shots have come from three-point range this season, by far the highest mark of his career. He's currently hitting on 43.8 percent of his attempts from outside. That kind of shooting won't hold up on this volume, but his proficiency from deep last year (41.2 percent) suggests that he could remain very effective from three.

    Gooden's ability to stretch the floor has done wonders for the Wizards' sometimes sluggish offense. When he's on the court, Washington is scoring 110.1 points per 100 possessions, just a tick below where the Toronto Raptors' second-ranked offense is operating. When he's alongside John Wall, that number jumps to 115.3, a ridiculous mark.

    Some of those numbers have admittedly been inflated by Rasual Butler's hot shooting. But even so, Gooden has given Washington an offensive spark and deserves at least some consistent time in the rotation.

9. Garrett Temple

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    Temple is a terrific wing defender.
    Temple is a terrific wing defender.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Garrett Temple was terrific to start the season, but he's fallen to earth in recent weeks and may have played himself out of the rotation.

    Temple is arguably Washington's best perimeter defender (which earned him this spot), and for its first handful of games, he was one of its best offensive players as well. Temple shot 14-of-27 from deep over the Wizards' first five games of the season, looking like one of the best 3-and-D wings in the league.

    Unfortunately, regression has kicked in. Temple, a career 31.3 percent shooter from deep, has gone just 2-of-17 since. He's a strong defender, but it takes Tony Allen-like defense to be helpful while shooting like that. If he could create his own offense, that would be one thing, but he's simply never showed that ability at the NBA level.

    Temple's missed the Wizards' last few games with a sore right heel. It remains to be seen whether he'll stay a regular part of the rotation, though it would be a surprise if he didn't at least see situational minutes moving forward.

8. Otto Porter

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    Porter's been a strong off-ball threat for the Wizards.
    Porter's been a strong off-ball threat for the Wizards.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    It's been really nice to watch Otto Porter lock down a rotation spot after suffering through an injury-riddled rookie year.

    Porter's offensive game is completely off-ball centric, making him a nice fit alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal. Over 80 percent of Porter's offense comes via one or fewer dribbles, and he holds the ball for less than a minute per game. The list of players who play significant minutes and possess the ball that infrequently is not long.

    Porter isn't great off the bounce, and the Wizards have smartly punted that aspect of his game away to focus on all things off the ball. The problem is that some of the things Porter is relying on (like running off screens for deep twos) tend to be traditionally inefficient ways of scoring.

    Make no mistake, Porter's been efficient this season, sporting a true shooting percentage of 56.6. But he's shooting potentially unsustainable percentages from mid-range (62.5 percent) and on deep twos (45.5 percent), which could come back to bite Washington later.

    Porter is clearly a good shooter, but it would be in the Wizards' best interest to get him more looks from three or moving toward the basket.

7. Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce has been...Paul Pierce.
    Paul Pierce has been...Paul Pierce.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    As boring as this may be, there really isn't much to say about Paul Pierce. His shot is off right now (he's hitting just 31.7 percent from outside), but that will change—he's a career 37 percent three-point shooter.

    Other than that, Pierce is giving the Wizards pretty much exactly what you'd expect.

    In fact, if there's one remarkable thing about his season thus far, it's how smooth his transition to Washington has been. Pierce's per 36 numbers are right in line with the last six or seven years of his career. His shot selection and method of generating those shots are the same as well. He's almost like the wing version of Tim Duncan.

    If there's one surprise when it comes to Pierce, it's his shooting from the corners. He was expected to alter his game to fill the shoes of Trevor Ariza, one of the game's most prolific corner threats. That hasn't happened.

    Pierce has taken just eight corner threes compared to 52 above the break, one of the most lopsided differentials on the Wizards roster. It hasn't hurt Washington, as Butler has stepped neatly into the Ariza role, but it's surprising nonetheless.

6. Andre Miller

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    Miller still gets to the rim as well as anyone.
    Miller still gets to the rim as well as anyone.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    If entertainment value was included in this ranking, Andre Miller might be No. 1.

    At 38 years old, Miller is still a joy to watch thanks to his unique mix of herky-jerky crossovers, fakes and spin moves. He only gets 13 minutes per game, but per 36 minutes, he's averaging 12.2 points and 9.2 assists on a tidy 63 percent true shooting. Not too shabby for a backup point guard.

    Miller's shot chart for the season is actually kind of incredible.

    A whopping 85 percent of his shots have come from 10 feet or closer. Fifty-six percent are directly at the rim. Those numbers would be nuts for a true center, let alone a 6'2” guard. Miller's patented post game is as good as ever, and some of the fakes he throws out to get to the basket are amazing.

    It's worth pointing out that Miller's defense has slipped, if only a little. The Wizards are getting smashed defensively when he's on the floor, though it's hard to lay the blame on him, as he mostly plays in lineups littered with poor defenders.

    Overall, Miller's playing so well that Washington almost has to try and find ways to get him more floor time. Head coach Randy Wittman has been hesitant to play him alongside John Wall to this point—unsurprising given that neither player can shoot—but he might force Wittman's hand if he keeps playing like this.

5. Bradley Beal

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    Ideally, we'll see Beal create a little more offense this year.
    Ideally, we'll see Beal create a little more offense this year.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Bradley Beal is still working some of the rust off, but even so, he's been a valuable contributor for the Wizards.

    The most interesting (and important) question regarding Beal is not what his game looks like right now but what it might look like later in the season.

    Beal's been solid this year, averaging 15 points and 3.3 assists per game on 55.2 percent true shooting, including 48 percent from deep. But the basic framework of his offense is no different than it was last year, and in some ways, that's a disappointment.

    In the 2013-14 playoffs, Beal took huge steps forward as a ball-handler. He created the vast majority of his offense, and the Wizards scorched two of the league's best three defenses when he was put in the pick-and-roll, per Grantland's Zach Lowe.

    Thanks to both injuries and the arrival of Paul Pierce (who soaks up time on the ball), Beal hasn't had that kind of opportunity yet. Hopefully, he'll get it soon. The Beal of the last two years is a very good player, but playoff Beal looked like a future All-NBAer.

    Again, that's no knock on him. He's doing everything Washington asks of him and doing it well. But he's proved to be capable of more than this, and it would do the Wizards well to give him a bit more time on the ball.

4. Nene

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    Nene has been Washington's top defender.
    Nene has been Washington's top defender.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    It sounds as though Nene should be back in the Washington lineup soon, though his foot issue is still semi-troubling.

    Regardless, Nene has been his typical versatile self this season, playing stout defense and giving the Wizards a bit of everything offensively.

    Defense is Nene's biggest contribution. Washington has been smothering when he's in the game, and he's protected the rim extremely well despite registering very few blocks. The Wizards have played admirable defensive in his absence, but they haven't been their usual stingy selves and will benefit hugely from his return.

    Nene's offense has surprisingly been a mixed bag this year. He's not doing anything differently in terms of his role or his shot selection. But he's going to the free-throw line at a far lower rate than is typical for him. That's very strange, as he's getting to the rim at around his usual amount.

    Nene's issue drawing fouls is likely just a fluke that will correct itself given time, but it's worth monitoring anyways.

3. Rasual Butler

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    Butler's shooting has been genuinely stunning.
    Butler's shooting has been genuinely stunning.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Don't laugh. Rasual Butler has been utterly fantastic this season. I genuinely toyed with slotting him higher. He's been that good.

    Butler was little more than a filler signing for Washington, but he's been one of its most important players thus far. Butler is shooting 56.4 percent from three on nearly six attempts per 36 minutes. But it's not just the three-point shooting that's impressive. Butler's been hitting from everywhere.

    Just one other wing has played over 200 minutes and posted a true shooting percentage over 70—the Atlanta Hawks' Kyle Korver. That's elite jump-shooting company.

    When Butler's on the floor, the Wizards are nuking opponents. Over the last few games, Wittman has made it a point to slot Butler alongside the starters more (by swapping out either Paul Pierce or Bradley Beal). Those lineups have been absurdly good offensively in a small (but growing) sample.

    That's partially due to their playing a slew of so-so defensive teams, but it's significant nonetheless.

    Butler can't keep up this kind of shooting all year (right?), but he's clearly going to be a bigger part of the Wizards rotation moving forward.

2. Marcin Gortat

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    Gortat has been downright nuts in the pick-and-roll.
    Gortat has been downright nuts in the pick-and-roll.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    Marcin Gortat's numbers this season (13.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game) are relatively modest, but my goodness, is he murdering teams in the pick-and-roll.

    Gortat's got great hands, and he's finishing 76 percent (!) of his shots at the rim. That, in combination with John Wall's savvy passing, has made him perhaps the scariest roll man in the league this season.

    Washington is scoring at a modest level when Gortat's on the floor, but that's mostly due to the starting lineup's shooting issues. When Gortat is surrounded by shooters, the Wizards are scoring at crazy rates. Defenses are crumbling trying to defend these lineups, and it's hard to fault them. Washington has a way of putting opponents in lose-lose situations.

    Look at how the mere threat of Gortat cutting to the rim completely opens up a corner three for Otto Porter in this clip. It would be easy to attribute that to a defensive breakdown by James Ennis, but it's not. That's just the kind of thing teams have to do to defend the Wall-Gortat pick-and-roll.

    Gortat has only been so-so defensively, but he's bringing so much offensive goodness to the table, it feels unfair to knock him for that.

1. John Wall

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    What can you say? Wall is the Wizards' best player and one of the best players in the league.
    What can you say? Wall is the Wizards' best player and one of the best players in the league.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    John Wall can be frustrating at times, but when he's at his best, he's just incredible.

    The frustration stems from Wall's shot selection, which is still uneven.

    He's averaging 6.6 shots from mid-range or beyond (excluding threes) this year, by far the most of any point guard in the league. It's great that he has confidence in his jumper, and for what it's worth, those shots set up a lot of his elbow passes and drives to the rim.

    But Wall's also only hitting on 35.7 percent of those shots, not nearly high enough to justify that many attempts. Turning down just a few of those looks a game would go a long way for him.

    Even with his questionable shot selection, Wall has been amazing this season, no more so than in this recent game against the Miami Heat.

    Just watch some of the passes Wall is throwing out there. You rarely hear his name mentioned alongside Chris Paul's, Rajon Rondo's or LeBron James' when it comes to great passers, but Wall has been as good as anyone distributing the ball.

    I heaped praise on Gortat for his pick-and-roll ability in the previous slide, but a huge amount of his success is due to Wall's ability to fit passes into miniscule spaces. The same goes for the success of players such as Rasual Butler and Otto Porter—off-ball guys who are totally dependent on Wall (among others) to set them up.

    The Wizards have completely geared their offense around Wall's ability to create shots. This year, he's shown the league why that's the case.

     

    All statistics accurate as of 12/4/2014 and courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless specifically stated otherwise.