Keys to the Palace: D-Leaguers Color Me Optimistic

'No I don't have a dog house, I have a Palace of Good Play.' I'm looking for someone who's playing well so I can put them in that palace."

-Ed Tapscott

Only a Wizards fan would see this week as a positive one.

The boys managed a narrow win over a bad Pistons team, then were blown out by the Pacers, beaten soundly by the Celtics (who are not playing well), and then blew out a Hawks team that is a gaping hole of suck. But hey, 2 wins are great, and for the Wizards to out-hustle a team is a huge deal.

It was only a few weeks ago that Jimmy Wall was calling out his teammates for not putting forth enough effort, and now this rag tag group is consistently working hard. Call me crazy, but I think it's the D-Leaguers we've brought on board. I mean, there has to be some explanation for the increased effort, right? Cook Book isn't out there showing everyone how to work, and the only evidence I have is the play of scrappy Othyus Jeffers.

In what seemed like a harmless roster move may have dramatic implications for this franchise. Suddenly, Flip Saunders and Ernie Grunfeld may save their jobs. Andray Blatche looks like he suddenly 'gets it' and is back on track to being a building block for this franchise rather than one of the worst contracts in the league. Even JaVale McGee has picked up his play.

We can't always rely on an Othyus Jeffers or Larry Owens to pick up this team, but their influence on the future of this franchise could be lasting.

Note: In full disclosure, I was traveling this week and only saw the Pistons game, so am basing almost all of this week on box scores. I would very much like to hear everyone's thoughts in the comments to catch me up on all that I missed.

Keys to the Palace

Player Week 24 PER Week 23 PER Difference Comment
Andray Blatche 16.8 15.9 0.9 What is going on here? I can understand the performance jump at the end of last year when he became the team's primary option, but this seems different.....like a light bulb came on. The only bad sign I see is 4 turnovers in 3 of the 4 games, but there is a ton to like. He is scoring much more efficiently, generally being much more patient and letting the offense come to him, rebounding, and generally seeming to 'give a crap.' It begs the question where this was all season and what changed, because we need him to play like this all the time.

 

Guest Passes

Player     Difference Comment
John Wall 15.6 15.2 0.4 He did lead the team to victory over the Pistons, but wasn't overly impressive the rest of the week. The high turnover numbers of late are concerning; when I compared him to Derrick Rose in the preseason, a big point I noted was that Rose managed to lower his turnover rate from college to the NBA, a feat which would be tough for Wall to match. Jimmy's turnover rate is slightly above projections (in a bad way), so it would be nice to see him rectify that slightly in the last few games. In terms of the rest of the projection, Jimmy is not shooting the ball as well as projected, but his rebounds, assists, and steals are all exceeding projections.
JaVale McGee 17.3 17.7 -0.4 I really wanted to give him a full Key this week as a general reward for his improved play of late, but 5 fouls in 9 minutes against the Pacers and no insanely awesome games will keep him in the guest house for now. I know some of you think I am a JaVale hater, but I just have extremely high hopes/expectations for him. Overall, I have been extremely happy with his play of late even though it is merely meeting my hopes/expectations. I shouldn't have to say it, but next year is massive for him.
Othyus Jeffers 13.7 11.1 2.6 It looks like he ran laps around the Hawks, putting up 13-11-3-2 with no turnovers....tasty. Even more to the point, as I mentioned above, I can't help but think his effort is influencing Dray and the rest of this team. Not just in games, but I bet that he also goes 100% in practice, and might be his greatest contribution to this year's team. I realize I am slightly contradicting myself by not giving him a full Key, but I am mostly going by box scores for this week.
Larry Owens 14.9 N/A N/A He jumped right into the mix and provided a little of everything. I literally did not watch 1 minute of his action though, so want to hear what everyone thinks of how he performed.

 

Locked Out

Player     Difference Comment
Jordan Crawford 13.8 13.6 0.2 All those bad shots finally stopped falling and the box scores I'm reading do not show much other than he likes to shoot and doesn't score efficiently. I think he reminds me a lot of a player with a similar name, Jamal Crawford. Both are very talented but streaky, and possess some nice playmaking skills. This comparison does not warm my heart, but the good news is that Jordan is in his 1st year and should become a better player than Jamal.
Yi Jianlian 9.8 9.6 0.2 Nothing exciting happened for the young big man this week, and I think he is putting the nails in the coffin of his DC career. I almost hate to put the idea out there, but the only way I see him coming back is if the Wizards have a roster spot available, he is cheap, and the team sees him as a great revenue/marketing opportunity as the now #1 Chinese player in the NBA. He has like 3 million Twitter followers, ridiculous.
Maurice Evans 10.7 11.2 -0.5 A nice game against the Pistons and a 'I don't know what to make of it' one against the Hawks do not make up for 2 bad ones in the losses this week. I do like hearing Sean's report that he was affectionately mobbed by his former Hawks teammates, which gives further evidence to the thought that his influence on this team extends beyond what we see in his stats.
Kevin Seraphin 8.3 8.8 -0.5 There is little to discuss about him this week. The fouls are still high, and 3 turnovers against the Pistons is not what we should see from a big man who doesn't get many touches. He clearly needs a lot of work on his game, but the best way to get that is plenty of minutes in the remaining games.
Mustafa Shakur 6.7 5.8 0.9 He passed my semi-arbitrary minutes threshold for the first time in awhile, but there is still not much to evaluate here. The bigger picture is despite some seemingly decent performances, it looks like the Wizards are not dying to keep him on next year's roster.

 

NOTE: Nick Young, Josh Howard, Trevor Booker, Rashard Lewis, and Hamady Ndiaye were left off this week's Keys to the Palace because they did not receive enough playing time for a fair evaluation.

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