Keys to the Palace: Letting the starters inside

Rob Carr

Last week the Washington Wizards were winless and either locked out or merely given a guest pass to the Palace of Good Play. Two wins and a nerve-wracking overtime loss to a championship contender later, and we're finally ready to hand out some Gold Keys.

What a difference a week makes. The Washington Wizards are still only 2-4 on the season, but they've looked significantly better over the last three games -- a 116-102 road stomping of the Philadelphia 76ers, a thrilling 112-108 overtime win at home against the Brooklyn Nets, and an infuriating 106-105 overtime road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Thusly, one game into a three-game road trip that has the Wizards visiting the Dallas Mavericks tonight and the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow, we're ready to hand out some Gold Keys to the Palace of the Good Play.

Again, for those who need some background, the Palace of Good Play derives from this legendary Ed Tapscott quote on Nick Young and his lack of playing time:

"Someone asked me the other day if I have a dog house. I said, '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."

So how does this work?

Goldkey2_medium Each week we'll be handing out Gold Keys to those Wizards whose good play has earned them a rightful spot in the Palace of Good Play. Simple enough, right?

Redlock2_medium On the flip side, those whose play does not earn them a spot in the Palace will instead be locked out of said Palace via our Red Lock of Shame. Following me?

Guestpass_medium Just to make things more confusing, Wizards who we deem worthy of admittance to the Palace but don't trust enough with one of our golden keys will instead receive the Blue Guest Pass of Indifference.

Here's a quick test to make it easier: Have a friend read down the Wizards' roster. If your reaction to a player's name is, "Wooo," that player should get a Goldkey2_medium . If you instead think "Booo," then they'd get a Redlock2_medium. If the first thing that comes to mind is "meh," then that player probably deserves a Guestpass_medium.

Which Wizards will have their pleas for shelter answered this week? We'll list players in descending order, based on their standing on the team.

***


John Wall

#2 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 24 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds in 36 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 17 points, 14 assists, 6 rebounds in 43 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 10 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds in 40 minutes

Wall didn't have a great game against the Thunder, but the Wizards' max-contract player played like it against the Sixers and Nets. However, he'll need to improve on his 39-percent shooting if he wishes to hold onto his key.

Goldkey2_medium


Bradley Beal

#3 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists in 39 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 29 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 46 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 34 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists in 42 minutes

Unquestionably the Wizards' best player over the last three games, Beal took far less time to hit his groove during his sophomore season than he did as a rookie. After shooting only 32 percent his first three games, Beal has already risen that average to nearly 42 percent on the season, despite collecting most of his points on long jumpers. Being called "amazing" by Kevin Durant is just icing on a very swell cake.

Goldkey2_medium


Nene Hilario

#42 / Forward / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 29 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists in 35 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists in 25 minutes

Beal may have been Washington's best player, but Nene might just be the most important Wizard not named John Wall. Simply put, the Wizards looked like crap the first three games of the season, two of which Nene missed with a calf injury, but have been a different team since he returned. Nene doesn't necessarily put up big stats, but his passing, boxing out and smart defense is transformative on the court.

Goldkey2_medium


Trevor Ariza

#1 / Forward / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists in 35 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 5 points, 1 rebounds, 3 assists in 44 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 41 minutes

After carrying the Wizards offensively the first three games, Ariza has fallen back to earth. He redeemed his otherwise ugly game against the Nets with the deciding three-pointer in overtime, but lost that goodwill by going 0-5 from the charity stripe in a one-point loss to the Thunder.

Redlock2_medium


Marcin Gortat

#4 / Center / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 19 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists in 38 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist in 35 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists in 39 minutes

Gortat saw his three-game streak of double-doubles end against the Thunder, which isn't that surprisingly considering he had to go up against Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Gortat has been exactly what the Wizards thought they were getting (and maybe a bit more) in the trade that sent Emeka Okafor and their 2014 first round pick to the Pheonix Suns, and he's developing a nice rapport with Nene.

Goldkey2_medium


Martell Webster

#9 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists in 26 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists in 16 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists in 29 minutes

Other than winning games, obviously, one of Randy Wittman's chief short-term objectives should be getting Webster going. After a promising outing against the Sixers, Webster took only one shot and recorded a plus/minus of negative-15 against the Nets, and followed that up with a 3-for-10 (1-for-7 from three) dud against the Thunder. Webster has struggled to score playing alongside his bench mates, when he's the primary offensive option on the court and focus of the opponents' defense. Wittman needs to find a way to get him on the court alongside Wall and Beal, which shouldn't be that hard considering (how many times do we have to point this out?) that trio outscored opponents by 18.7 points per 100 possessions last season!!

Redlock2_medium


Eric Maynor

#6 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 5 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound in 12 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 5 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound in 10 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 0 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds in 13 minutes

We gave Maynor a guest pass last week for shooting 56 percent and committing zero turnovers in limited minutes over the team's first three games. But in the last three contests, Maynor has shot 3-for-14 and accumulated a collective plus/minus of minus-18. Three turnovers against seven assists isn't bad, but still, the Wizards are going to need more from Wall's backup.

Redlock2_medium


Al Harrington

#7 / Forward / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 17 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 15 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 25 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 11 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists in 22 minutes

Conversely, we locked out Harrington last week for shooting 21 percent overall and 14 percent from three over the first three games. Since then, Harrington has shot 9-for-16 from three, and singlehandedly shot the Wizards back into the Brooklyn game after they came out sluggish in the first quarter. We'd like to see a few more rebounds from Harrington, but he's otherwise been pretty much exactly the Stretch 4 that Wall asked for over the offseason. Also, this.

Goldkey2_medium


Kevin Seraphin

#13 / Center / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 8 minutes
  • vs. Brooklyn: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists in 11 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 13 minutes

Seraphin has taken 12 shots in 32 minutes over the last three games, making five of them. Somehow, this seems like an improvement over his usual rate of "jacking up shots as quickly and often as possible," but not enough to make up for his general lack of impact and too-frequent "do'h!" plays. A couple assists are nice to see, and seven boards in 32 minutes isn't bad, but we need to see a more mature game on both ends from Seraphin before we let him inside.

Redlock2_medium


Garrett Temple

#17 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Brooklyn: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists in 0 minutes
  • vs. Oklahoma City: DNP (coach's decision)

Temple got in for exactly one play against the Nets. Subbed in for defense with 17 seconds to play in overtime, Temple fouled Paul Pierce on a three-point attempt. He was promptly subbed back out. So yea.

Redlock2_medium


Trevor Booker

#35 / Forward / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Brooklyn: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Oklahoma City: DNP (coach's decision)

Booker went from the Wizards' starting power forward in Nene's absence to not even playing since the Big Brazilian returned. Whether his gruesomely-dislocated finger has anything to do with that is unclear, as none of his DNP's have carried an injury tag. Wittman's past reasoning for playing or sitting members of the Forward Flotsam has often been nebulous, so we can only conclude Booker's benching came as a result of ineffectiveness, either in games or practice.

Redlock2_medium


Jan Vesely

#24 / Center / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Brooklyn: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Oklahoma City: DNP (coach's decision)

Since we keep turning Vesely away for not getting any playing time, does that mean we automatically let him in whenever he gets on the court? I'm thinking not.

Redlock2_medium


Glen Rice Jr.

#14 / Guard / Washington Wizards

This Week

  • vs. Philadelphia: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Brooklyn: DNP (coach's decision)
  • vs. Oklahoma City: DNP (coach's decision)

The rookie hazing continues.

Redlock2_medium

We're going to again reserve judgment on Otto Porter and Chris Singleton, as both have been injured since before even preseason began. When/if they make it onto the court, we'll decide if they deserve sanctuary.

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