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Keys To The Palace: Finding The Positives And Negatives After Two Games

If you kept up with Bullets Forever last season, you know we unveiled a weekly feature called Keys To The Palace, where we examined the weekly performances of each player on the roster and assigned them a grade based on their performance. Players that had a good week were rewarded with a key to the palace, players who had bad weeks were given the Red Lock of Shame and players who fell in the gray area were rewarded with guest passes to the palace.

This year, we've brought it back, but with a bit of a twist.

Rather than relying on subjective analysis to determine who does and does not get to enter the palace, this year, there's going to be some math involved determining who gets a key this year.

Although statistics will never replace the value of some good ol' visual analysis, they can help us keep track of trends in someone's game that would otherwise go unnoticed, which is exactly what we're aiming to find through this feature. And the simplest way to keep tabs on someone's overall play is by monitoring their Player Efficiency Rating (PER). It's not a perfect statistical measure, but it's better than anything else out there.

This year, we'll be handing out keys based on whether or not the player in question has raised their PER over the course of the week. If it goes up, they're in. If it goes down, they're out. If it stays the same, they get a guest pass. Think of each player's PER as their stock. It will be impossible for anyone to increase their PER every week, but if they can manage more positive weeks than negative weeks, they'll increase their value and keep their investors happy.

Player Last Season PER Week 1 PER Difference
Cartier Martin 9 23.1 14.1
Al Thornton 11.8 21.9 10.1
Trevor Booker N/A 21 N/A
John Wall N/A 19.8 N/A
Kevin Seraphin N/A N/A N/A
Hamady Ndiaye N/A -9.6 N/A
Gilbert Arenas 18.7 N/A N/A
Josh Howard 12.7 N/A N/A
Kirk Hinrich 11.6 10.4 -1.2
JaVale McGee 17 14.7 -2.3
Yi Jianlian 12.3 4.3 -8
Nick Young 10.7 2.7 -8
Andray Blatche 17.6 7.6 -10
Hilton Armstrong 6.9  -9.8 -16.7
Lester Hudson 13.2  -24.5 -37.7


  • With only two games in the book, small sample sizes are the name of the game here, and in Martin's case, his high PER is based almost solely on his stud performance against Orlando. Against the Hawks, he only played 8 minutes and didn't score a point. Expect that PER to fall back to earth this week.
  • Only having two assists in 67 minutes of playing time is concerning, but on the whole, Al Thornton's play has been encouraging so far. His effective field goal percentage is 58.3 percent and he's averaging 7 rebounds per game so far.
  • Remember how everyone thought small forward was going to be the Wizards position of weakness? Martin on Thornton hold the team's two highest PERs through two games. Sure, that won't last throughout the season, but certainly, it's an encouraging sign.
  • Young players coming into the NBA are advised to keep good company. So far, only four players have a higher assist percentage than John Wall at this point in the season: John Wall, Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris and Chris Paul. That's keeping good company.
  • To that point, it's nice to see John Wall has 18 assists through two games, but he shouldn't have more assists than the rest of the team combined (15). If John Wall creates over half of the team's assist opportunities, 
  • Biggest disappointment so far? For me, it's been Yi Jianlian. Yes, Blatche and Young's PER drops are discouraging, but unfortunately, somewhat predictable, especially for Blatche who is still getting back into basketball shape. As for Jianlian, his dropoff is a bit of a mystery. After some encouraging performances in the World Championships and preseason, he's back to the same streaky, inconsistent player we've seen throughout his career. Six rebounds and zero assists in 51 minutes of playing time isn't going to cut it.
  • How does one compile a PER of -24.5, exactly? Two missed shots and two turnovers in seven minutes will do it. Despite this, Lester Hudson still has more assists (1) than Hamady Ndiaye, Hilton Armstrong, JaVale McGee, Yi Jianlian and Cartier Martin have combined (0).