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Wizards move to 3-0 with 88-82 win over Mavericks

It's late, so some quick bullet-point thoughts:

  • Ken Berger (who it should be noted was not in attendance for either of the first two games) wrote that tonight was "arguably" John Wall's best game. That's kind of insane to suggest when Wall shot 4-19 and generally struggled to create offense for himself. But I will say this: Wall was certainly more under control tonight than in either of the first two games. He only had three turnovers and had many more plays where he delivered the ball to the other players' shooting pocket. In the first game, most of his assists came from dumping the ball off lobbing the ball to the big man JaVale McGee. In the second game, most of his assists came by kicking it out. Tonight, we saw a bit of both, and that's a huge adjustment.
  • Tonight was a reminder that Wall is only 19. He did a lot of really, really great things, but he also struggled with his shot, wasn't always able to get past his man in the halfcourt and got beat a lot on defense by Jeremy Lin. Dominique Jones in particular did a great job of staying in front of Wall while still challenging his perimeter jumper. Meanwhile, his pick and roll defense is probably going to be an issue early on in his career. He kept trying to get over the screen and kept failing. Maybe he should switch it up and drop underneath more often.
  • And yet, Wall still showed he has so much natural ability, speed, leadership and intelligence on the court even though it wasn't his strongest game. It really is just a matter of gaining experience on the NBA level, especially in pick and roll situations on both ends. That might take a full year, but I'm willing to wait.

  • How about Cartier Martin tonight? Many players spew out stuff like "I have to stay confident and keep shooting," but few embody that sentiment better than Cartier. He literally keeps shooting. Tonight, he wasn't afraid to shoot early on, and when he hit his first shot, you knew you watch out. My favorite part about him is that he is almost always in the right spot on both ends of the floor, even if he can't finish the play. Wall creates his opportunities, but Martin does a great job finding the openings and making himself presentable. He also plays aggressive defense and is always in the right spot, even if sometimes he's physically overwhelmed. What else do you want from a bench player?
  • As I watched Cartier, I couldn't help but think of Milwaukee's Carlos Delfino, a similarly unheralded player who hit 37 percent of his threes, played solid defense and occasionally ran a pick and roll as a low-usage starting shooting guard for a playoff team. Why can't Cartier be Carlos Delfino? What does Delfino do significantly better than Cartier? If Delfino can play for an NBA team, why can't Cartier?
  • JaVale McGee had an excellent game, but while I hate to pour cold water on his performance, he succeeded in part because the Mavericks had nobody remotely capable of dealing with him. Still, this is the third straight game in which he played aggressively and did not get tired. He certainly looks like he's in much better shape, which is huge considering how big a role he's supposed to take on this year.
  • I'm getting a bit concerned that the Wizards don't exactly know what to do with Trevor Booker, aka "Grown-Ass Man," on offense. For someone who was so good scoring inside, it's a bit upsetting to see him mostly sitting around the perimeter. At the same time, this is probably a product of the "John Wall pick and roll offense," and, of course, Booker still finds a way to contribute with all sorts of other hustle plays.
  • Hamady Ndiaye is communicative and cerebral, but he's really getting shoved around under the glass. That can't happen against bigger players.
  • Lester Hudson wasn't quite as effective playing alongside John Wall as he was playing on his own, but that was to be expected.
  • Dominique Jones can really score, and there aren't many guys who can get their own shot off in such a crafty manner like him. But man, does he pound the dribble a lot, and that hurts. Jeremy Lin, on the other hand, is destined to become the new JJ Barea.
  • Finally, I've seen a bit of grumbling about the pick-and-roll, John Wall-heavy nature of the Summer League offense. Here's the thing, though: that's how it has to be out here. The players haven't had enough time to develop the chemistry to do much else, and Wall himself desperately needs all the experience he can get running that play. I have to bold this because it's very important: the biggest adjustment young point guards must go through when they join the NBA is learning how to play pick-and-roll basketball on both ends of the court. They simply don't run that kind of action the same way in college, certainly not in the "open the floor for a highly-specific pick/roll or pick/pop" kind of way. This is the time and place for Wall to develop that experience.
All in all, another very encouraging performance. I'm not focusing as much on the wins and losses as I am on individuals, and right now, I'm mostly impressed with how all the key individuals have played. Wall has been great, McGee has shown lots of improvement, Booker has demonstrated he can fill a role on any NBA team and Martin has emerged as a nice fit to the drive-and-kick style I assume we will employ this season. The wins are nice. The player development is nicer.