Keys to the Palace is a weekly feature where we rank each Wizards player based on their performance for the week. Keys to the Palace is named former Wizards' coach Ed Tapscott who said this when he was asked about how he decides on his player rotations.
"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."
Each player on the team will be ranked into one of three categories, based on their performance the previous week. Players who play well will earn a Key to the Palace. Players who underperform get locked out. Players who fall in the middle ground get a Guest Pass that gives them access to certain parts of the Palace, but not the fancy stuff that makes it feel like a luxurious place to live.
It's important to keep in mind these rankings are relative. Kelly Oubre doesn't have to do as much to earn a key as Otto Porter does. That said, here is where each player lands for their performance during the opening week of the season.
Keys to the Palace
Bradley Beal - Call me crazy, but I think Bradley Beal wants a max deal. He's averaging 25.3 points per game, shooting 46 percent from the field and shooting 50 percent beyond the arc. More importantly, he's averaging more threes and free throw attempts per game than he did last season. John Wall is still the team's best overall player, but it's looking more and more like this is the year where Beal becomes the team's top scorer.
There are some areas to nitpick (he only has three assists through three games this season) but he's certainly making steps in the right direction as a player.
John Wall - Wall's assist-to-turnover ratio isn't great right now. He's averaging 1.43 assists for every turnover in the early going, well below his 2.61:1 ratio last season, but that should improve as the team settles into their new scheme. In the meantime, Wall is showing growth in other areas of his game.
Defensively, he's averaging over two steals and two blocks per game, and he's shooting 44.4 percent on jump shots, according to NBA.com. He's also averaging 9 attempts per game at the free throw line. The improvements on the offensive end are allowing Wall to score more points even though his usage rate is almost identical to what it was last season.
Ramon Sessions - If nothing else, it's clear the Wizards' new offense favors guards. As of this writing, Ramon Sessions is the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game. That's the fifth-best scoring average in the NBA for a player averaging under 20 minutes per game.
Sessions continues to get to the free throw line at a great rate like he's done most of his career, averaging almost six per game, but he's also shooting the ball well from the field. He's shooting 40 percent beyond the arc, and he's 5-11 in the restricted area this season, which is a big step up for a player who has struggled finishing around the rim in his career.
Jared Dudley - In terms of plus/minus value, Dudley was great against the Bucks and the Knicks, but we can't give him a key since he was the motivating force behind Carmelo Anthony's 37 point onslaught on Saturday.
This should serve as a lesson to everyone: Don't call anyone overrated unless you want them to have a big game. In other words, the only person you should call overrated is John Wall.
Gary Neal - Shooting wise, Neal has been a bit of a mess. His effective field goal percentage on jump shots is 37 percent this season, which gets worse when you realize 23 of the 24 shots he has attempted this season are been jump shots. Basically, if he's not hitting midrange shots, he's not scoring and that's not a good proposition.
That said, his individual performance hasn't dragged down the team as a whole when he's on the floor. The team's offensive rating is better with Neal on the floor (102.9) than the team average (101.6).
It's easier to live with a guy who takes a lot of bad shots when they take them later in the shot clock and don't rob better players of shot opportunities. So even though he's not shooting ball well, he's doing it the right way, absorbing shot opportunities from bad possessions rather than hijacking possessions before they have a chance to become good and disrupting the flow of the offense. That's enough to avoid the lock this week.
Kris Humphries - The start of the Kris Humpthrees era wasn't great, and there's a good case to be made for why he makes more sense coming off the bench. That said, let's not miss the forest for the trees here. He made as many three-pointers in the opening week of the season as he did in his entire NBA career leading up to this season. There are other skills that go along with being a stretch four that he needs to develop, but at least he's giving the defense something to think about when he's on the perimeter. That's a massive step in the right direction.
Drew Gooden - Welp.
Seriously. Dude just yelled YOU SUCK at Drew Gooden. He shrugged, said "I know" and sat down. Fans around me just went "oh awww." WHUT.— Pratik Patel (@PatelESPN) October 31, 2015
Okay fine Drew Gooden, you can come in. Just stop looking at us with those sad puppy eyes.
Marcin Gortat - If there was one player who you would expect to thrive in a more up-tempo system with better spacing, it would be Gortat. But that's not happening so far. His scoring, rebounding and shooting numbers have fallen across the board, and he averaged 3 turnovers per game.
Ideally, some of these concerning trends, particularly the turnovers, should correct themselves with time and practice. That said, it's at least mildly concerning the man doing most of the pick and rolls in a pick and roll heavy offense is struggling to reap the benefits of a new system.
Nene - The first week of season gave us a good glimpse into what we should expect from Nene as a center this season. His brawn and playmaking helped the Wizards close out the Bucks, but he struggled against the Magic's athletic big men and he got into early foul trouble against the Knicks.
Nene can still be a very useful player for the Wizards, but he isn't a guy who can be useful every single time he steps on the floor like he did in previous years. Now the challenge is determining where to utilize his strengths and keep him away from situations where he drags the team down. Don't be shocked if it takes some time to figure it out.
Otto Porter - Porter's first full week as a starter wasn't great. He got roasted by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Carmelo Anthony, went 2-12 from beyond the arc, and didn't get any fourth-quarter minutes against the Bucks as the Wizards made their big run to win the game. While there's no need to worry about his output or his spot in the starting lineup, this week served as a reminder to all of us to tamp down the hype on Otto just a bit.
DeJuan Blair - Hard to enter the palace when you only play 4 minutes and 21 seconds.
Kelly Oubre - It's even harder to enter the palace when you only play 1 minute and 7 seconds.
Garrett Temple - It's realllllllllllly hard to get in when you only play seven seconds in the final minute of a close game and commit a foul that leads to a four-point play.
To be fair to Temple, he gets the raw end of the deal because his job consists of trying to get defensive stops in high-pressure situations. It's like being a field goal kicker that's only asked to kick 50+ yarders when the game is on the line. Hopefully he gets to redeem himself next week.
Not ranked this week: Get well soon Alan Anderson and Martell Webster.