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 his 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 against the Pistons, Pacers, Hornets, Celtics and Raptors.
Keys to the Palace
Nah. You don't go 1-4 and earn a key.
Marcin Gortat - We're not out of the woods with Gortat, but he showed some very good signs over the past five games. He averaged 12.2 points and 9.6 rebounds over that stretch and played very well against Andre Drummond and Al Jefferson.
This week's performance went to show Gortat can still be great against other centers. His issue seems to be against smaller lineups that can swarm the glass with numbers, like Indiana and Boston. You can understand why he changed his tune about playing alongside Nene after Saturday's game against Toronto, according to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
"We missed some shots but it’s tough also because with the system we play, four outside one inside," he said after 16 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday's 84-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors. "I’m by myself over there fighting for the rebounds. Usually you got two, three guys inside the paint so it’s a little bit different without Nene being at the four."
It's nice to see someone finally give Nene some credit for the work he did boxing people out to let other people clean the glass, but it's probably a little too late now. With the Wizards' frontcourt situation (even now with Ryan Hollins), it's hard to put Nene in a position where he can play alongside Marcin Gortat and still be his primary backup. So as much Gortat might want another big on the floor to help with rebounding, help won't be coming anytime soon. But even if he did, nowadays Nene wouldn't be as much of a help as he's been in previous years, because he can't help seal off rebounders if he's chasing stretch fours on the perimeter.
This is just the new normal for NBA centers. As more teams go with smaller lineups, it puts more pressure on centers to box out the opposing big man and try to fend off smaller players who try to come in and swipe the ball. The reality is Gortat doesn't need Nene's help, he just needs the guys who he is playing with to be more cognizant of boxing out their man once the shot goes up to give Gortat a better shot at being effective against smaller lineups.
Nene - Nene only really played three games, after missing most of the Boston game and all of the Toronto game with a calf strain. It was a shame because Nene has continued to play very, very well. Playing at center allows the Wizards to squeeze out as much positive defensive value as they can get out Nene and, it continues to have a positive impact on his offensive game because he gets to post up smaller or slower players and stop doing so much in the midrange area. The results speak for themselves.
Bradley Beal - Beal didn't have his best week as he recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him, but got better as the week progressed, finishing with a 20 point, 6 assist, 6 rebound performance against Toronto that was only sullied by Cory Joseph putting him on a highlight reel.
Gary Neal - The Wizards brought in Gary Neal for two reasons: To make shots and rhyme with teammates. And he's all out of rhymes. To be clear, Neal's only real value comes as a high-usage guy who can occasionally carry an offense when he's hot, but that's just what he did most of the week.
The 41 combined points he scored against the Pacers and Hornets helped keep the Wizards in those games for longer than they should have been. Yes, Indiana and Charlotte found ways to exploit Neal in the latter stages of the game, but it's not Neal's fault he was one of the few players over the last week who could get the ball in the hoop. The only two players who had a higher effective field goal percentage over the last five games were Nene and Jared Dudley.
Jared Dudley - Dudley had his best individual week of the season, shooting 48 percent from the field, 57 percent beyond the arc, and finally worked his way into the starting lineup. Given how most of the starters have struggled this week, you could certainly make an argument Dudley has been the Wizards' second-best player so far this season, or at least the second-most valuable, given how much the team's other power forwards have struggled this season.
John Wall - You know who is averaging more points, assists and rebounds per game and shooting better from the field and beyond the arc than John Wall in 2015? John Wall in 2010, his rookie year.
Otto Porter - As we mentioned earlier, wing players are having their way with Otto Porter this season. He did a solid job on Saturday against DeMar DeRozan, but there are still too many other types of players that know how to.
Kris Humphries - Hump had more turnovers (5) than made field goals (4) over the last five games. Perhaps some more time at center, where he spent some time on Saturday against the Raptors, will help him better utilize what he can do well and minimize some of his weaknesses.
Garrett Temple - Like Humphries, Temple cooled way, way down after some big performances a couple of weeks ago. He was 6-24 from the field, and 1-11 from deep. Believe it or not, the Wizards still somehow managed to outscore opponents with Temple on the floor, but that's not sustainable.
Ramon Sessions - Ramon Sessions is shooting better at the rim than Derrick Rose this season. Unfortunately, Rose and Joakim Noah are the only two players in the NBA who attempt at least 2.5 shots per game at the rim and shoot a lower percentage than Sessions has this season. Ramon continues to do lots of other things very well, but in a stretch where they really needed some extra offense, they didn't get as they needed from Ramon to get a win.
DeJuan Blair - Don't look now, but Blair has entered the Jan Vesely Zone where we have to start wondering whether or not he'll finish the season with more points or personal fouls. To date, Blair has five points and 15 fouls.
Kelly Oubre - Oubre had some opportunities to make a case for more playing time with the opportunities he had in last week's blowouts, but didn't do himself any favors with how he performed. No one likes a rookie who uses up 26.9 percent of possessions when he's on the floor, doesn't make a field goal and doesn't get an assist, like he did in 16 minutes of action he got against Pacers, Celtics, and Raptors.
Get well soon Alan Anderson and Drew Gooden.