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 Cavaliers, Lakers, Suns, Mavericks and Heat.
Keys to the Palace
John Wall - The only thing that stopped John Wall last week was someone running into his knee, and well, that's a pretty good excuse. Otherwise, Wall played the best we've seen him play all season long. He averaged 28.0 points, 9.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.0 steals while shooting 56 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
But here's where it gets tricky: Did the Wizards get better this week because Wall played better, or because they played more super-small "cuteball" lineups (HT: Conor Dirks) which created even more space for him to attack? His shot chart over the past five games is interesting:
Wall was a little fluky beyond the arc, but he also turned a lot of those bad midrange shots into good attacks at the rim. That would make you think maybe going small helped, but it's still too early to say one way or another just yet.
Jared Dudley - For a guy who has been known as a perimeter player, Dudley has some crafty moves down low, even if they don't always go in:
All the extra banging down low hurt Dudley's output on the offensive end, but there's no question the Wizards would not have gone 3-2 if Dudley hadn't played so well at the 5, and goading opposing teams like the Heat into going smaller to counter. He talked about the strategy of how teams have to adjust to guarding the Wizards when they're small with Ethan Skolnick after Monday's win in Miami:
When I suggested that Spoelstra left Whiteside on the bench in the fourth quarter out of the fear of chasing Dudley out to the arc, Dudley replied, "I bet."
Dudley explained that, with Josh McRoberts guarding him, and Wade guarding point guard Ramon Sessions, the Wizards got the Heat in a pick-and-roll situation, and Sessions made an open three-pointer.
"So whoever has the mismatch with the big, we were gonna put them in pick-and-rolls," Dudley said. "And that's what we have to do with our team right now."
Gary Neal - Neal shot 62 percent from the field and made half of his three-point attempts this week. There's no way on earth that keeps up, but who cares, that's amazing.
Bradley Beal - The good news is Beal seemed to finally get back into a rhythm after his shoulder injury. He was more aggressive shooting the ball and found his stroke again from beyond the arc, which helped him put together a streak of three straight 20+ point games for the first time since he got injured.
He's still a little hesitant around the rim, which is understandable and probably unavoidable given his injury history. At this point, that may just be something the Wizards have to live with in order to get Beal's shooting from outside. All in all, he's still trending in the right direction.
Marcin Gortat - Gortat put together his best game of the year last Tuesday against the Cavaliers, both offensively and defensively. He scored efficiently around the rim and kept LeBron and co. from getting easy shots around the rim. He followed it up with another good performance against the Lakers on the offensive side, before he had to take time off to be with his mother in Poland.
It was nice to see Gortat bounce back last week after a slow start, but as he reintegrates with the team this week, there may be another adjustment period for him and the team as they try to figure out how to use big men again.
Ramon Sessions - The good: Sessions shot over 60 percent from the field, the team played very well when he was on the floor, and he's been finishing better around the rim as of late. The bad: His free throw rate is way down from the start of the season, he only has four assists in his last five games and is just 1-6 from beyond the arc over that stretch.
Garrett Temple - Temple wasn't much of a factor on the offensive end this week, but he gets a guest pass this week for taking on so much on the other end this week. Temple taking on the task of guarding power forwards, and even centers in certain situations.
Wait, no that was Otto Porter guarding centers. Sorry about that, I always get them confused.
Otto Porter - If nothing else, the Wizards' dalliance with super small lineups showed Porter can be an effective rebounder, regardless of who he's matched up against. If anything, playing smaller just makes him better. He had double-digit rebounding performances against the Mavericks and the Heat.
Problem is, rebounding and his defense at center are the only positives you can point to this week. His offensive game is not getting better. He was 1-15 beyond the arc this week, and only had 9 assists in 180 minutes of action. The Wizards need more than that from a guy who is starting and playing that many minutes, mostly on the perimeter.
DeJuan Blair - All things considered, Blair wasn't that bad this week, but publicly accusing a teammate of taking their time to come back is a bad look, especially when it's an opportunity for you to show you can still do something:
Papa Bear Blair, shots fired? pic.twitter.com/k9RAl2TM0Q— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 8, 2015
Kris Humphries - Remember when Kris hit five threes against the Magic? He's 3-17 from beyond the arc since then and he's only shooting 24 percent from the field.
Kelly Oubre - Give credit to Randy Wittman for giving Oubre opportunities, even if they're small ones, this week. Oubre didn't do much with those chances this week, but it's nice to see that he's getting them at least.
Ryan Hollins - I mean, I'm not sure you could really expect anything else out of someone who was thrust into a starting role less than a week after he was signed in the middle of the season. Once he can go back to his real spot in the rotation, it will be a little easier to appreciate what he can bring to the table.
Get well soon Alan Anderson, Nene and Drew Gooden.