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Keys to the Palace: Morris starts the season off on the right note while most Wizards lag behind

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With two losses, most Wizards players didn’t get very high marks. But Kieff still managed to get a Key.

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Keys to the Palace, our weekly player evaluation section during the season. The Wizards have finally completed their first week in action, so it’s now time to grade their individual performances.

How are Keys, guest passes, and lockouts issued?

For those of you who are new to reading the site or haven’t seen it in awhile, here is a refresher.

This is a weekly series on individual player evaluations. We will give out Keys to the Palace, Guest Passes, and Lockouts. Players who play very little are often not given an evaluation. Those who are injured can’t get evaluated either.

Let’s define what Keys, Guest Passes, and Lockouts are:

  • Key to the Palace - A player who plays consistently well and generally exceeds his expectations. To use a hotel analogy, if I’m the CEO of Marriott International in Bethesda, I’m giving him a key to the Ritz-Carlton suite. Likewise, if I’m the CEO of French hotelier AccorHotels based in Île-de-France, I’m giving him a key to the Sofitel suite. Make sense?
  • Guest Pass - Barring some outrageously bad team performances, most players will earn a guest pass when they play within the expectations of his role. Some weeks, a player is average within the context of his role. Other weeks, he’s a little above or below average. That said, he won’t be a player who has an uncharacteristically bad performance for most or all of the week. There is a wide range of guest passes in terms of hotel quality which is a new twist to Keys for this season. For Marriott terms, maybe the player deserves a night in an upscale hotel like the J.W. Marriott, the regular Marriott, or the Fairfield Inn. Or in AccorHotels terms, this ranges from a room at the business-oriented Pullman, the mid-scale Novotel, or the budget-minded Ibis respectively.
  • Lockout - We’ll give this to layers who have underwhelming performances for the week compared to his expectations. Anytime a player gets locked out, he doesn’t get a complimentary stay anywhere. It’s called a lock out for a reason.

The decision on what award to hand out is entirely subjective. Yeah, maybe one player could have received a key instead of a pass. Or maybe you can make a case that one guy should get locked out instead of barely earning a pass. There’s no hard and fast metric to this.

For recent examples, this was one we did on the Mystics in their last week of the regular season in September, and here’s one on the Wizards Summer League team.

John Wall is a double-double machine, shouldn’t he get a key every week?

No. Every player’s subjective threshold to get a key is based on his role on the team. Wall has to do more to get a Key to the Palace than Otto Porter. And Porter has to do more to get a key than Sheldon McClellan.

What about injured players or those who don’t play at all due to the coach not calling his number?

I mentioned it already. :)

But again, players in these situations will be notated accordingly. In most circumstances, they won’t get evaluated.

And what about benchwarmers who just played two or three minutes in one game?

In most cases, they will also be notated accordingly like the injured and DNP-coach’s decision players.

Who or what was the inspiration behind “Keys to the Palace?”

Former Wizards head coach Ed Tapscott was the inspiration when he gave the money quote back in December 2008:

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.

I’ve deviated a bit from palace to hotels. But think of it this way. A Sofitel or a Ritz-Carlton is definitely a palace! A palace of luxurious hospitality! And both palaces and hotels are a great place to stay while on the road or on vacation.

So, let’s get to the hardware! Or do I mean, accommodations?

Key to the Palace

It’s Halloween. I want to give someone a treat. So will someone get a magnifique suite at the Sofitel or the Ritz for playing better than expected despite two losses? This week, I’ll give it to one player who can decide which brand fits his style better.

For the record, I’m more of a Sofitel guy.

Oh wait, I forgot. The winner is....

Markieff Morris, 16.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg

Morris shot over 50 percent from the field last week and scored 22 points in the season opener. The four turnover performance on Sunday wasn’t desired, but his shooting, especially from three was on point. If Morris can be a consistent three-point threat all season, it will fill in the void that Jared Dudley left this offseason — and more.

Guest Passes for above average play

One player earned a pass to stay at the J.W. Marriott or a Pullman when the Wizards head to an American city with one. He was above average, but didn’t convince me -- the hotelier with the keys — to give him the all-out luxury package.

Andrew Nicholson, 8.5 ppg, 5 rpg

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical on the impact Nicholson would provide this season. To this point, he only played bench minutes on a rebuilding Magic team. But to his credit, Nicholson has carved himself a good role here in Washington as he moves in to his prime.

Were his stats and/or efficiency out of this world? No. But Nicholson should be a 20 minute per game player this season. And he should be a player who can consistently score 10 points and grab six or seven rebounds any given night. He didn’t get those numbers last week, but was awfully close both times.

Guest Passes for average play

These players played within the expectations of their roles on the team. Nothing out of the ordinary for the better or the worse. It’s worth a stay at the Marriott (or the Novotel in New York), right?.

Otto Porter, 11.5 ppg, 5 rpg

Porter had a couple consistent performances last week that fit the definition of fitting his role. Nothing less, but nothing more. That said, I wish he would have made one of his five three point attempts on Sunday.

Marcin Gortat, 9 ppg, 11 rpg

The Polish Machine lost the individual battle against Dwight Howard in the season opener vs. Atlanta but did a much better job vs. Marc Gasol on Sunday vs. Memphis. Gortat’s production on the stat sheet remained consistent, so I’m content with giving him a Marriott or Novotel pass (when he goes to Europe) for now.

Kelly Oubre Jr, 5 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Oubre shot 1 for 6 from the field vs. Atlanta but was 2 of 4 on Sunday. He’s going to be a bit streaky early on so that’s acceptable for now, but that tolerance will go down as the season goes on.

Marcus Thornton, 8 ppg, 3 rpg

Thornton was his usual streaky self last week. He scored five points on 2 of 8 shooting in the season opener, but scored 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting on Sunday. I wish he would have had a bigger night on Sunday especially.

Jason Smith, 2 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Smith averaged just seven minutes a game last week, but we know that’s all he’s going to get in most circumstances. His best performance was the season opener when he grabbed five rebounds, and dished two assists along with a score.

Guest Passes for below average play

These players will get a pass to the Fairfield Inn since they played within expectations but had below average weeks. There’s no Ibis in America yet if you’re wondering.

John Wall, 17 ppg, 11.5 apg

Wall’s output has been good in absolute terms. But a 20 percent shooting performance in the season opener, 20 percent shooting efficiency from three, plus two five-turnover games (TO rate of 20.3 percent) aren’t worthy of a key.

That said, Wall still was the primary catalyst for the Wizards’ offensive production in a positive light, so he won’t get locked out for averaging a double double. But averaging a double double with below average efficiency still hurt the type of guest pass he ended up getting.

Trey Burke, 5.5 ppg, 1.5 apg

The backup point guard should be able to find more than three total assists in two games. Furthermore, his assist percentage and per/36 numbers were down across the board compared with his three years in Utah.

I won’t lock him out just yet, but if the Wizards are consistently playing worse while he’s on the floor, expect Tomas Satoransky to get more chances to show his worth as the season goes on.

Locked out

One player just didn’t meet the mark.

Bradley Beal, 13.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 rpg

Beal started off this season with slightly below-average scoring numbers which is forgivable. But he shot just 20 percent from three (2 of 10). I liked that he dished four assists in the season opener, but that also came with three turnovers.

As the saying goes, with more money comes more responsibility. So far, Beal hasn’t answered the bell and I’ll admit, this rating is harsh. So sorry Brad. But maybe this week will be better for you so you can get a key! After all, the season is still young!

No evaluation due to Injury

Get well soon Ian Mahinmi.

None of the rookies received an evaluation due to lack of playing time

Tomas Satoransky, Daniel Ochufe, and Sheldon McClellan saw action last week, but it was even more sporadic than Smith’s. Danuel House hasn’t seen NBA game action yet.

I expect Sato’s situation to change soon since he was a high second round draft pick and left F.C. Barcelona Lassa this past summer as one of Europe’s top guards.

As for the other three, they were undrafted. So let’s realize that this is going to be a tall order for any one of them to be the Wizards’ version of Mystics starting forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt who was also undrafted. If it happens for one of these players, then great! But if none of them are long term rotation players, it shouldn’t be unexpected.