Keys to the Palace is a feature where we rank each Wizards player based on their performance for the week. It 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. That said, here is where each player lands for their performances in January, where the Wizards went 7-8.
Keys to the Palace
Bradley Beal - Beal has been very efficient since he returned from his latest stress reaction, though it doesn't always look great in the box score because of his minutes restriction. When you compare his performance per 36 minutes from before he suffered his injury until now, you might be surprised with how well he holds up:
It helps that he's playing against more reserve units than he'll face when he gets more minutes, but it's encouraging to see that his injury didn't affect his performance.
Jared Dudley - Dudley went through an unusual lull where Randy Wittman cut down on his minutes. That's not necessarily a bad thing for Dudley who was probably thrust into too much playing time too quickly after back surgery. For a guy who always gotten by on his skills and guile, putting him in a spot that's especially taxing on his body isn't a great idea. But at the same time: What's the alternative?
Dudley has his limits, especially when it comes to rebounding, but he still such a clear upgrade over Nene, Kris Humphries, and Drew Gooden at the four you have live with what he can't provide.
Ramon Sessions - Sessions continues to make the most of a constantly changing cast with the second unit. He doesn't necessarily make players better, at least not in the same way Wall does, but he certainly doesn't make teammates worse and he does enough on his own to shoulder the load.
Nene - He gets a key this month because:
- He doesn't take crap from Dwight Howard.
- He's really stepping it up on Twitter. Just look at this guy.
He's posing for baller photos with Wizards' radio analyst Glenn Consor:
He's retweeting topical tweets sent to Bullets Forever:
Judge for yourself ...— Nene Hilario (@NeneHilario42) January 31, 2016
Great win and my thoughts and prayers for coach Witt and his family, we love you! https://t.co/eaC6nCCfKT
He's really moving up in the social media world, and we're happy for him.
Garrett Temple - Unlike a lot of players who have benefited from the John Wall Effect, Temple isn't taking advantage of the shorter three-point line in the corner. As you can see with his shot chart from January, he's doing most of his damage on the wing:
It's good that Temple gives Wall a three-point threat who can space the floor somewhere other than the corner, but at the same time, he's getting just as many opportunities from the corners as the wings and the results clearly aren't the same. Washington needs to find a ways to utilize Temple where he's shooting well and push him away from spots where he isn't getting it done.
Marcin Gortat - You know who is shooting worse on jumpers than John Wall this season? Marcin Gortat. 187 of Gortat's 420 field goal attempts this season have been jumpers, and he's shooting 32.1 percent on them this season. He's shooting 71.2 percent on every other shot this season. Gortat shooting jumpers is the new Bradley Beal taking midrange shots.
John Wall - Wall wasn't going to replicate what he did in December, but his shooting took a real beating in January. When Wall's legs are at 80 percent, you don't see it a lot in the normal motions, because he's still faster than most of the league. It really shows up with his jumper because he doesn't get the lift he needs to be an effective jump shooter or on challenging layups. Not surprisingly, he only shot 34 percent on jumpers and 46 percent on layups in January.
Kelly Oubre - Oubre didn't offer much on the offensive end. He made five threes and only had two assists the entire month. His only real value on that end lately is that he isn't taking bad shots. Still, he has been able to survive because he's making a difference on the defensive end. The only player who had a better Defensive Rating than Oubre last month was Kris Humphries, who only played spot minutes in two games last month.
DeJuan Blair - Blair gets a guest pass this month thanks to his two best performances as a Wizard. He had a very sneakily solid game against the Bulls where he scored 8 points and snagged 3 boards, which gave Gortat and Nene some unexpected rest. He followed it up a few days later with a nice 12 point, 6 rebound effort in 23 minutes against Indiana. There wasn't much else to write home about for Blair in January, but that's more than he's had in a while.
Gary Neal - He shot 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the arc, 86 percent at the charity stripe and yet the Wizards just can't make use of him because the defense is so bad with him out there. The team's Defensive Rating with Neal on the floor in January was 112.4. For perspective, the Lakers' Defensive Rating this season is only 108.2.
Drew Gooden - The good news is the threat of Drew Gooden's outside shot is still helping the Wizards' offense, even though he shot under 30 percent from beyond the arc this month. Certainly, his persistence on the offensive glass, where he averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes helped as well. The Wizards' Offensive Rating with him on the floor was 106.0 in January, better than the team's rating as a whole for the month (105.6).
The problem is, it's getting harder to hide Gooden defensively. The team's Defensive Rating with Gooden on the floor last month was 109.4, a full two points worse than the team's. While Gooden is still quite nimble for a guy his age and his size, it's just not enough when teams are using small forwards at the 4 spot. Playing him at the 5 mitigates some of the problem, but if you do that you're leaving Gortat and Nene, two of your five best players, off the court, which isn't ideal or necessary.
Otto Porter - Meh.
Jarell Eddie - After making four of his first five threes with the Wizards against the Nets, Eddie is 8-26 (30.7 percent) since that magical afternoon in Brooklyn. It's hard to get in a rhythm when you're only playing spot minutes and everyone knows exactly what you're in the game to do, but that's the challenge of playing in the NBA.
Get well soon, Alan Anderson and Kris Humphries.