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Powerball with Nick Young

By Lee Friedman

The Wizards' season is six games old and they are just a game out of the playoffs....with 93 percent of the season still to go. The first six games reinforced some of the concerns we had coming in to the season, along with some pleasant surprises. Some first impressions:

John Wall: His jumper has been inconsistent, but the rest of his game has been electrifying. The turnovers remain a concern, but that is to be expected. In some cases, the turnovers weren’t mistakes by Wall so much as his teammates not being where they were supposed to be, or not being ready to receive the pass. There was one point late in the Hawks game where he literally took over; he dictated the pace of the game and everyone else on the court had to adjust to him. Elite players do that. The downside is the minute that Flip took him out for a rest, the Hawks went on a run. It crystallized just how bad the Wizards would be if they hadn’t gotten the No. 1 pick, and they were stuck with Evan Turner or Derek Favors (neither of whom are bad, they just aren’t John Wall).

Nick Young: Six numbers sum up his season thus far: 5, 0, 20, 3, 3, 3…his scoring totals for the first six games (you can use his performance on Friday night as your POWERBALL pick if you think that associating yourself with Nick Young will bring you good luck, although based on his play thus far I think it's more likely you'll end up trapped on a tropical island). I know what you are thinking: you can come in off the bench and contribute in more ways than scoring right? Apparently Nick does not subscribe to that exotic theory. In 83 minutes of playing time he has exactly one assist, one steal, one block and six rebounds. Oh, and he’s shooting under 40 percent from the field for good measure. As soon as he steps on to the court he is looking to get the ball and score. Sometimes he doesn’t even look at his teammates. It reminds me of those games of 21 when I was a kid, one person trying to score while five people try to stop them. As valuable as numbers are, the one play that summed up Nick Young for me happened during the Rockets game and didn’t show up in the box score. Nick had just entered the game towards the end of the second quarter and the Rockets were inbounding the ball under the Wizards basket. Nick wasn’t paying attention during the inbounds and his guy got the ball and drove around him, leading to a Rockets' basket. That sums up Young in a nut-shell. His mental mistakes don’t always show up in the box-scores, but they hurt his team.

Yi Jianlian: Yi was great against the Rockets, and careened between good and nonexistent during the first five games. What struck me about Yi is that some players play at a height taller than what they are measured (i.e., Carl Landry, Charles Barkley), but Yi plays smaller than he is. I’ve never seen a seven-footer get out-muscled by smaller players like he does. His shooting range is great and he can be a valuable role player by making opposing big men guard him out on the perimeter, though.

JaVale McGee: McGee has improved over last year, but he still disappears during stretches. Early on in the Rockets game I was impressed with his defense on Yao, especially the way he fronted him. One thing McGee needs to learn to do is make a block while retaining possession of the ball. Hakeem Olajuwon was great at that, instead of flying through the air and swatting the ball in to the fourth row, he would block the ball to himself and create the turnover.

Al Thornton: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his scoring ability, but he really needs to work on his free throw shooting. He cannot have a major part of his game be based on driving to the hoop and shoot 62 percent from the line.

Flip Saunders: After Flip pulled a Bobby Thomson, there were two schools of thought:

  1. Flip was right to send a message to his team early, that effort and focus in practice are an important component of a successful team.
  2. It’s a big problem that Flip took such a drastic action this early in the season -- he made the decision out of panic instead of taking the long view that it’s still early in the season.

I think Flip made the right move with a little tough love for the team. This is a young team and Flip needed to put the squeeze on them early, before bad habits became ingrained. I was also impressed with the way the Wizards responded. They came out and played their best basketball of the year, defensively they were great. They took a team averaging 112 per game, and held them to just 91. Hopefully the play Wednesday night wasn’t an anomaly, but the beginning of a trend.

By Lee Friedman  | November 12, 2010; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  | Tags:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  
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In fairness to Nick, he is avg just 13 min per game. His minutes are so inconsistent, as his play has suffered. I don't think Nick has a place in Flip's system and really needs to be traded or released. I truly believe he has the talent to play in theis league with the right team. If J.R. Smith can flourish in Denver, Nick can too. Folks consistently get on the bandwagon to bash or praise players, unjustly or not. I don't think Flip is the right coach for this team, but I will wait for the season's end to make a "just" opinion of him.

Posted by: garrybrown | November 12, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Nick Young goes in as a small forward when he should be playing shooting guard. He can definately light it up when he gets a chance to play his position. Flippy can't figure that out. Also, your knock on Mcghee is kind of weak. Blocking 4 shots isn't good enough because he isn't Bill Russell. BTW, did you see the one he caught in mid air. Most of his blocks are from him coming off his man and blocking the shot so he is flying towards the player and must typically bat at it to get to them. Watch closer.

Posted by: bobilly1 | November 12, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Time to play the two rookie forwards

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | November 13, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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