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Posted at 10:03 AM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Are the kids alright?

By Lee Friedman

"Staring at the water boiling won't make it go faster, my goal is to get to the point where every game that we go into, we think we can win. And we have a long way to go. But once you get there, I think it's a real good place." – Ted Leonsis

Coming in to this season we knew that it would be difficult for the Wizards to be competitive as the team rebuilds. I thought we would have won at least one game on the road by this point, but our overall record is about what I expected. To put things in perspective, Kevin Durant’s rookie year the Supersonics/Thunder went 20-62 and started his second season 3-29, before they finally clicked. So how have the Ernie and Flip Show done this year in developing the younger players? Note that I didn’t include Andray Blatche because he is in his sixth season and you can’t count him as one of the “kids” despite his fondness for clubs and changing his hair styles weekly.

John Wall

He has certainly lived up to the hype. He’s averaging 14 ppg, 9 apg and 1.8 spg and playing solid defense. When he drives to the hoop he is virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately his jump shot is so bad that teams will let him shoot from the free throw line, which neutralizes his ability to drive to the hoop. His FG percentage is 39 percent and he’s shooting just 30 percent from three. His decision-making has some room for improvement (three turnovers per game), but that will get better with experience, and having better players on the receiving end of his passes. Were it not for Blake Griffin, he would be the Rookie of the Year favorite.

Nick Young

As much as I like to find things wrong with him, Nick has taken a huge step forward this year, raising his scoring average from 8 ppg to 17 ppg, with slight upticks in his rebound and assist rates. Kevin Broom explained Nick’s deficiencies in great detail in this space last week. But one additional thought: Nick’s a restricted free agent this summer, which means the Wizards can match another team’s offer sheet for him. That makes me nervous because some desperate team will offer him a ridiculous deal (five years/$48M) and we will either have to match it (visions of Martin Gortat are dancing in my head), or lose him for nothing.

JaVale McGee

Not only have his numbers improved relative to previous seasons, but in comparison to his peer group -- centers currently playing who have been in the NBA for five seasons or less (JaVale is in his third season) -- he is among the leaders. Among this group, he is fourth in PER, second in rebound percentage and first in block percentage. Big men typically take longer to develop, so sometimes you don't know what you have on your hands until their third or fourth season. Historically, looking at how centers have performed in third seasons that are similar to McGee’s year so far: we have a 50 percent chance of a star (Andrew Bogut, Dikembe Mutombo and Joakim Noah), a 33 percent chance of a career backup (Marvin Webster and Rich Kelley) and a 17 percent chance of a complete lunatic (Darryl Dawkins).

Kevin Seraphin

With all due respect to Flip Saunders, this is a perfect example of where I think he is not serving the team well. Seraphin is raw and has a lot to learn, but the only way he is going to improve is by getting more playing time. I’m not saying he needs to be on the court for 20 minutes every night, but a game here and there wouldn’t hurt. He’s played in only 25 games this year, only seven times did he play more than 10 minutes, and never more than 19 minutes. We won’t know after just one year whether Seraphin has the potential to stick in the NBA, but it would be a wasted year if he didn’t at least get an opportunity to show us something.

Trevor Booker

When he’s gotten on the court he’s proven to be a solid contributor. Unfortunately, with the acquisition of Rashard Lewis, his time on the court has taken a hit. In the four games he’s played at least 30 minutes, he averages 13 ppg and 10 rpg, not a great sample, but an indication he deserves to play more. He has downsides -- he’s slightly undersized to play power forward, he may not be quick enough to guard small forwards, and he’s already 23 -- so his ceiling as a player may be a rotation guy as opposed to a starter.

Yi Jianlian

Yi has tried to adopt the NBA adage of finding one thing that you do well, and doing it consistently. He is a seven-footer who has a good perimeter shot (that doesn’t really show up in the shooting percentage statistics). Unfortunately he rebounds and shot-blocks badly for someone of his size and defensively he is about as graceful as Chris Farley near a coffee table. On a bad team he’d be a role player, on a good team he’d be Chuck Nevitt with longer shorts. He’s sort of like the Vin Diesel of the NBA, he does one specific type of character very well (Boiler Room), but if you try to force him to do anything else (The Pacifier), it’s painful to watch.

By Lee Friedman  | February 4, 2011; 10:03 AM ET
Categories:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  | Tags:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  
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Losing Nick Young to restricted free agency could be addition by subtraction versus paying him a large amount of money (that could be given to a specialist of some sort with room to spare). How much is a one-dimensional 2 guard worth in the NBA? Its not like he's Ray Allen shooting the basketball. Booker, McGee, and Wall seem to be building blocks either as starters or role players. Not sure about the rest.

Posted by: katamian | February 4, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Trevor Booker - "he may not be quick enough to guard small forwards". What exactly are you basing this on? When he has been given the opportunity to play, like against Durant (who is a small forward), he has done a pretty good job defensively. In that game Durant scored over 40, but he really turned it up after Booker fouled out, and took a ton of shots to get his 40.

Booker strugled against Al Harrington, but I believe that had more to do with coaching - he didn't seem to know how to properly defend the pick and roll, and being a rookie - he got lost in traffic at times.

The one thing with John Wall is that he does a bad job closing out games - too many turnovers, bad shots, bad decisions. Its a small sample size but there was a game recently where he got hurt and didn't play the end of an overtime win where the Wiz actually looked decent down the stretch. Lastly, maybe its the injuries but he doesn't look like the same defensive player he was earlier in the year. I'd love to see some stats on this, but just watching their games, he looks slower defensively.

Posted by: tedunni1 | February 4, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

One quick point on Nick Young.

Kevin Broom had decent analysis on the Nick Young's tendancy to take long 2's and his FG Pct dropping, but Young is a work in progress, especially along the rest of his criticism (free throws, rebounds and assists).

If you compare his stats from Nov (after he got the starting nod) to Dec to Jan (included the Feb 1 game). These are his numbers:

Nov Dec Jan
FGPCt 48.6 43.6 44.4
3PtPct 34 42 39
FTA 3.5 3.1 5.6
Reb 2.4 2.8 3.6
Ast 0.4 1.1 2.3
Stl 0.6 1.1 0.7
TO 1 2 1
Pts 17 18 22

His FTA, Rebounds, and Assists have all increased. If you just look at Jan, his FTA per game would rank him 7th among all shooting guards, and his rebounds would be 11th, and assists would be 15th.

I would be interested to know how he ranks in Kevin's various measures if you just look at the January data.

If I were the Wizards I would wait until the end of the year and see how and if he does improve in all facets of his game. Yes the FG% drop is a huge concern, but it's not like they are going to get a great player in return if they traded him and would a mid-first round draft pick be worth it?

Posted by: tedunni1 | February 4, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

With the exception of John Wall this whole team needs replacing and nobody should be safe.

Posted by: MARKHAGNER | February 4, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Good write-up, Lee. Your cousin Adam is fat.

Posted by: jpayne33 | February 4, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

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