Overall, the Wizards looked impressive en route to an “it’s just the preseason” 97-94 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night (although they almost gave the game away). Here’s who looked good, bad and okay in yays, nays and mehs.
What are these gents celebrating?
Well, the Microwave just cooked the game.
John Wall. 21 points, nine assists, two turnovers and four steals in about 38 minutes. I guess it will do, statistically.
“When he competes, what it does is that our whole team competes.”
- Flip Saunders
Ah, that’s the thing too. Why, beyond statistics, Wall was worth drafting first overall. I hear DeMarcus Cousins had a nice night. And perhaps something he did sparked some energy in his team at some point. But overall, without the consistency and the label PG next to his name in the stat book, Cousins doesn’t come close to doing what Wall is able to do with his energy, effort, and passion for the game that’s absolutely contagious to his teammates.
Gilbert Arenas. Who says this guy can’t be a shooting guard? 12 points on 5-9 from the field (2-4 from three), and three rebounds, just one assist, one steal and zero turnovers in 26 minutes says he can.
Four of his five makes were assisted upon; two of those came from running off-ball screening action, and two came as he made himself available at the three point line in transition and off an offensive rebound. The one non-assisted make came on a sweet baseline jumper against the mis-matched Jose Juan Barea (that natural scoring ability Gil still has).
Out of the four misses, only 1.5 accounted for “bad attempts” — The good misses being wide open in transition and when Marion gave him too much room at the top of the key. The bad miss came when he pulled up for three in transition when driving action clearly would’ve created something for Blatche down low or Hinrich in the corner. The half bad attempt was Arenas’ last as he tried to post his old buddy DeShawn Stevenson. It was a close shot, but going in the direction of help.
In terms of changing his game for the team, Gilbert might just be okay … but I can’t speak for him otherwise.
JaVale McGee. He’s so close to being a ‘nay’ for reasons I’ll explain in a second. McGee brings so many unique aspects to the court that he must play a significant amount of minutes. Question is, how much is “significant”? JaVale will earn his team extra possessions by blocking a lot of shots, he had six in 27.5 minutes against Dallas. He also opens up game-changing offense — the chemistry between him and Wall is at an elevated level, evident by that backdoor cut for the open alley-oop with perfect vision from Wall, and slightly aided by the fact that Brian Cardinal was the help-side defender.
Then there’s the other JaVale that continues to look stubbornly lost in multiple defensive situations, and unwilling to compromise his penchant for speed jumping at every pump fake. Growth for him will be when he frustrates the coaching staff less. You know what “style over substance” means? It means that McGee needs to adhere to instruction more.
Open space for Wall’s jumper. Not only did Jason Kidd leave him wide open on his first attempt from a distance, but he damn near ran away from Wall like the plague.
Wall’s actual jumper. He air-balled that first one Kidd ran away from, but looks miles more comfortable, or more willing to shoot, than someone like Rajon Rondo. He did hit an elbow jumper and another long one en route to 6-14 from the field, but more importantly, he got to the free-throw line 11 times, making nine. I’d like to give his jumper area a ‘meh’, but it’s too soon. I do like the noticeable improvement in the consistency of Wall’s mechanics since summer league, and again, he showed that he’s willing to shoot without playing mental games with himself via hesitation.
Yi Jianlian. WebBro @Unsilent Tweeted it … “Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to like Yi very much.” … and I know why. Yi loves that jumper, too much so, as he has in the past. Concern about him seeing the jumper as a crutch and not a gift has been noted. But let’s look at the sunny side …
First, Yi is a more dependable and aggressive rebounder than JaVale McGee. Part of it is that he’s stronger, but he also goes after it harder, with two hands. Yi had three blocks to go with his 10 rebounds. He also runs the floor very well. As long as he relies on his jumper in situations that are created for him, he’s going to be okay. And hopefully, as he grows NBA confidence, Saunders will find a way to get him the ball in the post. He’s shown the ability and willingness to score down low, and with not much in terms of team post game, Saunders will have to look in his direction.
Three-guard lineup. Perhaps this should be a ‘yay’ … Flip Saunders praised it after the game, saying, “We were very good defensively. Our three guards together were excellent. We rebounded well in that group. We actually got out-rebounded when that other group was in there.”
At first, I had my hesitations about the three-guard lineup, but Dallas never took advantage on offense (Hello? Caron Butler?), not all teams won’t … and that’s the key.
But as the game progressed, I like how they got after it on defense. Arenas still finds himself trailing way too much when defending over the top on ball screens, or at least not in tune with the team concept. But he’s trying, mostly from his displayed communication and knowledge of the concept by pointing his teammates in the right direction when that three-guard lineup put disruptive defensive pressure on Dallas in the backcourt.
Al Thornton. What does he do again in those mid socks of his? Maybe Thornton is taken aback because Flip decided to go with a three-guard lineup when a lot of the talk was about him being the de facto guy at the three spot.
Unfortunately Al continues to lost on defense, and that will quickly find him out of the rotation. In one instance, it took him several seconds (were talking at least four) to turn around, go to the wrong, guarded man, and then find his man after Wall had specifically pointed him in the right direction.
Nick Young. He shot 1-7 from the field and picked up five fouls … should probably be in the ‘nay’ category, right? This is where I’ll give Nick the benefit of the doubt. For the most part, he played within what the system provided. And as far as the fouls, they seemed to be more of the result of needed defensive aggressiveness than from complete ineptitude. I want to see Young some more … and it will really be interesting to see how he bounces back from this shooting performance, because there’s no reason to play him if he can’t knock down spot-up opportunities.
Kirk Hinrich. He was pretty much who we thought he was … the guy who does everything in the background, yet has an overall positive influence on everyone — to the tune of a team leading plus-27 while on the court. Nine points, three rebounds, four assists, two turnovers and two steals in 28 minutes. This is probably around 70-90% of his average nightly line to come. I’ll take it … with a few less turnovers here and there.
And as my friend Mr. Prada puts it on Bullets Forever: “The nice thing about Kirk Hinrich is that he’s not afraid to let it fly. That’s a welcome change from Mike Miller…”
Lester Hudson. He didn’t look good in the beginning, leading some unfamiliar with his Wizards resume so far to immediately question him on Twitter, but he redeemed himself, in a sense, with the game winner. You can tell Hudson was trying to find that balance between being able to run the team (depending on who he’s playing with), and what he can/needs to do — to be that scorer who can heat up off the bench in a second. That’s why the Wizards have called him “Mini-Vinnie” since the Summer. Many think he may be caught in a numbers game, but I think he could eventually be stealing minutes from Nick Young.
Andray Blatche. He actually looked better than expected (for someone who broke his foot in late June) … 22 points on 9-15 shooting in 26 minutes sounds nice to me, and he can surely improve on those five rebounds with better conditioning. He looked good on a couple jumpers, going 2-5 from the exterior, but it’s just splendid that Blatche did work inside, going 7-10.
Flip Saunders. Nice debut with your young students sir.