Ranking who needs to step up the most in John Wall’s absence

News surfaced this weekend that after receiving injections to reduce swelling in his knee, John Wall would be sidelined for two weeks. Unfortunately for Washington, these small nicks and bruises often tend to linger longer than the initial diagnosis. The Wizards have already had a bumpy start to the season and with a tough schedule looming, there couldn’t have been a more inopportune time for the injury bug to rear its ugly head.

Here’s a ranking of the Wizards who need to step up if Washington is going to come out of this stretch with minimal wounds.

1. Scott Brooks

As mentioned by Ben Mehic, the honeymoon is over for Brooks. And if he wants to recreate an optimistic buzz around this team and its fanbase, here’s his chance.

Many thought Brooks was a not-so-creative inside the box hiring during the Summer of 2016. We’re only at the quarter pole of the season but his rotations still make you scratch your head, sometimes doesn’t make in-game adjustments fast enough, the team easily loses focus, and it looks like it may have spread to the rest of the coaching staff.

If Wall truly only misses two weeks of play, that means he’ll miss games against Portland (Loss), at Minnesota (Win), at Philadelphia, Detroit, and another early season west coast road trip at Utah, Portland, Phoenix, and the Los Angeles Clippers. On paper, that looks like a 3-5 or a 2-6 stretch.

Hopefully, Brooks will be able to push the right buttons like he did in Tuesday’s win, going with some unusual lineups down the stretch that got the job done.

2. Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal has been the best player for the Wizards so far this season and if Washington is going right the ship while Wall is out, they are going to need Beal to continue playing like an All-Star. Bradley Beal is averaging 24.7 points in games where Wall has been sidelined this year while knocking down 46.4 percent of his shots in those contests.

The sharp-shooter, who adds a little more to his offensive arsenal every year, is currently posting a usage of 28.7 percent, putting him in the 96th percentile of the league, per cleaningtheglass.com. With John Wall out, and Beal finding the ball more in his hands more often, there’s no reason to think that that number will drop.

Scott Brooks has toyed with Beal being the primary ball handler on the court. Although it’s a very small sample size, it doesn’t feel (nor look) natural when Beal is bringing the ball up the floor to trigger the offense. However, he’s excelled as the secondary handler, specifically, when running the pick-and-roll with Gortat or the rapport they’ve built in the two-man game.

With Wall out, Beal will not be lacking scoring opportunities and will be able to showcase his ability to be ‘the guy’ for this team. It’s not so much that he needs to step up, but rather, continue playing at an All-Star level for the Wizards to stay afloat during this stretch.

3. Otto Porter

Like Beal, Porter is putting up the best numbers of his career and has a huge opportunity to showcase to the national media that he was worthy of that big deal this offseason and maybe, just maybe, work his way into All-Star talks.

Even though Porter is posting career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, two-point shooting percentage, and three-point shooting percentage (let me catch my breath), his usage rate is just 16.1 percent; putting him in just the 53rd percentile in the league. That’s unacceptable for a player as efficient as Porter.

Scott Brooks is often criticized for running next to no plays for Porter but if the Wizards don’t want to fall behind in the surprisingly improved Eastern Conference, that has to change. Specifically, Porter has to be more assertive and aggressive when his number is called. The only criticism of Porter so far this year is that he still sometimes disappears during games. That can’t happen for one of the Wizards’ most efficient players.

As one of the best and most efficient players on this team, it’s time for Porter to start being a bit more selfish and take matters into his own hands, as we saw late in Tuesday’s win over the Timberwolves.

4. Tim Frazier

Frazier has been fairly underwhelming through the first quarter of the season. However, with the increased playing time about to come his way, he can change all that.

So far, Frazier seems content in trying to get others involved but is very reluctant to shoot the ball. Frazier is averaging just 7.5 points per 36 minutes on a putrid 38.2 percent shooting.

Should Frazier start jacking up shots to make the defense respect him more? Not at all. However, he does need to look for his shot just a little bit more as teams are lagging off, begging him to shoot. On a positive, Frazier is shooting a career-high 92.3 percent from the foul line. The only issue is, he doesn’t get there that often evidenced by his 0.7 attempts per game or 1.4 attempts per 36 minutes.

If Frazier could watch the tape on Ramon Sessions while he was here in Washington, and mimic his aggressiveness, that would pay dividends for the backup point guard. He’s very solid at setting his teammates up, he now just has to take advantage of these extended minutes to make himself more of a threat and open up things for his teammates.

It’s not going to be easy to replace the All-Star production of John Wall, however, if the Wizards are going to stay competitive during this tough upcoming stretch, it all comes back to these guys stepping up.

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Wizards vs. Pistons final score: Washington holds off late Detroit charge for 115-111 win

Otto Porter led Washington with 28 points as the Wizards held off a late surge from Pistons to win 115-111 on Friday night.

Washington led by as many as 15 points at the 10:15 mark of the fourth quarter. But the Pistons regained the lead 104-102 with less than five minutes to go in the game after an extended 21-4 run.

Both teams struggled with sloppy play in the closing minutes, but John Wall knocked down two free-throws with one second left to ice the game as the Wizards would hang on for the win at home.

It wasn’t pretty, but Washington is now 2-0 on this young season.

Takeaways

Otto Porter has a huge first half

Porter turned in one of the best halves of his career with 20 points on 9-13 shooting in the first half. He did most of his scoring in the midrange, slashing to the hole, and was the beneficiary of passes from Wall and Tim Frazier which led to easy dunks.

But it wasn’t just on the offensive end. To no one’s surprise, Porter was engaged on the defensive end (a rarity among Washington players in the first half) and forced three steals.

Many were split on if Porter deserved a max deal this offseason. Performances like this one show why he’s worth it.

Washington has a big third quarter but can’t pull away

Washington outscored the Pistons 33-16 in the third quarter including going 5-6 from three-point range. After a fairly quiet first half, both John Wall and Bradley Beal were able to get going offensively as the duo combined for 18 points in the period. The Wizards picked things up defensively and outrebounded the Pistons by nine in the quarter as well.

The bench was good enough tonight

The bench teased us a bit in the Philadelphia game but they were only so-so tonight. Kelly Oubre was promoted to a starter with Smith out due to injury which made an already thin bench, that much thinner. The reserves combined for just nine points through the first 24 minutes and were outscored 38 to 22 by their Detroit counterparts for the game.

Tim Frazier was brought in to backup Wall but looks pretty gun shy about his role with the team so far. Frazier is looking to get guys set up which is good but is a non-threat offensively as he rarely even looks at the rim. The Wizards are going to need more from Frazier as the season progresses.

After seeing all-bench lineups struggle against the 76ers on Wednesday night, Brooks always kept at least one starter on the floor tonight.

Oubre stays within himself in starting role

Many were quick to say that Kelly Oubre had ‘arrived’ after a terrific first game of the season against Philly. However, Oubre was mostly a non-factor tonight in his first start of the season, but that’s OK. He played within himself and didn’t force anything that wasn’t there. He made up for it as he was good enough defensively on a night where his shot wasn’t there.

Outside shooting is still quiet

Three-point shooting remains a mystery for this squad. Washington attempted just 14 three-point attempts tonight connecting on only six, with five coming in the third quarter. Keep an eye out for this as the Wizards were shooting threes at a much higher rate last season.

More stuff

John Wall worked on his step-back jumper this offseason. We could tell.

The Wizards opted to wear their red uniforms instead of their home whites. They’ll be doing that more this season now that the NBA allows for more flexibility with how teams use their uniforms. They’ll break them out again on November 3 when the Cavaliers come to town.

Next up: The Wizards kick off a four-game road trip with a game in Denver on Monday at 9 p.m.

The Wizards acquire Tim Frazier in hopes of boosting their bench

The Washington Wizards acquired point guard Time Frazier from the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday evening in exchange for their second round pick, the 52nd overall. Although Frazier has only been in the league for three seasons, he’s bounced around but has made his mark as a reliable backup point guard.

If you watched the Wizards this year, you know that they desperately need a backup point guard as Trey Burke was a flop, Brandon Jennings didn’t provide much, and Tomas Satoransky has yet to come into his own in the NBA. As a result, John Wall was forced to play heavy minutes during the regular season and in the playoffs.

Frazier comes in hoping to take some of the burdens off of Wall. He isn’t the best shooter but can attack the rim and keeps his teammates involved evidenced by his 5.2 assists in just 23.5 minutes this past season with the Pelicans. He probably won’t leapfrog Satoranksy right away in the pecking order, but will have plenty of opportunities to do so as the season rolls along.

Trade Grade: A-

This trade was a huge win for the Wizards as they acquired a pretty reliable backup point guard for next to nothing. Most second round players never make it to an NBA roster let alone provide a spark for a team. So the fact that the Wizards were able to give up a low-level pick for a reliable player making just $2 million per year makes this trade a big win for the Wizards.

Yes, they won’t have a pick in this upcoming draft, but hopefully, they’ve filled a void that they’ve been searching for, for a very long time.