#CrystalBasketball: Ranking the Washington Wizards for 2017-18

How does every NBA player stack up heading into 2017-18, based solely on the level at which we expect them to play during the upcoming season?

That’s the question 16 NBA Math staff members and contributors sought to answer, ranking each and every player in the sport’s premier league on a 1-to-12 scale and then seeing who emerged with the highest averages. The distant past was irrelevant. Long-term potential doesn’t matter. Only what could come to pass in 2017-18 is factored in, assuming health for those currently healthy and full recoveries from those presently injured. For example, Brandon Knight will still be included in this analysis; we just assumed he’d already completed his rehab for the torn ACL and now has that as a prior portion of his overall injury history.

All players were graded on the following scale by each evaluator, and ties between players with identical averages were broken by sorting the 16 scores from best to worst and propping up the men who had the highest mark at any point in the top-down progression:

  1. Shouldn’t Get Minutes
  2. End-of-Bench Pieces
  3. Depth Pieces
  4. High-End Backups
  5. Low-End Starters
  6. Solid Starters
  7. High-End Starters, Non-All-Stars
  8. All-Star Candidates
  9. All-NBA Candidates, Non-MVP Candidates
  10. Lesser MVP Candidates
  11. MVP Frontrunners
  12. Best Player in the League (only one player could earn this grade on each ballot)

Journey with us team by team as we unveil the entirety of these rankings, culminating in a look at every player set to suit up for the 2017-18 campaign.

Today’s featured squad? The Washington Wizards, whose Big Three of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. is poised to lead them up the Eastern Conference standings.

17(tie). Mike Young: 1.00

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 23
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks, 108.73 TPA (for Pittsburgh Panthers)
  • Unanimous Grade: 1

Mike Young was the unquestioned featured option for Pittsburgh, and that’s obviously going to change at the next level. Even when he’s operating in the G League, he’ll need to learn how to play off the ball, developing as a spot-up shooter and savvy cuter who doesn’t need to commandeer possessions out of the post in order to score.

More importantly, he needs to become a better defender. His lack of steals and blocks are concerning, but not as much as his inability to maintain proper positioning in just about every situation. Perhaps that’ll get better as he gets to use his athletic gifts in more of an all-around role. It’s just more likely he’ll require significantly more seasoning before he’s ready even to sit on an NBA bench.

17(tie). Devin Robinson: 1.00

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 22
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 11.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 152.26 TPA (for Florida Gators)
  • Unanimous Grade:  1

What’s the best way to increase your minutes on an NBA bench? Bust your butt on every single possession, making it clear you have an indefatigable motor on the defensive end.

That’s exactly what Devin Robinson has done for most of his playing career, whether with the Florida Gators as an upperclassman or during exhibition season for the Wizards. He’s an oversized small forward with plenty of athleticism to his name, and he knows how to leverage it against opposing wings—or when he gets switched onto players at other positions.

“There were many times when Robinson volunteered for the toughest defensive assignments, even in practice,” Chris Dortch reported for NBA.com. “He remembers a day in practice when 6-foot-6 Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson, who had to redshirt in 2016-17, was terrorizing his teammates while playing on the scout team…During the next three possessions, Robinson guarded Hudson so tight he was forced to pass the ball, missed a shot and charged into Robinson.”

16. Carrick Felix: 1.07

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 27
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 9.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks (for Long Island Nets)
  • Highest Grade: 2 (Jordan McGillis)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Carrick Felix’s stock has now fallen to the point that only a single voter viewed him as even an end-of-bench piece. And that’s an understandable reaction to the last few years.

This 27-year-old shooting guard hasn’t logged a minute in the NBA since the 2013-14 season, when he played in just seven contests for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, the majority of his time has been spent in the G League for the Canton Charge, Santa Cruz Warriors and Long Island Nets. Problem is, he still hasn’t developed a convincing outside shot and has been limited to making a one-way defensive impact.

Energy and effort has aided his comeback attempt after a derailing fractured tibia knocked him out of action in 2014. It just might not be enough if he can’t knock down shots and forces the Wizards to play four-on-five offensive basketball.

15. Chris McCullough: 1.44

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 22
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-7.73 TPA (for Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards)
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Some players are positionless studs. Others are tweeners—the more derogatory label.

On defense, Chris McCullough falls into the latter category. A 6’9″ forward, he’s not quite big and strong enough to bang around with interior bigs, but he also doesn’t have the quickness necessary to stick with wings for lengthy durations. He’s without a role when trying to prevent points, and that’s unlikely to change unless he bulks up without sacrificing any more speed.

Those same limitations might not matter on offense if he could develop a stronger shot, though. His repertoire is largely limited to off-ball cuts and interior finishes after pulling down an offensive rebound, which also needs to change before Washington can rely on him for meaningful minutes.

14. Sheldon Mac: 1.75

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 3.0 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-20.95 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Sheldon Mac, who was previously known as Sheldon McClellan, won’t be getting much run during his sophomore season. An Achilles tear ended his efforts prematurely, and he’ll spend all of 2017-18 rehabbing that devastating injury before trying to make an impact in future go-rounds.

13. Tomas Satoransky: 2.31

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 25
  • Position: PG/SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 2.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-45.18 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Tomas Satoransky needs to rediscover his confidence. He entered the NBA as a player ready to contribute after thriving abroad, and he had the size and physical tools necessary to make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor.

Perhaps the game was a bit too fast for him. Maybe he was overwhelmed. There’s a chance he just didn’t know how to contribute when he wasn’t granted enough run to work up a rhythm. But he frequently seemed unsure of himself, hesitant to throw up jumpers or take control of the action even when set up to do exactly that.

The 25-year-old should be feeling better as he enters his sophomore season. But given the influx of backup options for John Wall, he may need to start developing some comfort at the 2 or 3 for head coach Scott Brooks to call his number more frequently.

12. Donald Sloan: 2.33

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 29
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 23.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.1 blocks (for Guangdong Southern)
  • Highest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

After a year in China with the Guangdong Southern Tigers, Donald Sloan now looks like a different player. Here’s Candace Buckner with the Washington Post:

In just over a week with the Wizards, Sloan has defined himself as a solid NBA backup guard. During training camp practices in Richmond, he commanded the floor with his group. When Carrick Felix, the other training camp invitee, needed to execute a difficult attempt in the team’s open practice slam dunk contest he called off Bradley Beal and waved for Sloan to throw the perfect pass off the side of the backboard. With Sloan’s assist, Felix won the competition.

Whether it’s running the offense or setting up a teammate, the veteran Sloan knows his role. He knows he can play in this league as a backup point guard. Over the years, not too many NBA general managers have agreed.

The 6’3″ guard seems more confident know, ready to run an offense and capable of either calling his own number or setting up a teammate. His defense won’t be great against NBA-caliber backcourt players, but continuing to make shots and avoid turnovers will let him carve out a role of some significance.

11. Mike Scott: 2.44

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 29
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 2.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, minus-20.18 TPA (for Atlanta Hawks)
  • Highest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

Mike Scott is—at best—a competent defender who shouldn’t be left alone in the paint and asked to protect the rim. He’s not much of a distributor, doesn’t go to work with his back to the basket and shouldn’t be asked to handle on the perimeter.

So why is he getting run with the Wizards? Fortunately, that answer is simple: shooting.

You might not know it if you only watched Scott during the bitter end of his Atlanta Hawks career, but the 29-year-old slashed 46.8/39.2/79.4 during the 2015-16 campaign. He was a consistent floor-spacing option who demanded respect as a transition trailer or a big who could wander out to the perimeter and wait for a catch-and-shoot attempt. Give him enough of those, and he might get more happy-face emojis tattooed on whatever canvas is left.

10. Jodie Meeks: 2.88

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 30
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-26.79 TPA (for Orlando Magic)
  • Highest Grade: 4 (Ryan Jarvis)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

Jodie Meeks hasn’t played in 70 or more games since his 2013-14 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He suited up just 60 times during his first go-round with the Detroit Pistons, was limited to three appearances in 2015-16 and then bounced back to play in 36 contests last year with the Orlando Magic.

But on the rare occasions this 30-year-old is healthy, he’s a legitimate marksman.

Meeks can create his looks off the dribble and find open teammates, but  he’s best as a spot-up shooter who can use a quick release to shoot over even the tightest coverage. Though the samples are small, as addressed above, he’s knocked down 38.8 percent of his deep looks while taking 4.3 attempts per game over the last four years.  So long as he keeps doing that off the Washington pine, he’ll justify the two-year, $7 million deal he inked this summer.

9. Jason Smith: 3.00

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 31
  • Position: PF/C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 5.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, minus-30.31 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

“He definitely was on fire,” Brooks said about Jason Smith after the big man posted 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting (including 4-of-5 from downtown) in a preseason loss to the Miami Heat, per Buckner. “Every time he touched the ball, you know he had a good feel that it was going in. Just had a good rhythm tonight. John [Wall] and the guys were finding him open looks. He’s really developed his three-point shot. Give credit to him and the staff. They worked on it last year and it’s paying off. It’s paying off and we need his three-point shooting.”

Smith took just 1.1 attempts per game from beyond the arc in 2016-17, though he connected at a 47.4 percent clip. He instead preferred to shoot long twos, from where he’s become one of the league’s more overlooked weapons. The 31-year-old might not get covered much by national media, but he hit 53.1 percent of his jumpers from between 10 and 16 feet while knocking down 52.6 percent of his twos from at least 16 feet. Those are uber-elite numbers, and adding additional range would only help him become more of an underrated stretch big.

If he can do that, he’ll easily justify the three voters who viewed him as an upper-tier backup.

8. Tim Frazier: 3.06

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 26
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-68.49 TPA (for New Orleans Pelicans)
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

Tim Frazier might not have much upside as a backup point guard, but that’s not why the Wizards traded a second-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for his services. They badly need steadiness behind John Wall, and the 26-year-old is a solid player in most facets of the game. He won’t post many gaudy numbers, but he’s a serviceable defender who can score in a variety of ways, so long as those ways are only exposed in small doses.

If Frazier does have a standout skill, it’s his passing. Averaging 7.9 assists and 2.4 turnovers per 36 minutes is no easy feat; exactly zero players matched or bettered those numbers during the 2016-17 campaign. But even more exciting is his style of distribution, since he can replicate Wall’s drive-and-kick game while on the floor.

Last year, Wall averaged an assist once every 9.8 drives to the hoop. Frazier sat at 7.7. He ventured into that style less frequently, but he was quite good at delivering kick-out feeds when he did.

7. Ian Mahinmi: 3.13

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 30
  • Position: C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 5.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, 9.0 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

A torn meniscus prevented Ian Mahinmi from getting off to a roaring start as Washington’s backup center, and he never quite found his rhythm in 31 games before injuries knocked him back out of the lineup. But he’s healthy heading into 2017-18, ready to show the world his interior defense can make him worth the four-year contract he signed last summer for $64 million.

Even while trying to find his bearings, the big man held opponents to 46.5 percent shooting when he was stationed at the rim, which is certainly a positive sign. And let’s not forget he was a legitimate game-changing presence during his time with the Indiana Pacers, to the point that he should have received some fringe All-Defense consideration for his work around the basket.

Mahinmi may be a limited offensive player, but his rebounding and point-preventing chops helps make up for that drawback to throwing him out at the 5.

6. Kelly Oubre Jr.: 4.13

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 21
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, minus-74.83 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)

Kelly Oubre Jr. actually played fewer minutes during the playoffs than he did throughout the regular season, but he averaged 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks while shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from downtown. Don’t be fooled by the tiny nature of those numbers, since they represent distinct improvement in plenty of areas. Oubre just looked the part of a future rotation mainstay against the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks.

In fact, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes subsequently picked him as the team’s most likely breakout candidate:

The idea of Oubre expanding his game as a small-ball 4 is intriguing, and he has real defensive potential against several positions when he’s fully engaged.

Let’s also remember that Oubre wouldn’t be the first role-playing wing to look better and better the more he plays alongside John Wall. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. might have big contracts without Wall’s dimes…but there’s no doubt his setups helped both cash in bigger than they otherwise would have.

Oubre is a great athlete who plays with tons of energy. If he can stand still in the corner and knock down the threes Wall spoon feeds him, watch out.

All he needs to do is shoot like he did throughout the playoffs.

5. Marcin Gortat: 5.50

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 33
  • Position: C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 10.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 15.54 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 7 (Frank Urbina)
  • Lowest Grade: 5 (multiple voters)

Marcin Gortat doesn’t have to do much for the Wizards in order to remain effective.

Play solid interior defense? Check, though he’s not much of a rim-protecting presence at this stage of his career.  Thrive as a roll man? Check after scoring 1.09 points per possession and finishing in the 65.6 percentile. Excel on the glass? Check, since those 10.4 boards per game look pretty nice. Set hard screens that help free up his teammates? Check, as not a single player averaged more screen assists per contest.

It’s simple as that.

4. Markieff Morris: 5.56

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 28
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks, minus-52.94 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 5 (multiple voters)

Recovery from sports hernia surgery will force Markieff Morris into a delayed 2017-18 debut, but he’s not exactly in danger of losing his starting job. He developed into one of the beating hearts of the Wizards last year, capable of infusing an extra layer of edge and passion into his troops with his constant efforts on both sides of the floor.

Morris isn’t content serving as just a stretch 4.

He’s quite good in that role, especially now that he’s following up a season in which he shot a career-best 36.2 percent from beyond the arc on 2.6 attempts per game—also the top mark during his NBA tenure. But his solid rebounding and bouncy, physical defense also helped the Wizards quite substantially.

3. Otto Porter Jr.: 6.94

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 205.94 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 9 (Louie Vicchiollo)
  • Lowest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)

Otto Porter Jr. is worth every penny of a max deal, so long as he can keep up the level at which he played throughout 2016-17. And considering he’s still just 24 years old and should continue improving for the Wizards, there’s no reason to expect anything else.

Gone are the days in which we needed to subscribe to the antiquated notion that only volume scorers were capable of earning gargantuan paydays, and Porter is the perfect example. He was quite key to Washington’s efforts, thanks to his well-rounded defense, his rebounding from the wings, his playmaking abilities and—most notably—his spot-up work.

The Georgetown product proved a phenomenal fit next to Wall, since he could set up on the perimeter and wait to knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers from both above and below the break. He scored a whopping 1.31 points per spot-up possession, which left him trailing only Kyle Korver, C.J. Miles and Stephen Curry among all 269 players who took at least 50 relevant attempts.

Newsflash: Shooting is kinda important in today’s NBA.

2. Bradley Beal: 7.50

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 23.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks, 114.25 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 8 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 7 (multiple voters)

As Tony East broke down in detail for NBA Math, Bradley Beal made some major offensive strides during the 2016-17 season:

Beal never took 20 threes in a game—never higher than 14, in fact—but he attempted almost two-and-a-half more per game than he ever had. As he became a bigger threat from beyond the arc, more space on the floor opened up for him to improve in other areas, as well. Using NBA Math’s Play-Type Profiles, you can see that Beal grew in nearly every offensive play type during his first season under Brooks’ supervision.

These aren’t just small improvements. Beal made leaps and bounds from his 2015-16 season to the last campaign, and his growth was a huge part of the Wizards’ success. He was able to balloon his true shooting percentage from a middling 54.7 percent two seasons ago to 60.4 percent last year, and his increase in efficiency can be attributed to his improvement in a wide variety of offensive skills. With Brooks telling him to shoot more threes, Beal cut out the worst shot in his game, the long two, and began to show what a great player he really can be.

Shot selection allowed this ex-Gator to morph from a threatening presence into a fearsome volume scorer, springing him further up the 2-guard hierarchy. Developing as a distributor also didn’t hurt, as he averaged a career-high 3.5 assists per game.

Now, if he can just become a bit more capable defensively…

1. John Wall: 9.31

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 27
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 23.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 241.45 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 10 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 9 (multiple voters)

What can’t John Wall do?

If your answer was “threaten the defense with a consistent perimeter jumper,” you’re correct. The deep shot still hasn’t come around for this 27-year-old floor general, as he knocked down only 32.7 percent of his triples in 2016-17. But if you guessed just about anything else, you’re welcome to try again.

Wall remains one of the league’s most gifted distributors, capable of flying toward the rim and passing to the perimeter as the defense compresses around him. More often than not, he hits his shooters right in the pocket. He’s also a gifted scorer who specializes around the rim and when drawing contact, one of the league’s best rebounding 1s and a havoc-wreaking defender who can jet in from weak-side positions to block a shot or disrupt a passing lane.

He’s become the very definition of a two-way stud, even if his shot allows defenders to sag off him. More often than not, he still has the speed to blow by them all the same.

Who’s rated too high? Who are we selling short? Join the conversation using #CrystalBasketball on Twitter.

Follow NBA Math on Twitter @NBA_Math and on Facebook.

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from NBA Math or NBA.com.

Many thanks to our entire panel of voters: Andrew BaileyArjun BaradwajNick BirdsongMichael BrockTony EastDan FavaleAdam FromalRyan JarvisJordan McGillisTom RendeBrian SampsonAdam SpinellaEric SpyropolousTim StubbsFrank UrbinaLouis Vicchiollo

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