Thursday April 21, 2011, 9:20 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
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If the 2010-11 season is any indication, the Wizards' front court is still very much a work in progress, as player performances ranged from showing flashes of brilliance to not showing much at all. So here are the player grades for the forward and center positions for the Wizards.
JaVale McGee: Grade B
McGee caught the attention of the rest of the league when he literally caught a shot by Portland's Wes Matthews Jr. in a game late in the season. Was it a steal. A block? Whatever it was, it has to be a defensive play of the year nominee without question. McGee opened more eyes the very next game, rejecting the Clippers' dunk king Blake Griffin with great authority.
In fact, McGee played the best ball of his career on that late season five-game road trip, piling up double-doubles in four of the games. McGee averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for the season but really picked up his play in March, averaging 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Because of his lane prowess, McGee got three votes for the NBA's top defensive player. He is on the right track to be a productive NBA center -- he just has to stay focused and consistent.
McGee must work on his offensive moves this off-season, for right now his only effective move is the dunk. If McGee can carry over his late-season play, he just might turn out to be an important part of this rebuild.
Andray Blatche: Grade C
This was not a breakout season for Andray Blatche, as some expected. Instead of carrying over his play from late in the 2009-10 campaign, Blatche stumbled out of the gate out of shape and ineffective and seemingly was playing catch-up all season.
After missing several games due to a sprained shoulder, Blatche came back inspired and rejuvenated and again showed the critics he has game -- but once again late in the season when the team's fate had already been determined. For the season, Blatche averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds a game.
Blatche must come into training camp next season in the best shape of his career. He will be a sixth-year pro and it will be time to finally become one.
Trevor Booker: Grade B-
Before missing the last several weeks with a broken foot, Booker was closing out his rookie season with more consistency. Like many of his teammates, Booker showed glimpses of great promise and then would go stretches without contributing.
Booker is an energy player who complements guard John Wall, specifically filling the lane on the fast break and finishing with a fury. Booker will have to work on his first move after catching the ball, as well as on his jump shot, because he may have to play some small forward in the future.
Kevin Seraphin: Grade D
I really don't see how Seraphin will ever be a productive NBA player. He will get another chance next season, only because he was a first-round pick last summer. Seraphin will have to make huge steps this off-season to have any chance of getting off the bench next year. He needs to get in great shape and learn how to play the post position. At 6'-9," he is a an undersized center, who can't step out and shoot a jumper. Safe to say, Seraphin is a major project.
Yi Jianlian: Grade D
It was just a really bad season for this former top 10 pick. Obviously, there was a reason Yi was on his third team in four years -- he is just not that good. He's a 7-footer who has fallen in love with the elbow jump shot and he can't even make those consistently. Yi struggles playing in the post and in defending more athletic post-players as well.
With his contract up, I would be stunned if Yi were back in D.C. next season, or in the league for that matter.
Rashard Lewis: Grade B-
Lewis missed over the last month of the season with a sore knee and that clearly affected his play. Brought over from Orlando in the Gilbert Arenas trade, Lewis provided a steadying influence on and off the floor and showed he could still shoot the three and play good defense, but his knee just couldn't hold up. The 32-year-old's health will be a major question going forward with two years still left on his titanic contract.
Maurice Evans: Grade B
This player gets it. Evans knows his role and does whatever it takes to make the team better. Younger Wizards could learn a thing or two from the veteran forward who came over in the Atlanta trade for Kirk Hinrich.
Evans is a hard-nosed player who plays solid defense and can shoot the three as well. The Wizards should strongly consider signing him for the intangibles he brings to the team.
Josh Howard: Incomplete
The veteran small forward just didn't get enough run to justify a grade. Never fully recovered from knee surgery, Howard played in only 18 games and averaged 8 points a game. Howard says he wants to come back, but is it worth another gamble by the Wizards? I don't think it is.
I have said all along this a huge summer for each younger player to turn the corner and make that next step toward becoming a solid, reliable pro. For players like McGee and Blatche, it really is now or never.