The Wizards have 31 games left, following their win over Minny. I keep hearing and reading that they "may not win another game." Surely that's hyperbole. But add to that all of the apparently serious statements along the lines of Wilbon's, and it may be getting a little ridiculous. I was inclined to save this for Wednesday, but I've gotten irritated enough with those comments that I decided to take a look and post it now--what is a reasonable guess for how bad they'll actually be?
Let me preface this by saying that, as a fan, I'm torn as to what I'd like to see happen. I still hope for the best for Blatche and McGee, want to see Miller not have to suffer too much, am very interested to see if Singleton can get an opportunity and produce as he's shown glimpses of, etc., and, it is always more fun to watch and write about wins than losses. On the other hand, Evan Turner. Or John Wall. That said:
Win Shares is, I think the best shorthand for doing this. It is obviously imperfect at judging the past, much less predicting the future, but I've yet to see a better single stat for summarizing. (Adjusted +/- is great, but how do you predictably and simply translate that to collective production?) Since we are in-season, I'll just assume players' productivity rates remain the same as they've been thus far.
There are 31 games left. I'll assume playing time breaks down this way per game, and won't assume any injuries:
Foye 29, Boykins 19, Miller 34, Young 15, Howard 29, Ross 11, Thornton 18, Singleton 22, Blatche 32, McGee 23, Oberto 7.
Applying their rates of WS this season to those minutes, we can project:
Foye 1.3 WS
TOTAL: 10.8 WS. Or, roughly 11 projected wins. McGee looks way better under WS than under +/-, which better accounts for his defensive issues, while, on the other hand, several of the players are producing under what their career figures suggest are possible. Maybe that's a wash (or maybe this team will get brutalized on the pick-and-roll every night for the remainder of the season).
Another way of looking at it is that the pre-trades lineup (after Arenas was lost and since Miller came back) was 6-10. They subtracted two of the more productive players, who were both at the 4/5 (Haywood and Jamison), but WS doesn't view Blatche/McGee and some Singleton/Thornton as quite as big a downgrade as you might expect. Meanwhile, Howard is a slight downgrade from Butler, but not much of one, and Singleton, extra Miller time, etc., is probably an upgrade. On net, this team looks maybe two games worse over that type of period, leaving us in roughly the same place--this looks essentially like a team that would play .333 ball.
BUT, there is a huge caveat to be mentioned: the remaining schedule could be devastating, with 21 games left against teams with records .500 or better. They have 15 home games. Only 5 of the home games are against sub-.500 teams. So, they probably won't be able to cost themselves many ping-pong balls unless Howard turns back the clock and the younger guys respond very well to their opportunities. And even then, the schedule will make it hard to make much headway in the standings. That's probably just as well, given the ping-pong ball quest, but I hope it doesn't unduly color the perception of however the team actually performs (and individuals perform) over the remainder of the season.