The Wizards have won five games in a row, the team looks like they enjoy the game of basketball, and James Singleton is playing like an All-Star. With the help of MySynergy Sports, let's try to comprehend what is going on.
Who is This Guy?
James Singleton’s season with the Wizards has been fairly incredible. Through 11 games, he has an All –Star-level 21 Player Efficiency Rating (PER). This is from a player who had a career PER of 13.5 coming into the season. The chart below shows some of the drastic improvements that Singleton has had this year
Fueling that insane jump in PER is his unsustainable shooting percentages at the rim and on long two-pointers. As you can see, Singleton is not only beating his previous performance, he’s shooting way above league average from those spots.
Those numbers are surely fluky, but it may be reasonable to think that Singleton has improved a bit during his time in China. During his pre-China stint with the Wizards in 2010, Singleton averaged a paltry 0.69 points per possession as the roll-man in the pick and roll. Back then, he spent much more time rolling to the hoop than the 2012 Singleton. There were instances when he looked confused as to whether he should roll or pop, and when he did pop out for a jumper, he more hesitant to pull the trigger on his jumper.
For the Wizards this year, Singleton has excelled as a screener in the pick-and-roll. He is averaging 1.09 points per possession as the roll-man, a number that would rank around the top 30 in the NBA if he had enough possessions to qualify. The majority of these possessions involve him popping out for a jumper instead of rolling to the hoop. As stated above, his percentages may be fluky, but he does look more decisive and comfortable popping out and taking the shot. He may have changed his form, too, as it looks like he’s jack-knifing his body less this year than in the previous years. (He always has that leg kick though.)
All of this comes with a giant neon sign that reads "Small Sample Size Alert," so one shouldn’t expect this level of performance for next year. But if Ernie Grunfeld is going to burn money on a veteran in 2012-13, he could do worse than giving Singleton a cheap contract and praying he can retain a bit of this production.
The Transition Game
A big part of the victory over Cleveland was creating points in transition. A whopping 27 percent of the Wizards’ possessions came in transition. To put that in perspective, the Wizards usually spend 17 percent of their possessions in transition. What’s really impressive is that only a third of those transition possessions against Cleveland were created off of turnovers. Washington was able beat the Cavs down the floor off their missed and made shots. For a team that has had some problems scoring this year, getting out in transition is an easy way to get points on the board. The video below shows some moments where the Wizards hustled their way to easy buckets. It's times like this where having John Wall comes in handy.
John Wall’s Defense
Against the Cavaliers, John Wall did a nice job with his help defense, creating turnovers in the process. Against Antawn Jamison, he faked the help and tricked Jamison into making a bad pass. Against Samardo Samuels, Wall showed quickness and strength by reaching in against the big man and taking the ball from him. A few of his steals are below.
How to Use Jan Vesely
Jan Vesely definitely needs to improve his perimeter game in order to help the Wizards offense function in the future. As everyone has noticed this year, it can be hard to run an offense when the defense has no reason to challenge shots outside the paint. However, against the Bobcats, the Wizards and Vesely showed a few ways to punish the defense for ignoring him.
In this first play, John Wall and Vesely run a pick-and-roll, and Vesely’s man (Byron Mullens) hedges to contain Wall as he comes off the screen. With most teams, Mullens would be in a hurry to recover to the screener, but Mullens has completely ignored Vesely here. While Mullens lingers around the ball, Vesely goes to set a screen for Cartier Martin. With a better screen and/or a quick pass to Martin, this could have turned into a wide open three-pointer. Mullens was in no position to help out his teammate on the Vesely screen. Check out the clip below for the full play.
In the third quarter, the Wizards exposed Mullens again. Vesely and Kevin Seraphin set up a staggered screen for Jordan Crawford. Mullens sees it coming and leaves Vesely to help out. Vesely does a nice job finding the open area under the basket and Wall hits him with the pass for an easy dunk. The full play is below.
In order to support Mike Fratello in his fight over slip screens, the Wizards ran a few against the Bobcats. First, Chris Singleton and Cartier Martin made Charlotte pay for hedging a bit too hard on John Wall.
On the next possession, the Bobcats overplayed the slip screen. Derrick Brown doesn’t hedge on Wall, and DeSagana Diop starts moving across the lane to help before the screen is even set. While this was going on, the Bobcats are outnumbered on the weak side of the floor. Cartier Martin runs off a double screen and has a wide open jumper available. Unfortunately, Wall makes a strange read or bad pass and the ball deflects off Nene. The full play is below.
Through this winning streak the Randy Wittman has used some creative playcalling to get points on the board. And if that isn't working, it's nice to have John Wall turn games into fast-paced affairs. A win against Miami's backups won't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it would be nice to see the Wizards cash in on some of these well-designed plays against an inferior team.