Measuring the Wizards' measures: Are we evaluating the team's success the right way?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As the Wizards get closer to reaching the first major milestone of the Leonsis era, it's time to focus on how we're evaluating the team's success.

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This week, I learned about about Goodhart's Law, which postulates: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." To better understand what the law is saying, here are a couple of quick examples:

...[O]nce you start measuring GDP as a way of gauging social welfare, people will start to figure out ways to make GDP go up without improving social welfare (say, by swapping dirty financial derivatives). Once Google starts measuring inbound links as a way of evaluating the importance of web-pages, people will figure out how to increase the inbound links to unimportant pages (splogging, blogspam). And once you measure fat or calorie content as a proxy for the healthfulness of food, manufacturers will figure out how to decrease fat and calories without making the food more healthful (reducing fat by adding sugar, reducing calories by adding poisonous artificial sweeteners).

When it comes to the Wizards, the big question whether or not Goodhart's Law has been at play in this year's trades for Marcin Gortat and Andre Miller. Clearly, both trades leveraged future assets to address immediate needs that stood in the way of making a playoff run. Therefore, if those moves were made solely with the intent to reach a target of making the playoffs, then making the playoffs is no longer a good measure of the team's success, since it's not the end goal. Let's not forget what Ted Leonsis stated in his Ten Point Plan:

1. Ask yourself the big question: "Can this team--as constructed--ever win a championship?" If the answer is yes -- stay the course and try to find the right formula -- if the answer is no, then plan to rebuild. Don't fake it--really do the analytics and be brutally honest. Once you have your answer, develop the game plan to try to REALLY win a championship. Always run away from experts that say, "We are just one player away." Recognize there is no easy and fast systemic fix. It will be a bumpy ride--have confidence in the plan--"trust and verify: the progress -- but don't deviate from the plan."

But, in fairness to the Wizards, it may just prove out that these deals were good deals, not only for the present, but the future. In this case, the birds in their hand might just be worth more than those in the bushes. Would anyone here have any confidence giving up Marcin Gortat so they could draft Willie Cauley-Stein, or someome similar, to fill the void at center for the foreseeable future? If performs better than any option the Wizards could have taken at center in this year's draft, Goodhart's Law doesn't apply here.

Thomas wrote at great length and detail yesterday about how the Wizards might be suffering from the effects of Goodhart's Law as the season winds down, since the measure for success this season has already been reached, in some senses, by making the playoffs. Let's hope that the right measures are being put into place to move the team forward next year and that whatever means were used to reach this year's measures don't inhibit reaching the ultimate`target.

***

#5DEEP: Drew Garrison took a look at the five best five-man lineups in the NBA, and one from the Wizards makes the cut. Believe it or not, the lineup does not include Bradley Beal. Just something to keep in mind if Randy Wittman decides to go through with making lineup changes like he hinted at after Wednesday's game.

LOOKIN' GOODEN: One day we'll tell our children about the time Drew Gooden kinda saved the Wizards' season, and then they'll ask why we're boring them with random stories about Drew Gooden.

MOSTLY GOOD NEWS: There was some concern about Bradley Beal's hip pointer after the Suns game, but everything seems to be going mostly well.

LOOKING OUT FOR NON-BANDWAGONERS: If my rumblings about Goodhart's Law came out too harsh towards Ted Leonsis and the plan (which wasn't my intent), allow me to balance with this post from Ted's Take on Wednesday about the Facebook/Oculus Rift deal. You can't deny that Ted cares deeply about people who are committed/invested in something before it's a success. Something to keep in mind for everyone who watched the 2009-10 Wizards.

PRODUCTIVITY KILLER: This GIF of Rajon Rondo, John Wall and LeBron James will eat away at least two minutes of your day.

A GOOD SIGN: Finally, here's a Nene sighting:

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