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The bottom line with the Wizards? The stars aren't performing

Normally, I'm all for over-analysis.  And I still am, even though it can be time-consuming and nerve-racking when it comes to our Wizards.  Clearly, the team's 5-10 November has a lot to do with complicated explanations that have no easy answers. 

But the truth is, for all of the Wizards' supposed problems, there are only two parts that really aren't working.  Antawn Jamison has come back and played even better than usual in his first few games (the Charlotte game notwithstanding).  When healthy, Mike Miller has been excellent.  Brendan Haywood is having another outstanding year, typified by his outstanding offensive board work (he's grabbing almost 15% of all available offensive rebounds this year).  Randy Foye was good early and Nick Young has been good lately.  Fabricio Oberto has been himself.  Andray Blatche continues to perform solidly (give him more minutes!).  JaVale McGee has flashed nice upside, and Earl Boykins has been a revelation.  The defense is currently 20th in the league, which isn't great, but at least is respectable. 

All those parts are working fine.  The problem is that the two most important parts are underperforming, significantly.  Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler have each been a shell of themselves all month, and that's all you need to know about the Wizards this season.  It's like saying all parts of your car are working fine ... except the engine and the brakes.  If your engine and your brakes aren't working, chances are your car is screwed.  If your two best players aren't performing, then you're toast as a basketball team.


The drop-off this month for Arenas and Butler has been equally steep.  Arenas has gone from being a superstar to being an average player, while Butler has gone from being a secondary star to a below-average performer.  Each has their excuses - Arenas is coming back from two years off and learning how to quarterback an exceedingly complicated system, while Butler is at least putting in more effort on defense - but each needs to step it up.  

Just how bad has it been for each?  Here are tables illustrating how far off both guys have been from their career averages in several key categories.

Stat Arenas this year Arenas career Difference
Pts/36 20.2 21.9 -1.7
FG% 39.2% 42.6% -3.4%
3PT% 33.3% 35.7% -2.4%
FT% 73% 80.6% -7.6%
TS% 49.2% 55.4% -6.2%
eFG% 43.5% 48.6% -5.1%
PER 15.6 20.6 -5
TO% 15.9% 14% -1.9%
ORtg 98 111 -13


And as for Arenas' on/off court stats ... well, let's just say they aren't pretty and leave it at that.  (Major caveat with these for both players - it's probably too early for the sample size to be significant.  Just throwing them out there).

So that's not pretty.  But Butler's situation isn't really much better.

Stat Butler this season Butler career Difference
Pts/36 15.8 16.5 -0.7
FG% 41.2% 44.2% -3%
3PT% 26.7% 31.4% -4.7%
TS% 49.7% 52.5% -2.8%
eFG% 43.3% 46.2% -2.9%
PER 12.6 16.6 -4
AST% 5.2% 14.5% -9.3%
TO% 14% 12.8% -1.2%
ORtg 96 106 -10


And while Butler isn't hurting the team as badly as Arenas is according to the on/off data, he is still a major net negative.  Not to mention that Butler really doesn't have as many built-in excuses as Arenas.  Sure, Butler has an adjustment to the new offense, but it's nowhere near as difficult as Gilbert's.  Gilbert is basically entrusted with getting everyone going at a time when he doesn't even know if he can get himself going after being hurt so much the past two years.  Butler, on the other hand, is being asked to catch and shoot more.  One adjustment is bigger than the other.  (Of course, one guy is also getting paid more than the other, so he should have a bigger adjustment.  And the wagons keep turning, and we keep arguing like kindred spirits around the virtual sports bar that we populate here).  

Now, these are just stats.  As we all know, stats can tell us what's happening with remarkable precision, but they can't tell us how and the why what's happening is happening.  That's where the overanalysis comes in, and this is as good a spot as any for you all to chime in with your theories about these two. 

All I'm trying to say, though, is that we need not spent hours trying to dissect what the problem with the Wizards is right now, because it's clearly Arenas and Butler.