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A Look at the Wizards via Plus/Minus, and Some Lineups for Gilbert Arenas-less Times

Having happened to completely neglect +/- during this season, at the same time that TrueHoop and others have been promoting it more than ever, no less, I set out this week to look at what can be learned from the team's +/- figures for the year to date.  Particularly because of the small sample sizes resulting from having only a part of a season to work with, the data should be taken with a grain of salt (or, better yet, a few more grains than with some of the other in-season data).  But, that said, perhaps the most surprising thing about the +/- on the team is how unsurprising it is on the whole.  For example, Miller/Haywood = good, Foye/Boykins = not so much.  There are a couple of surprises, however.  Some breakdown of the +/-‘s, as well as a look at some of the Gilbert-less lineups we've seen this season, after the jump.

Leaving aside Mike James and Paul Davis, who have barely played, only one player has registered a + for their on-court time.  Of course it is Mike Miller.  Per 48 minutes, he is +4.6.  The team has an outstanding offensive rating with him on the floor (118.6), though the defense has been worse with him on the floor (112.5 with him on versus 109.9 with him off).  Leaving aside the big, gun-related "what-if?" of this Wizards season, the biggest what-if must be what if the team had not lost Miller for an extended period of time. 

Three more players have notably positive "net" +/- (meaning that the team has a better +/- when that player is on the court than when that player is off the court).  Brendan Haywood leads the team in this category, with +11.1 (per 48).  The team has an awful -11.2 (per 48) when Haywood is off the court, a margin 4 points bigger than the next closest player, Caron Butler).  Interestingly enough, Haywood has apparently had a positive impact on both ends of the floor.  With him on the court, the team’s offensive and defensive ratings are both around 108.5.  With him off the court, however, the team’s offensive rating drops to 101.7, while the defensive rating balloons to 114.3.  The organization will have a difficult decision in whether to trade a good player who also has an expiring contract.  We already know what this team looks like without Haywood and Arenas. 


Caron (+4.7) and Nick Young (+3.5 !) have also had positive net +/-.  The team's defense is no worse with Young on the court.  (Side note on Young:  87% of his FG attempts are Js.  That's significantly more than even last year.)  Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas both have barely-positive net +/-.

Unfortunately, Mr. His-Influence-Is-Missed-By-Numbers, the player one might most hope would really shine in looking at +/-, has fared easily the worst in both individual +/- and net:  the team is at -13.9 per 48 minutes with Dominic McGuire on the floor, and is -11.4 net.  When your case for playing time is that you do things that help the team that do not appear in the box score, that is a problem.  Digging a little deeper, however, McGuire has played significantly more than half of his court-time without Brendan Haywood, which can not be helping his numbers, particularly in light of his limited minutes.  In addition, he has played only one possession this season with Mike Miller.  If you wanted to take an extremely cynical view of these numbers, you could perhaps think that Haywood’s and Miller’s numbers have both benefited from having had little time with McGuire on the court.  A more reasonable view is likely that McGuire should not be judged based on his +/- this season because he has not had the opportunity to play with two of the team’s best players for any meaningful minutes.


The team’s current point guards, Randy Foye and Earl Boykins, both have bad on-court +/-, with -8.4 and -8.0, respectively.  Their nets are bad too.  Blatche (-7.2), McGee (-6.2), Oberto (-4.9), and Stevenson (-4.0) all have negative on-court figures, though Stevenson (-0.4) and Oberto (-1.4) are both nearly break-even in their net figures.

Of course, everything has changed over the last couple of weeks, with the loss of Gilbert Arenas from the lineup.  All of the numbers above were influenced by Arenas’s play this year, for better and for worse.  He had not missed a game until his suspension, and even now stands third on the team in minutes played.  So, we have fairly limited data on Gilbert-less lineups.  Here are a few of the notable ones we’ve seen:


If you were going to build a lineup based on the above +/- figures, and you had to include someone considered a point guard, this is probably what you would come up with.  This group saw nearly 21 minutes together against Orlando.  It put up an offensive rating in that time of 141 and a defensive rating of 100.  Small sample size, etc., but still, if Miller is healthy this group can probably produce some wins.  It is the team’s second most successful lineup with 20 or more minutes on the year.


I’ve looked for the Foye version of this lineup, rather than Boykins, but haven’t found it.  This group has gotten 29 minutes together, mostly against the Cavs (including Lebron) and Phoenix (including Nash and Amare), as well as some Clippers and Raptors.  On the defensive end, it is as bad as you’d probably guess, but it has been fairly effective offensively, and has only narrowly been outscored.


If Jamison ends up getting traded, I expect we’ll see some of this.  Perhaps we will anyway when the second unit gets playing time.  This group has had particular success on the defensive end, posting a defensive rating of 93.6, across 24 minutes.  It also had a very decent offensive rating of 115.2, which it is hard to imagine could be sustained.  The time has come against a variety of different teams and lineups, though it in particular got some time against Dallas and Phoenix lineups including a number of reserves.  The group has not played together for more than 4 possessions at a time.


A novelty lineup of sorts, undersized at guard but with decent size up front, this group has one of the very best defensive ratings on the team, a perhaps-inexplicable and totally random 80.5.  Like the previous group, it has gotten its time together in little bits against several different teams.  It has a total of 21.7 minutes, all in less than 4-minute bunches.