One of the most surprising revelations of the preseason, other than the Wizards' new offense, is that Bradley Beal, not John Wall, is leading the team in usage rate. During the preseason, Wall used 23.5 percent of the team's possessions when he was on the floor, Beal used 26.5 percent. It's the first time since Beal and Wall started playing together in the NBA that Beal has used up more possessions than Wall. Should we be concerned that Beal is using more possessions than the Wizards' star player?
What is Usage Rate?
Usage rate is the percentage of possessions a player "uses" while they on the court. The NBA calculates a player's usage rate is calculated thusly: (Field Goal Attempts + (.44*Free Throw Attempts) + Turnovers) divided by the number of possessions the player spent on the court.
In other words, a player "uses" a possession when they do one of the following:
Attempt a field goal
Draw a shooting foul
Commit a turnover
Russell Westbrook led the league last year with a usage rate of 37.2 percent. World-famous ballstopper and all around swaglord Jordan Crawford on the other hand, had a usage rate of 27.1 percent in his time with the Wizards.
During Wall and Beal's three years together, Wall's usage rate has been 27.6 percent and Beal's has been 23.1 percent. To understand why Beal had a higher usage rate than Wall during the preseason, it helps what to understand what doesn't count as a "used" possession. Absent in the calculation for usage rate is one key statistic, assists. which in the context of our new offense, explains everything.
Wall expects the offense to be very different this season. Less him holding the ball and reading the D. Team began installing new sets today— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) September 29, 2015
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the new "pickup with principles" offense the Wizards have embraced this year is designed to have wall spend less time with the ball in his hands, and to allow the team to flow and make decisions on the fly. Gone are the days of yore, when John Wall would dribble patiently at the top of the key waiting for a pick to materialize. Now, his job is to snare an outlet pass off of a defensive rebound race up the court as quickly as possible to set up a Beal/Gortat or Porter/Gortat pick and roll.
As a result, Wall has been doing much less shooting, and much more assisting thus far in the preseason. And while it's important to note that the Wizards have yet to face a must-score situation thus far, Wall has largely been content with creating shots for others this year, only looking for his own in transition or end of shot clocks this season. Averaging just 8.4 shot attempts per game compared to last years 14.8, Wall's continued development as a distributor has caused his usage rate to shrink considerably compared to last year's 25.7 percent. The two percentage points from 25.7 to 23.5 might not seem like much, but to put those numbers into perspective, that's the difference between Nick Young, and last year's assist leader Chris Paul.
Should we be worried?
Absolutely not, as this change has much more to do With Wall's efficient play than it does Bradley Beal's shot selection. As a statistic, usage rate favors scorers, and as Wall continues to orchestrate this offense, his decreasing usage rate is a sign that the team's new system is working exactly as designed to allow others to finish what John Wall creates.