We are ten games through the 2014-2015 season. The Wizards are currently 6-4 coming off a strong win over Detroit on Saturday. Even though we are still only around 12 percent of the way through the season, we can pick up on some trends. One of those trends is the shocking difference in the way the Wizards play with Jared Dudley on the floor, compared to the Wizards' other power forwards. Let's go right into the numbers.
Jared Dudley has the sixth-best net rating in the NBA this season among players that average at least 20 minutes per game. Third-best in the non-Warriors division. The Wizards have outscored their opponents by 17.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor so far this season. The team's offensive rating with Dudley is 114.2 and their defensive rating is 97.2. To put that into perspective, the Wizards would have the best offense in the NBA and the sixth-best defense in the NBA if they were able to play that effectively for 48 minutes.
Now, despite the drastic difference, we can't just use raw on/off numbers to display Dudley's impact, as these numbers can be very noisy especially for bench players who will often be playing inferior competition. Looking into the lineup numbers clears up some of the outside variables at play. For instance, if you slot Dudley at PF with the rest of the starters intact, the Wizards offensive rating goes up 25.1 points per 100 possessions. That said, it's worth noting that their defensive rating takes quite a step back, going from 101.2 to 112.2, but overall it's still a win for the Wizards. The upgrade from a -9.8 lineup to +4.3 lineup.
If we control for minutes and look at just 2-man lineups, the top 3 Wizards lineups in net rating that have played greater than 40 minutes have Dudley in them.
In terms of individual stats, Dudley has been extremely efficient, despite his poor conditioning to begin the season coming off of back surgery. He is shooting 48.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range, and 77.8 percent from the line. Among players who have played at least 20 minutes per game, Dudley is 11th in the NBA in effective field goal percentage and sixth in true shooting percentage, per NBA.com. There are times he has looked a bit slow on defense and out of sorts on offense, but he is slowly shaking the rust off and is clearly still a net positive for the team.
Kris Humphries, the Wizards current starting Power Forward, has not had the same kind of impact.
Wizards in need of a lineup change? pic.twitter.com/gUxmEoQD6H— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 22, 2015
All of these numbers point to one undeniable fact: The Wizards play better with Jared Dudley in the floor and he has been more effective than any other power forward they have used this season. Like Umair Khan said before the season began, if the Wizards want to embrace playing small and maximize spacing for John Wall and Bradley Beal, they should start Dudley. Let's not forget they brought him in from Milwaukee, where he had a similar on/off impact, for this very reason.
While Humphries is actually shooting well from beyond the arc this season, teams just do not respect him in the same way that they do with Dudley. Playing small is not just about making threes, you also have to have players who are credible threats off-the-dribble so defenders have a difficult choice of whether to stick to them or leave them open. Defenses are not really afraid of Humphries with the ball in his hands, and it's been a primary reason for the turnover problems this season. Passing windows so much smaller with him on the floor, because teams don't have to worry about him if they can force him off the perimeter. Dudley is more adept at making plays when teams chase him off the three-point line, and he will get even better as he gets in shape over the course of the season. The team will definitely take a step back in rebounding with Dudley on the floor instead of Humphries, but the team will have to sacrifice something with every lineup they trot out.
At the end of the day, even though Humphries has reinvented himself as a three-point shooter, it hasn't helped the team's offense. The Wizards are putrid offensively with him on the floor, and while he plays primarily against starting units, which deflate some of his on/off numbers, the difference in the level of play with him on and off the court is staggering. Humphries is a good player to have on a team, especially with his improved shot, but the fact of the matter is that he should not be the team's starting power forward. The front office decided to go all in on small ball this offseason knowing the weaknesses that it would entail, it is time for Randy Wittman to do the same with his starting lineup.