We've talked at length about the Wizards' struggles to adapt to the analytics movement that's sweeping across the NBA. While they haven't been going against the grain per se, like the Lakers for instance, they're also not adapting at the same rate as some other teams. We can spend time debating the value of analytics in team success, but regardless of where you stand on it's value, on an organizational level, you want teams to be doing what they can to find whatever competitive advantage they can find.
In this year's analytics issue of ESPN the Magazine, Kevin Pelton sorted all 30 teams into different categories, based on how well they've embraced analytics at an organization level. Teams were either listed as All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics, and Non-Believers. The Wizards fell in the "Skeptics" category. Here's part of what Pelton had to say about the Wizards' analytics efforts:
The Wizards' front office has shown moderate interest in analytics, which is more than their coach has shown. Before the 2013-14 season, Washington promoted Brett Greenberg to director of analytics/salary-cap management. In that role, Greenberg has worked with consultant Joe Sill, who won the 2010 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference research paper grand prize for his key improvements to adjusted plus-minus models.
On the court, Washington lags in terms of applying the lessons of analytics to its shot chart even in the midst of the team's best season since 1978-79. The Wizards' ratio of midrange shots to 3-point attempts is the second highest in the NBA. That would be understandable if Washington struggled from beyond the arc, but the Wizards rank fourth in the league in 3-point percentage (37.4 percent). As a result, Washington is just 10th in the benefit derived from 3s, as measured by ESPN's 3-point index, far lower than it could be.
Certainly, the Wizards have made some solid strides in the front office, as we've seen in the creative trades they've put together, and finding some undervalued talent in free agency, such as Kris Humphries, in the open market to bolster their depth. Yes, there's still work to do, particularly when it comes to identifying talent through the draft, but they're making strides.
The big roadblock for the Wizards right now is utilizing analytical knowledge in coaching strategies. As Truth About It notes, the Wizards are having an excellent season shooting the rock, but they're a mediocre offense because they're not shooting enough threes and they're not getting to the line as much as they should.
But if you're looking for a positive takeaway here, Randy Wittman does seem to understand there are areas where the team needs to improve. Jorge Castillo had a good write-up on how the Wizards have been working on improving their offense in end-of-quarter situations.
According to Wall, the point guard and Coach Randy Wittman met when the team reconvened after the all-star break to discuss end-of-quarter situations and decided a change was in order.
"Just talking to coach about basically too many isos and not getting good shots out of them," Wall said before Sunday’s loss. "And then our percentage, even when we got good shots, is low so [we decided to] just get more movement and just try to get more movement and a better shot to get our percentage up.
Based on how the team performed Sunday against Detroit in those situations, there's still some work to do. But, acknowledging there are issues is the first step to fixing them. It's good to see Wittman is showing he understands the team's flaws. Hopefully some more practice can held address this and other issues that analytics could play a role in helping resolve.