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Five statistical takeaways from the Wizards' five-game losing streak

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It isn't pretty, but here are some statistical takeaways to sum up why the Wizards have lost five straight.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After winning seven of their first nine games after the All-Star Break to get to a 30-30 record, the Wizards have lost five straight games. They are now 30-35, 10th place in the Eastern Conference, and their playoff chances are looking slimmer with each passing day.

It's bad enough that Washington lost five games in a row, but let's take a look at the data behind why last week was that bad.

The Wizards have among the worst team ratings on offense and defense during their losing streak

It's no mistake that Washington hasn't played well all season. They never ranked very well offensively and have been mediocre defensively. According to Basketball-Reference, the Wizards are 24th in offensive rating and 17th in defensive rating.

But the wheels clearly fell off the bus when you compare how they performed between March 4 and March 13 (the dates of the losing streak including Sunday) and their performance in the 2016-17 season as a whole for games played through March 13.

stat ratings

Stats from NBA.com/Stats

I'll let the numbers speak for themselves, but this is the main takeaway from the data.

Washington's offensive rating was nearly eight points below their season average during their last five games while their defensive rating went up by over five points of the season average. The bulk of these numbers came from the blowout 108-83 loss to the Cavaliers on March 4, 114-93 loss to the Jazz on March 11, and 116-100 loss to the Nuggets on March 12.

When team ratings go in the wrong direction on both ends of the floor, it's not surprising to see that the Wizards have played like one of the worst teams in the NBA over the last week.

2. The Wizards have a hard time making baskets from assists

On the surface with simple stats, John Wall is doing his job. He averages 9.9 assists a game for the season and averaged 10 assists over the last five games.

At the team level however with more advanced stats, it's a different story.

The Wizards have made 61.3 percent of their baskets this season from assists, which the NBA's stats page calls the assist percentage (AST%). That figure ranks sixth in the NBA, behind teams like the Warriors, Hawks, Celtics, Kings, and Spurs in that order. Most of the teams on that list are very good.

But like other good things, the Wizards have also slumped in that area over the last five games.

assist percentage

In their last five games, Washington's AST% was 56.1 percent or 20th in the NBA.

With a lower proportion of the Wizards' baskets coming from assists, they are scoring less from such opportunities. According to SportVU tracking data, the Wizards were sixth in the NBA for actual points coming off of assists with 56.4. In their last five games, the Wizards were 23rd with just 49.6 points coming from assists.

3. Free throws cost Washington two games

If the Wizards weren't getting blown out, they lost close games due to missing free throws in late game situations.

During the Wizards' 100-98 loss to the Pacers on March 5, Nene missed one of two free throws with ten seconds left in the game, In the following possession when Paul George was fouled and he made both of his free throws. If Nene made both of his shots, perhaps the Pacers may have designed a different play to either try to win the game. Or maybe it could have went to overtime.

Though the exact same situation didn't happen the following Tuesday when Washington lost 116-109 in overtime to the Trail Blazers, they shot 11 of 23 or 47.8 percent from the free throw line in regulation (and the game). Even Wall wasn't immune from the woes as he only made 1 of 4 shots. If Washington made just one more free throw, they could have won this game.

It isn't a secret that the Wizards are poor at the free throw line. They make 73.7 percent of their free throws this season, 23rd in the NBA. But during a five-game losing streak, even things totally in their control like free throws bite them where it hurts the most.

ft percent

Yeah, that chart is painful to look at. The 64.8 percent free throw percentage over the last five games may be partly influenced by the Portland debacle. But they failed to make free throws at their season average or higher in any of their last five games.

The free throw shooting has been a concern for quite awhile. In fact, it defines the John Wall Era. You have to go back to the 2009-10 season to find a season when Washington ranked in the top half of the league:

FT% Rank
2015-16 73.7% 25
2014-15 74.1% 24
2013-14 73.1% 25
2012-13 73.3% 23
2011-12 72.7% 27
2010-11 74.5% 25
2009-10 76.2% 14

David Adkins was hired by the team to be a player development coach. Washington can definitely use another coach just for free throw shooting.

4. The Wizards are missing close range shots at an alarming rate

Close range shots are the closest thing to free throws in basketball. Unless there's a low post defender holding both hands in a player's face, they're easier to make because it's closer than a three.

The Wizards made 59.9 percent of their shots five feet or closer in the 2015-16 season. That's ninth in the NBA. Not bad.

Now, let's compare how they did in the last five games:

shot percentage

Yikes! Instead of shooting nearly 60 percent at virtually point blank range, the Wizards only made 52.9 percent of such shots. That ranks last in the NBA.

But it gets worse when you look at how many close range shots the Wizards were taking per game to get these numbers.

close range shot quantity wizards

That picture is ugly. The Wizards are taking more close range shots per game (31 vs. 28.1) and are making less than they do on average (16.4 vs .16.8). When you see a trend like this, it's not surprising why their offense took such a nosedive in the last week.

5. The Wizards are turning the ball over more

The Wizards averaged 14.3 turnovers per 100 possessions this season, 13th in the NBA. That figure is nothing to write home about, but at least the Wizards offense is okay at taking care of the ball. But over the last five games, it's a different story.

to edited

15.4 turnovers per 100 possessions doesn't sound that different than 14.3. It's just one turnover per 100 possessions.

But here's the difference maker. Washington was 24th in the NBA in this figure, and it's another data point that is contributing to their recent woes.

Final Takeaways

It's safe to say that last week was one the Wizards would like to call a few bad days at the office. If they want to salvage the season, improving on some of these areas will certainly help them out. I'm just skeptical as to whether they can do it this season at this point.