The Wizards put the wraps on a somewhat encouraging preseason schedule with a 112-93 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers. Before you take out a second mortgage to invest in the “over” it’s worth a look at what can actually be learned from the NBA preseason.
The short answer: not much. This was true in previous years when the exhibition season lasted eight games, and it’s more true this fall when the Wizards had just four games against NBA opponents. Perhaps even super-extra-more true because two of those games came against the sad-sack Knicks.
No matter how the games get analyzed — watching, intense scouting, statistical analysis — on-court preseason information comes in two varieties: tiny and minuscule. For example, Thomas Bryant led the Wizards with 100 total preseason minutes. Per minute rates usually don’t begin stabilizing until a player has 500 minutes on the odometer. Even then, observations can be affected by a fluky performance or an unlikely-to-be-repeated hot streak.
The biggest takeaway from the exhibition season is that the Wizards are probably going to take a lot of threes this season. In games against NBA opponents, Washington attempted 40.8 threes per 100 possessions, second most in the league (Houston was tops at 48.1). The Wizards shot a healthy 38.6% from long range, good for a tie with Toronto for fifth best in the preseason.
But, the Wizards aren’t likely to be the fifth or sixth best three-point shooting team in the NBA this season. Last year, they ranked 26th. The difference between their top-of-the-heap shooting in preseason and bottom-of-the-barrel shooting in the 2018-19 season: eight made shots — about two per game.
Here’s a look at the Wizards individual preseason numbers and what the columns mean:
GMS = games played
MPG = minutes per game
PPA = Player Production Average. This is an overall rating metric I developed, which rewards players for things that help a team win and deducts for things that don’t. In PPA, 100 = average and higher is better. Replacement level is 45. The preseason numbers don’t include the defense and degree of difficulty components because the sample sizes are too small to make them worth calculating.
rePPA = an estimate of what the player’s regular season PPA might be based on the level of play last season. The preseason level of play this fall was considerably lower than a typical NBA season.
ortg = Offensive Rating. This is a modified form of Dean Oliver’s all-around individual offensive efficiency metric. It includes the value of points scored, offensive rebounding, assists, and turnovers. League average in preseason was 102.3.
usg% = percentage of the team’s possessions the player used while on the floor
The box score stats are presented per 100 team possessions.
Washington Wizards 2019 Preseason
- Rui Hachimura looked more competent than what shows in the numbers. Overall, he shot poorly, but he got to the free throw line at a solid rate, rebounded well, and showed decent passing instincts. His turnover rate was elevated, which is likely a sign of being asked to do more play-making than he did in college.
- There was lots of buzz about Jordan McRae, but there are good reasons to pump the brakes. He won’t continue shooting 70% from three-point range, and when he’s not scoring there isn’t much else to his game.
- It’s clear the Wizards have an expanded offensive role in mind for Thomas Bryant. His preseason usage was significantly higher than last year’s. That’s come with a spike in turnovers and a steep drop in two-point shooting percentage. Again, the sample size is tiny so it would be foolish to leap to conclusions, but the coaching staff would be wise to monitor the efficiency/usage trade-off with Bryant.
- The decision to release Justin Anderson is somewhat puzzling. Anderson wasn’t going to transform the team into a winner, but he played well when given the opportunity and the team has some injuries at the small forward spot.
- Garrison Mathews isn’t NBA ready yet, but his shooting is. With some work on his body and his all-around game, he could earn a spot in an NBA rotation someday.
- Mo Wagner is a fascinating experiment. He’s hyper aggressive, which is the proverbial double-edged sword. During the preseason, he converted inside...but missed threes. And committed turnovers. And didn’t rebound. And fouled — a lot. If he can figure out his game and learn to play under control, he could make a solid reserve big.
- It’s difficult to discern any actual NBA skills possessed by Isaac Bonga. He’s long and athletic, but he remains very much a blank slate.
- Ish Smith really cannot shoot.
- Davis Bertans had 14.1 three-point attempts per 100 team possessions in the preseason. Here’s the complete list of players who attempted threes at a similar rate last season: James Harden, Stephen Curry, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon.
- The less said about Admiral Schofield’s preseason, the better. The Wizards should chalk it up to small sample size and hope he’s better in the regular season.