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Evaluating the Wizards’ individual player production during NBA Summer League

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With the 2019 NBA Summer League in the rear view mirror, let’s take a look at how each of the Washington Wizards did.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura had a solid performance in the NBA Summer League.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

With the offseason’s major moves in the books it’s worth going back and taking a look at how the Washington Wizards performed in NBA Summer League.

While everything in summer league is small sample theater — Minnesota’s Jordan McLaughlin led all players with 182 total minutes — the experience still has value. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton found that in forecasting a player’s rookie season, summer league has about as predictive power as a full NCAA season.

The small sample size can lead to fluky performances, but in general, players who perform well in summer competition are more likely to perform better during the regular season. This isn’t a surprise: how players produce in college or overseas correlates well with how they usually perform in summer league — at least for rookie participants.

For second and third-year players, teams often use summer league to experiment or work on specific skills so the numbers are less meaningful when predicting future performance.

What numbers translate best? Generally, turnovers and free throw rate — at least if a player is in a similar role. Shot blocking and defensive rebounding remain fairly consistent, but shooting, especially three-point shooting, does not.

Overall, the NBA’s 2019 three summer leagues (California, Utah, Vegas) were characterized by offenses that were fast-paced (about 105.5 possessions per 48 minutes — league average last regular season was 100) and inefficient (98 points per 100 possessions). The Wizards were a little faster than average (105.9 possessions per 48), but even less efficient (just 92 points per 100 possessions).

Most of that inefficiency was poor shooting, which means less than any other summer league stat. The Wizards summer league crew had a lower turnover rate than average.

What can the numbers tell us about individual players the Wizards are likely to have on the regular season roster?

  • Rui Hachimura — An even more limited sample size than most because the Wizards gave him a couple games off so he would be rested for international competition this summer. Hachimura was solid when he played, though. He got to the free throw line regularly (8.1 FTA per 100 team possessions) and was decent on the boards. His playmaking was lacking — eight turnovers to just two assists — but he was a solidly above average performer.
  • Troy Brown Jr. — The Wizards used Brown’s second summer league to experiment with him as a lead ballhandler and pick-and-roll initiator. Brown seemed to have decent feel in that role, but the results were poor shooting and nine turnovers to just five assists. But, Brown rebounded well and showed defensive progress. His overall rating (see table below) wasn’t good, but he got in-game experience in a bigger role than he’s filled professionally and his brief stint should be deemed successful.
  • Admiral Schofield — Schofield played the team’s fourth most summer league minutes and didn’t accomplish much. His future in the NBA will require stalwart defense and accurate three-point shooting, and he didn’t show much in either area. That said, summer league may not be an ideal setting for someone like Schofield to contribute.
  • Mo Wagner — Wagner played hard, but despite the apparent effort, wasn’t good. Leaving aside the poor shooting, his rebounding and blocks were subpar for a big, and his fouling was excessive. He’s not shy about shooting the ball. There wasn’t much to see in summer league to convince he’s a rotation big, but the roster construction means he’s likely to get minutes anyway.
  • Tarik Phillip — The Wizards signed Phillip on the last day of the 2018-19 season based largely on his teams’ tendency over multiple seasons to be better when he’s on the floor. He was productive in summer league, which makes sense because he’s 25 years old with international and G League experience.
  • Isaac Bonga — Bonga is a big point guard whose professional future is likely playing off the ball — if he can learn to shoot. He was good defensively in summer play, but remains a major project.
  • Justin Robinson — On draft night, the Wizards used a portion of their midlevel exception to sign the undrafted free agent to a three-year contract. Only $250,000 is guaranteed, however. Robinson’s summer league play wasn’t bad — he set up teammates, rebounded well for a guard, and was acceptable on defense. High turnovers (5.7 per 100 team possessions) are a potential concern, but five of his 14 came in one terrible game.

Other players of interest:

  • Troy Caupain — The 23-year old has professional experience overseas, in the G League (two seasons with the Lakeland Magic), and a brief stint with the Orlando Magic, and it showed. He was confident and productive, and flashed enough potential to make earning a roster spot with the Wizards a possibility.
  • Issuf Sanon — Washington’s second round pick in 2018, this was Sanon’s second summer league with the team. Unfortunately, it was worse than last year’s. In my draft analysis for 2018, Sanon rated in “don’t draft” territory. I reran the process this summer using his new international numbers and arrived at a similar conclusion. Then he turned in a second consecutive train-wreck summer league performance. Barring radical improvement, Sanon isn’t likely to become an NBA player.
  • Garrison Mathews — Signed to one of the team’s two-way contracts, Mathews was low usage and efficient, but didn’t show much dimension to his game.

Summer League Player Production Average

Remember, every way of looking at summer league — watching or data analysis — is drawing from a small sample size. Even so, it’s worth examining with the understanding that it’s not a good idea to reach conclusions based on limited information.

Below are scores using my metric (read more here), without the degree of difficulty or defensive adjustments — there just isn’t enough information available to make the full calculation worthwhile. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

In the table below, I’ve included two scores:

  • sPPA = the player’s summer league rating
  • rPPA = an estimate of how that player’s summer league performance would rate during the NBA regular season.

Note: rPPA is NOT a prediction or forecast of how players will perform when (or if) they get to actual NBA competition. It is an estimate of what that player’s summer league production would mean if it was replicated at the NBA level.

Wizards 2019 Summer League: PPA

PLAYER GMS MIN MPG sPPA rPPA
PLAYER GMS MIN MPG sPPA rPPA
Jemerrio Jones 3 27 8.9 233 147
Tarik Phillip 4 50 12.5 191 120
Troy Caupain 5 113 22.6 174 109
Isaac Bonga 3 61 20.2 158 99
Rui Hachimura 3 95 31.6 147 92
Garrison Mathews 3 69 23.1 138 87
Justin Robinson 5 117 23.4 108 68
Jeff Withey 2 24 12.1 85 54
Troy Brown, Jr. 3 70 23.2 59 37
Admiral Schofield 5 90 18.0 57 36
Corey Davis 3 32 10.6 49 31
Moe Wagner 4 81 20.1 -10 -6
Noah Allen 2 31 15.7 -49 -31
Yusuf Sanon 4 48 12.0 -145 -91
Armoni Brooks 3 38 12.7 -190 -120
Anzejs Pasecniks 4 50 12.5 -237 -149
Elijah Brown 1 5 5.4 -239 -150
Washington Wizards 2019 summer league. Kevin Broom