The 2019-20 Washington Wizards weren’t much good. That was by design, of course. They were at least fun to watch some of the time — they played hard, at least on offense, and were good-natured and enthusiastic.
This was the 59th season in franchise history with six variations on names in three cities: 23 seasons each as the Washington Wizards and Washington Bullets, 10 as the Baltimore Bullets, and one each of the Capital Bullets, Chicago Packers and Chicago Zephyrs. I know a lot of fans want to bring back “Bullets.” Make mine “Zephyrs.”
What is a Zephyr? According to Webster’s, it’s a west wind, a light breeze or a lightweight fabric or article of clothing. Perfect for blowing away opponents. Or...umm...to wear on a warm day in May or June when the team has already been ousted from the playoffs?
The franchise has a long history of futility. In their 59 seasons, they achieved a .500 or better record 24 times. They’ve managed 50 wins or more just five times, the most recent in 1978-79 — the season after they won their lone championship.
As I wrote back in April:
When I ran a search on Basketball-Reference to see where they stood in winning percentage throughout NBA history, the franchise ranked 31st. There are currently 30 teams in the league.
I re-ran the search with a screen to eliminate teams that folded after a few seasons and the Bullets/Wizards rose all the way to 25th. Only the Charlotte Hornets, New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have done less winning than Washington/Baltimore through their histories.
Even by the franchise’s low standards, this year’s team was fairly weak. Their .347 winning percentage ranked 46th out of the 59 seasons. This against the third easiest schedule in franchise history — their opponents were 0.57 points per game worse than league average.
A better measure of relative team strength is strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin (SRS). This season, the Wizards posted an SRS of -5.24, which ranks 50th in the team’s history.
Here’s where they ranked in some other areas (for some stats, we have data for only some of the seasons):
- Pace: 102.7 — 7th out of 47
- Offensive Rating: 110.9 — 3/47
- Defensive Rating: 115.5 — 47/47
- Effective field goal percentage: .523 — 4/59
- Turnover percentage: 12.2% — 1/47
- Offensive rebounding percentage: 22.2% — 45/47
- FTM/FGA: .213 — 38/59
- Defensive eFG: .558 — 50/50
- Defensive turnover percentage: 13.9% — 28/47
- Defensive rebounding percentage: 75.3% — 42/47
- Defensive FTM/FGA: .231 — 34/50
The Wizards are hoping improvements from young players, a key acquisition or two and the return of John Wall will improve their fortunes significantly. It might even work.