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Wizards find a new way to lose

Washington falls to 0-4

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards
Wizards guards Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are taking way too many midrange jumpers and its hurting thet eam.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

On the bright side, the Wizards found a new way to lose. Instead of coughing up a double-digit second half lead with preposterously bad fourth quarter defense, they fell behind, trailed by as much as 19 points in the second half, before rallying to make the final margin a deceptively respectable 8 points.

The Wizards have problems. Weirdly, defense isn’t the biggest one, except in fourth quarters. It’s not exactly a strength, but it’s in the category of A problem, not The Problem. The Problem is that they don’t have the talent to overcome their poor decision-making and sloppiness.

Last night was Russell Westbrook’s best game with the Wizards and it was only okay. He had another triple double (21 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists), but he also committed 6 turnovers and 3 fouls.

Bradley Beal scored 29 points on 20 field goal attempts, but had 5 turnovers and 4 fouls.

Worse, their shot selection — heavy on midrange jumpers — leaves points on the table and lets defenses off the hook. Both Beal and Westbrook have the ability to threaten defenses, trigger rotations, and make passes to open teammates. Instead, they twist and gyrate and dance to launch the very shots defenses most want them to take.

This is not to say teams should never take two-point jumpers. That’s obviously unrealistic. But a shot is not good merely because it’s open. There’s almost no circumstance where it’s a good idea to take a two-point jumper early in the shot clock. The Wizards do it frequently — especially Westbrook and Beal.

The time to take two-point jumpers is when the shot clock is winding down and the team has already run its action. Under 10 seconds on the shot clock, and it makes sense to take whatever you can get, including a long two. With 16 seconds to shoot, the right play is to turn down an open two-point jumper to work for something better — ideally, an at-rim attempt, a three, or getting fouled.

Instead, the team’s stars fire away from the midrange, forfeiting points and negating the value of teammates who can shoot. Westbrook and Beal attract enough defensive attention to average 10+ assists per game each, if they would eschew long twos early in the shot clock and instead work the defense and create for teammates.

Last night, Beal and Westbrook combined to shoot 9-19 on two-point jumpers — a .474 percentage, 0.95 points per shot. On all other field goal attempts, the team had an effective field goal percentage of .508 — 1.02 points per shot. A small difference, no doubt, but one that adds up over the course of a game and a season. There just isn’t a good reason for nearly a quarter of the team’s shots to be crappy attempts from the two players with the skills to get better ones for the team.

Another problem for the Wizards is the Wagnerization of Thomas Bryant. The past two seasons, Bryant was a hyper-efficient scorer and decent rebounder, who avoided fouls and turnovers. This season, his fouling is up 50%. Last night would have been a decent performance from him (13 points on 9 shots, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) but for 4 turnovers and 5 fouls.

Fouling is a problem for the Wizards across the board. They’re sending the opponent to the free throw line far too often, and not getting there themselves — in part because of their zeal for taking so many two-point jumpers. Washington is taking the shots the defense wants them to take and not giving defenders a reason to foul.

At least Scott Brooks seems to have finally accepted that the three point guard lineup isn’t working. He used it for only a few minutes last night, and it shouldn’t take much more convincing for him to jettison it completely. It might take a while more for Garrison Mathews to get a shot at the rotation, even though he would seem to be a good fit with Westbrook, Raul Neto or Ish Smith.

Four Factors

Below are the four factors that decide who wins and loses in basketball — shooting (efg), rebounding (offensive rebounding percentage), ball handling (turnovers), fouling (free throws made divided by field goal attempts).

Four Factors: Bulls at Wizards

EFG 0.523 0.500
OREB% 0.114 0.200
TOV% 0.131 0.178
FTM/FGA 0.276 0.274
PACE 107 107
ORTG 108 100

Player Production Average

Below are Player Production Average (PPA) results from last night’s game. PPA is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, play-making, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls). PPA is a per possession stat that includes accounting for defense. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

The table below is sorted by each player’s total contributions for the game.

Wizards PPA

Davis Bertans 26 213 6
Russell Westbrook 38 126 3
Deni Avdija 26 143 -5
Bradley Beal 37 100 -12
Anthony Gill 3 398 -1
Robin Lopez 14 54 0
Thomas Bryant 34 18 -11
Ish Smith 21 1 -10
Garrison Mathews 0 0 3
Troy Brown Jr. 10 -70 2
Isaac Bonga 16 -70 -4
Raul Neto 15 -184 -11

Bulls PPA

Zach LaVine 38 204 11
Tomas Satoransky 20 258 -2
Coby White 37 115 10
Patrick Williams 20 85 1
Garrett Temple 29 52 14
Otto Porter Jr. 29 50 -3
Wendell Carter Jr. 34 27 14
Lauri Markkanen 19 1 -2
Daniel Gafford 7 -63 -1
Chandler Hutchinson 6 -250 -2