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Wizards win, but need to give some thought to their developmental strategy

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards
Troy Brown has been the Wizards’ best defender this season, but is struggling to get regular playing time since the acquisition of Jerome Robinson.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Even for a team focused on development, there’s no such thing as a bad win. The 110-106 victory comes about as close as possible — basically everyone from the Nets except Caris LeVert and DeAndre Jordan had a bad game, and the Wizards still needed a clutch three from Jerome Robinson to seal the game late.

Still, they did get that clutch three from Robinson, outstanding scoring and playmaking from Bradley Beal, and solid contributions from up and down the roster. And, after a couple poor defensive outings, they were solid.

A few observations from the game:

  • The constant switching and junk zones were absent against the Nets. Perimeter defenders went over the top on nearly every screen. Like any defensive technique, there’s a trade-off and opposing teams will attack accordingly. Still, it’s good to see the coaching staff try a different approach than ones they’ve used most of the season.
  • Thomas Bryant has a long ways to go on defense. The Wizards closed the game with him out there, and it cost them several key buckets. Bryant is a great example of why physical tools and effort aren’t what makes a good defender. With Bryant, the issue seems to be awareness. He’s slow to recognize what opposing offenses are doing, which means he’s frequently late in rotations and help situations. There are signs that a decent defender could emerge — defensive possessions where he makes good reads and good plays — but those need to become the norm.
  • The playing time of Troy Brown remains mysterious. Brown has been the team’s best defender this season, and he was productive in limited minutes against the Nets. While it’s understandable that the team wants to get an extended look at Jerome Robinson, they need to continue investing minutes in Brown who has improved significantly from his rookie season and is likely to be a solid pro. If they need minutes, they can (and should) take them from older players who don’t have significant untapped potential like Ish Smith and Shabazz Napier.
  • On a similar subject, 20 minutes for the 33-year old Ian Mahinmi is too much. Mahinmi is unlikely to return next season, and the Wizards have young bigs with potential who could use more minutes. In theory, playing the youngsters could cost them a win or two the rest of the way, but an extra win or two is meaningless. The team’s most pressing need is to find out whether Bryant and Moe Wagner can comprise a meaningful center rotation, and they won’t learn that by playing Mahinmi.

Player Production Average and Scoreboard Impact Rating

Below are results from a couple metrics I developed. Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall production metric that’s pace neutral and accounts for defense. It rewards players for doing things to help their team and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

Scoreboard Impact Rating (SIR) translates overall production into points on the scoreboard in this game.

Wizards PPA and SIR

Beal 39 201 33
Bertans 30 99 12
Robinson 20 145 12
Hachimura 27 97 11
Mahinmi 20 124 11
Brown 13 184 10
Bryant 15 158 10
Bonga 17 104 7
Wagner 13 56 3
Napier 24 -68 0
Smith 23 -78 0

Nets PPA and SIR

LeVert 34 395 68
Jordan 30 240 36
Prince 25 15 2
Kurucs 18 -18 0
Temple 34 -14 0
Harris 29 -23 0
Allen 18 -50 0
Dinwiddie 33 -31 0
Luwawu-Cabarrot 19 -144 0