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The Day After: Looking for meaning in the Wizards loss to the Bucks

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Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura had 9 three-point attempts in the Wizards loss to the Bucks — a career high for the rookie.
Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images

The Wizards lost their seventh straight in The Bubble and seem likely to lose their eighth Thursday against the Celtics.

Sure, Boston might sit its best players, but as the Bucks showed, Washington struggles against second and third teamers.

While the team’s performance has been lackluster, The Bubble at least has served the purpose of clarifying which of the young players might become future contributors. The list is short:

  • Thomas Bryant — Highly efficient, even on higher usage, with legit three-point range and excellent finishing around the basket. He’s a good screener too, which would be more evident if perimeter players knew how to use a pick. He’s also shown some improved awareness and positioning on defense. He needs to get stronger and continue working on technique.
  • Rui Hachimura — His bubble play has been disappointing, but he has good physical tools and should be able to improve his shooting with a summer of hard work. He also needs a ton of help on defense. He was my focus during the Bucks game and he’s shockingly bad in help situations. There were 6-8 plays where he was in good position to help but failed to recognize actions happening directly in front of him.
  • Troy Brown Jr. — Has some all-court game (rebounding, ball handling, passing), but his shooting stinks and (like every perimeter defender in a Wizards uniform) he consistently fails to follow the team’s force rules. While Brown has been the team’s best perimeter defender this season, it’s critical that he executes the scheme because of his lack of explosiveness. He’s not the kind of athlete who can recover from being out of position. He needs to use his size and strength and make opposing players drive to help or shoot over him.

The rest...blech.

Jerome Robinson has at least elevated himself to a maybe. He’s been a little better than replacement value overall but hasn’t transformed into being actually good. His offensive rating in The Bubble is 109, which is a) a bit of small sample size theater (since that 7-9 game to open play, his ortg is just 103), and b) still below league average.

Moritz Wagner flops and annoys opponents. There might be value in that if he’d stop committing so many turnovers and pointless fouls.

Admiral Schofield? No.

Anzejs Pasecniks? No.

Isaac Bonga? Maybe he’ll stick as a 12-15 minutes per game Swiss army knife reserve.

If the Wizards front office has its way, only one or two of their Bubble starters will remain in those roles next season. John Wall and Bradley Beal will reclaim the backcourt. Hachimura is likely to be the starting PF. They’re almost certain to find a new SF. And they’re probably going to try to add a defensive-minded veteran to play center.

That would leave Davis Bertans, Bryant, Brown and Ish Smith as key reserves. Depending on how well Wall returns, that’s good enough to reach the playoffs.

Bucks 126, Wizards 113

The score is deceptively close. The Bucks kicked the Wizards in the teeth and had their way start to finish. Sterling Brown led Milwaukee with 30 minutes. Giannis Antetokounmpo played just 10 minutes when he got aggravated by Wagner’s constant flopping and head butted him. He’ll likely be suspended for the final regular season game.

Below are PPA numbers from the 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 debits them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, fouling, poor defense). In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

Tables are sorted by total production.

Wizards PPA

WAS MIN PPA
WAS MIN PPA
Bryant 26 168
Robinson 33 88
Bonga 30 84
Smith 26 96
Wagner 20 77
Uthoff 3 400
Pasecniks 21 45
Schofield 14 55
Williams 3 100
Hachimura 29 6
Grant 4 -321
Brown 30 -61

Bucks PPA

MIL MIN PPA
MIL MIN PPA
B.Lopez 23 324
Mason 21 309
Connaughton 24 213
Brown 30 134
Giannis 10 267
T.Antetokounmpo 18 141
Hill 23 21
Wilson 23 15
Korver 24 4
R.Lopez 21 2
Ilyasova 22 -46

While it was great to see Hachimura pull the trigger on nine three-point attempts — after all, the Bucks game plan was to not defend him at all outside the three-point line — his overall game was poor. He shot just 6-18 overall and used 23 possessions to score 20 points.

Bryant’s 13-8 line isn’t eye-popping, except he did it in 26 minutes and used 10 offensive possessions.

Robinson wasn’t bad. He shot just 4-11 from the floor, using 15 possessions to score 15 points. But he also produced 7 assists and just 1 turnover.