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Rating the Wizards Bubble experience

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Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
Thomas Bryant was the Wizards best player in the Orlando Bubble.
Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

The Wizards didn’t have a spectacular showing in The Bubble. They managed to beat a cut-down Boston Celtics in their final game to avoid going winless. And, the young players they’d like to take roles in the rotation next season did not impress.

Offensively, the Wizards were a disaster. Missing Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, they were last in offensive efficiency among Bubble teams. They often struggled to initiate basic offensive sets, even against weaker defensive teams. Washington’s only player with at least 50 total minutes and an above average offensive rating in Orlando was Thomas Bryant (ortg: 129 on 20.8% usage).

Eliminating the minutes requirement adds Jarrod Uthoff, who shot 6-11 from the floor and 3-5 from three-point range for a 139 ortg on just 10.4% usage.

Bryant was also the only Washington player to rate better than average overall in PPA (see table below).

PPA is my overall production metric that 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, fouls, bad defense).

Lots of negative attention was given to the Wizards defense (including by me), but somehow they were about average in The Bubble. Efficiency in Orlando averaged 111.9 points per 100 possessions. Washington’s defensive rating was 112.0.

Even so, a lot of that negative defensive attention was well-deserved. The only Wizards rotation player to rate average or better in the defense part of PPA was Bryant. Troy Brown and Isaac Bonga were in the vicinity of average, but on the “below” side. And the Wizards defensive rating benefited from Boston sitting their top six players in the final game. In an eight-game sample, that one game is enough to make a significant difference. In the first seven games in Orlando, Washington’s drtg was 114.9.

Bryant’s performance was the only real bright spot for Washington. In 30.8 minutes per game, Bryant averaged 28.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 3.0 blocks per 100 team possessions. He was good defensively while also shooting 59.5% from two-point range and 40.5% on threes. He was one of the more productive centers in Orlando.

NOTE: The list below was added because of a point raised by DCrez in the comment section. It was too interesting to leave out of the article.

Here’s a list of players since 1973-74 who posted similar stats per 100 team possessions over the course of a full season:

  1. Hakeem Olajuwon, 12 times
  2. David Robinson, 5 times
  3. Anthony Davis, 3 times
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, once
  5. Dwight Howard, once

Don’t get too excited, though. The Bubble is classic small sample size theater. For the Wizards, it was a great development for Bryant to play so well. But it’s still just two weeks.

The same caution applies to players who performed poorly. Rui Hachimura was bad in Orlando, but it was just 227 total minutes and it should be viewed as a crappy stretch in what was overall a pretty good rookie year.

The same is true for Bonga.

Jerome Robinson provided ample ammo for supporters and doubters alike. Supporters can point to improved offensive performance — an ortg of 105 (up from below 100 in his previous NBA time) and 36.7% shooting from three-point range.

But, doubters might notice that his shooting and overall offensive performance may not be as improved as they seem at first glance. Robinson shot 7-9 in the first bubble game. In the seven games that followed, he shot .388 from the floor and .326 on threes. His ortg was a cringe-worthy 100 — right in line with previous career norms. And his defense, which had been okay in the Before Times was awful in Orlando.

Admiral Schofield, Moritz Wagner, and Anzejis Paseniks were just as bad or worse in Orlando as they had been in the Before Times. Wagner is a walking small sample size cautionary tale. He looked great for 8-10 games to start the season and was dropping fast before hurting his ankle. He’s been ineffective since returning to the lineup, including in Orlando.

To the eye, Brown looked better in some ways in Orlando. His decision-making, pick-and-roll passing and willingness to push the ball in transition were positives. His assists went up but turnovers stayed down. Poor shooting continued to be a problem.

Again, don’t read too much into the numbers — everything about The Bubble is small sample size.

Below are numbers from the team’s final eight games. I’ve included offensive rating (individual points produced per 100 individual possessions) and usage rate along with PPA.

The offensive rating and usage stats are modified versions of what Dean Oliver created. Ortg includes the value of positive contributions (points, assists, offensive rebounds) weighed against negatives (missed shots and turnovers). Usage includes field goal and free throw attempts, assists, offensive rebounds and turnovers.

League averages for each stat:

  • PPAb: PPA for just the bubble — 100 (higher is better, replacement level is 45)
  • BT: Before Times PPA
  • ORTG: 111.9
  • USG: 20.0%

Wizards in The Bubble

PLAYER GMS MPG PPAb BT ORTG USG
PLAYER GMS MPG PPAb BT ORTG USG
Thomas Bryant 8 30.8 205 129 129 20.8%
Troy Brown 8 32.9 99 97 102 22.7%
Johnathan Williams 4 11.3 90 97 109 15.0%
Jarrod Uthoff 3 13.0 87 139 10.4%
Ish Smith 8 27.1 81 94 100 26.3%
Rui Hachimura 7 32.4 70 102 102 21.1%
Jerome Robinson 8 28.9 55 42 105 21.7%
Isaac Bonga 8 28.0 50 91 96 15.1%
Admiral Schofield 6 12.7 5 22 96 8.9%
Moritz Wagner 8 16.0 4 70 85 18.1%
Jerian Grant 6 13.3 2 97 17.5%
Shabazz Napier 5 22.0 -10 113 82 25.0%
Anžejs Pasečņiks 3 10.7 -12 37 97 18.5%