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The numbers behind the Wizards’ loss to the Bulls on New Year’s Eve

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What is behind Washington’s run to a league-worst 0-5 record?

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards
Wizards center Thomas Bryant scored 28 points on 11 shots against the Chicago Bulls.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks keeps talking about the team having time to bounce back. History says otherwise — teams that start the season this badly typically finish with losing records and miss the playoffs.

While he’s peddling optimism publicly, Brooks and the team should be getting desperate. Last season was supposed to be developmental. Reload the roster, play the youngsters so they’ll be ready for the future, and get ready to make a run to the playoffs in 2020-21. They’re 0-5.

Last night, the offense was more than good enough to win most NBA games. The Wizards had a .583 effective field goal percentage despite subpar shooting from Davis Bertans (0-8 from the floor and 0-6 from three) and Bradley Beal (8-19 from the field and 0-3 from three-point range).

Beal somewhat made up for his poor shooting by drawing fouls and going 12-13 from the free throw line. But he also committed 3 turnovers and blew an open layup on a beautifully designed after timeout play that could have put the Wizards up one with 14.4 seconds remaining.

The offensive star was Thomas Bryant, who erupted for 28 points on 11 field goal attempts. Bryant’s night included going 3-3 from three-point range. It looked like he got fouled on his lone miss. Bryant made several good defensive plays that contributed to a poor game from Bulls star Zach LaVine. It wasn’t enough because his teammates were getting smoked everywhere else.

Brooks made three significant changes to the rotation. The first was starting Rui Hachimura, who had missed the first four games with conjunctivitis. Hachimura was good — an efficient 17 points in 25 minutes to go with 5 rebounds, and 3 assists (including a sweet behind the back dish to Bryant). He also looked confident launching threes, making both his attempts last night. His defense was poor. Hachimura joining the starting lineup relegated Isaac Bonga to the bench, where he stayed throughout the game.

The other two changes came in the second half when Raul Neto took Ish Smith’s usual shift and then played for much of the fourth quarter. And Moritz Wagner took Robin Lopez’s minutes in the second half.

The only thing surprising about either switch was that it took until the fifth game. Lopez and Smith have been unproductive this season. Neto’s been up and down, but seems to offer more of what the Wizards need than Smith. Lopez has been slow and ineffective, and the coaching staff may have concluded that they couldn’t do worse with Wagner.

While the lineup changes were good to see, Brooks made a baffling decision late. Bertans, who’s not in game shape, had an awful night. Despite that, trailing 131-128 with 8 seconds left, Brooks inserted Bertans into the lineup to take a three. Predictably, he missed.

The defense last night was preposterously bad. They allowed a bad Bulls team missing several rotation players a .620 effective field goal percentage. Wizards defenders repeatedly — and inexplicably — helped off Otto Porter, who lit them up with 28 points on 14 shots. It was a vintage Porter stat line — 28 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnover, 0 fouls.

While Westbrook tallied his fourth triple-double of the season, his overall performance again rated below average. His stat line looks impressive — 22 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists — but those numbers come with negatives: 10 missed shots, 50% shooting from the free throw line, 5 turnovers and 4 fouls. The Wizards need better decision making from him.

They also need better play from Beal. He’s too casual with the ball (3 turnovers) and undermines his potential impact on the game with iffy shot selection. Both Beal and Westbrook, apparently with the approval of Brooks and the coaching staff, take lots of two-point jumpers, which is dumb.

Happy New Year!

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

4 FACTORS BULLS WIZARDS
4 FACTORS BULLS WIZARDS
EFG 0.620 0.583
OREB% 0.243 0.205
TOV% 0.141 0.132
FTM/FGA 0.207 0.381
PACE 106 106
ORTG 125 122

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

WIZARDS MIN PPA +/-
WIZARDS MIN PPA +/-
Thomas Bryant 34 266 3
Raul Neto 22 292 3
Rui Hachimura 25 184 13
Russell Westbrook 39 90 -10
Bradley Beal 35 73 3
Deni Avdija 25 74 5
Moritz Wagner 7 96 0
Troy Brown Jr. 17 -4 -2
Ish Smith 8 -37 -6
Robin Lopez 6 -73 -4
Davis Bertans 21 -98 -18

Bulls PPA

BULLS MIN PPA +/-
BULLS MIN PPA +/-
Otto Porter Jr. 31 410 0
Daniel Gafford 22 270 23
Thaddeus Young 27 163 19
Wendell Carter Jr. 23 106 -24
Zach LaVine 35 47 -3
Denzel Valentine 15 95 4
Coby White 40 27 14
Garrett Temple 28 35 -3
Patrick Williams 18 14 -15