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By the Numbers: Wizards blasted by Rockets

NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook’s performance this season is a problem for the Washington Wizards.

A bad Wizards season keeps getting worse, this time a 19-point loss to a ho-hum Houston Rockets. Washington’s record is a league-worst 3-10 and their strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin ranks 26th. And I worried I was being too pessimistic in my season forecast.

The Wizards are missing several rotation players — Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, and Ish Smith are sidelined due to the league’s COVID protocols. Thomas Bryant is out for the year with a torn knee ligament.

The Rockets were missing Christian Wood, the best player still on their roster, and former MVP and six-time first team All-NBAer James Harden was recently traded for Victor Oladipo’s expiring contract and a haul of draft picks. Oladipo hasn’t been the same since rupturing a quad tendon.

What’s wrong with the Wizards isn’t just guys missing games because of COVID. Raul Neto has been better than Smith. Garrison Mathews does a more than adequate Bertans impression. Robin Lopez has been the team’s most productive player since Bryant got hurt. Isaac Bonga was about as good last season as Hachimura and Avdija have been this year.

They have enough “about the same” guys on the team to get by if they were getting quality production from the team’s stars: Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook’s troubles are much-discussed. He’s probably playing despite not being fully recovered from the quad injury that had him missing games before the Wizards shut down for two weeks because of COVID. It’s worth mention that this is not the same quad he injured last season.

With Westbrook playing this badly and the team losing, it makes sense to let him heal. Cassius Winston cannot be worse than this version of Westbrook who can’t shoot, and doesn’t have the explosiveness to create clear passing lanes or finish in traffic. His missed shots and rampant turnovers more than offset the rebounding.

If the Wizards still cling to hopes of making a run to the postseason, they need Westbrook playing at least as well as he did last season. He’s not helping at this point. Get him healthy and then see what he can do.

If he is healthy, the Wizards are at the start of a three-year nightmare.

Beal is having the best season of his career, but the past two games have been subpar. He’s scoring because he’s guzzling possessions, and he’s not doing a lot else. His offensive rating (individual points produced per individual 100 possessions used) for the season fell from 117 to 113 in just the past two games.

This was the first of two possible John Wall revenge games. He was good overall in his first game against the Wizards, and this was one of his better games of the season.

Some of his pre- and post-game comments bring to mind the story Michael Jordan made up about LaBradford Smith’s disrespectful “nice game” remark.

The faith Scott Brooks and Tommy Sheppard expressed in Wall’s recovery and return to form had me worried they were unnecessarily raising expectations. Despite Wall’s claim otherwise, there’s nothing to suggest the Wizards thought he was finished. And, while Ted Leonsis and the team’s ownership group were aggressively heavy-handed in their handling of the infamous gang signs video (for which Wall apologized privately and publicly), the biggest impetus to make the Wall for Westbrook trade was Wall’s request to be traded.

All that said, he wouldn’t be the first person to revise history for personal motivation.

Four Factors

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

I’ve decided to simplify them a bit. While the factors are usually presented as percentages, that’s more useful over a full season. In a single game, the raw numbers in each category are easier to understand.

Four Factors: Wizards at Rockets

EFG 0.489 0.423
OREB 8 12
TOV 13 20
FTM 21 17
PACE 102 102
ORTG 105 86

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.

PPA is a per possession stat. The table below is sorted by each player’s total contributions for the game.

Wizards PPA

Robin Lopez 30 178 -8
Raul Neto 22 134 -12
Garrison Mathews 23 105 -17
Bradley Beal 35 63 -4
Anthony Gill 22 33 6
Cassius Winston 1 0 -3
Russell Westbrook 28 -7 -13
Jordan Bell 16 -87 -14
Alex Len 6 -230 0
Jerome Robinson 30 -55 -21
Isaac Bonga 26 -123 -9

Rockets PPA

DeMarcus Cousins 33 269 6
David Nwaba 23 338 20
Eric Gordon 29 178 15
John Wall 24 183 11
Sterling Brown 16 250 22
Jae'Sean Tate 28 40 8
Ben McLemore 2 363 -1
PJ Tucker 34 -21 1
Danuel House Jr. 14 -167 9
Victor Oladipo 37 -66 4