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Depleted Wizards can’t compete

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NBA: Washington Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans
Bradley Beal and Garrison Mathews need the rest of the Washington Wizards rotation to return.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A few days I wrote there were no lessons to be learned from the Wizards loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Three games back from the COVID hiatus and the lesson is emerging: the team doesn’t have the players to be competitive, at least not now.

Here’s the team’s injury report:

  • Deni Avdija — out, COVID protocols
  • Davis Bertans — out, COVID protocols
  • Troy Brown Jr. — out, COVID protocols
  • Thomas Bryant — out, torn ACL
  • Rui Hachimura — out, COVID protocols
  • Ish Smith — out, COVID protocols
  • Moritz Wagner — out, COVID protocols
  • Russell Westbrook — out, rest

That’s more than half the team’s rotation, and a considerable chunk of their offensive firepower. As Pelicans broadcaster (and former Wizards player) Antonio Daniels noted last night, with Bertans and Bryant sidelined, the team is missing its two best shooters.

Hachimura and Avdija have been basically average this season, but that’s a considerable step up from Jordan Bell and Anthony Gill. It’s also a leap from how Isaac Bonga has played. When he returns to the bench, it’s unlikely fans will clamor for his return to the rotation.

While fans may clamor for Scott Brooks to be fired (a move I do not oppose), a coaching change doesn’t fix this team. Getting the rotation back and getting Westbrook back will give them a chance at making up the 4.5-game deficit to reach 10th and the play-in games — the #SoWizards “contend for the playoffs” thing.

Last night, Bradley Beal was awesome (47 points), Garrison Mathews was good, Robin Lopez and Alex Len were solid. Bell rebounded well but is a self-check on offense. The rest of the team played badly.

In a sign of how off the rails this season has been for the Wizards, they ran their offense through Lopez in the post for a stretch, and it actually worked. That’s likely not to happen too much again — coaches will remind their bigs that Lopez’s postup game is robotically predictable. He turns on his left shoulder to get to a righty hook. He also won’t be fighting the slender Jaxson Hayes for position in the future.

For the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Lonzo Ball played well. It doesn’t show in the tracking data, but I thought Ball did an excellent job defending Beal. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Beal’s offensive explosion happened after Ball left the game with an ankle injury.

Bright side: since coming back from the COVID hiatus, the Wizards have lost by 20, 19 and 18. At this rate of improvement, the team’s guaranteed to win in only 19 more games.

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 Pelicans

FOUR FACTORS PELICANS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS PELICANS WIZARDS
EFG 0.612 0.473
OREB 12 11
TOV 14 11
FTM 15 19
PACE 100 100
ORTG 124 106

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

WIZARDS MIN PPA +/-
WIZARDS MIN PPA +/-
Bradley Beal 40 239 -17
Garrison Mathews 28 153 -14
Robin Lopez 23 113 -9
Alex Len 19 122 2
Jordan Bell 31 73 -22
Cassius Winston 16 49 -5
Anthony Gill 12 32 -12
Jerome Robinson 22 7 4
Isaac Bonga 28 -10 -10
Raul Neto 20 -36 -7

Pelicans PPA

PELICANS MIN PPA +/-
PELICANS MIN PPA +/-
Brandon Ingram 36 296 28
Zion Williamson 33 273 4
Lonzo Ball 16 308 23
Steven Adams 33 109 27
Eric Bledsoe 36 79 15
Josh Hart 29 77 3
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 30 60 11
Jaxson Hayes 15 71 -6
JJ Redick 13 -7 -15