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Wizards offense shut down in loss to Nets

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
Wizards center Daniel Gafford battles Nets center Blake Griffin.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Just as it was important not to read too much into the season-opening win against the Toronto Raptors, don’t assign too much meaning to last night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

That said, I saw some things last night that would have me worried if I was on the Wizards coaching staff.

While many correctly pointed out that the team went into iso-ball mode on offense, it’s critical to note that the isos were a reaction to Nets defenders blowing up Wizards sets. Washington ran lots of screening actions designed to get their better offensive players opportunities to make plays. Brooklyn broke them up repeatedly and forced the Wizards into “hero ball.”

Why is that worrisome? It’s game three with a new coach. It’s too early for the Nets to have scouted them extensively. There are a few possible explanations. First, it could be the scheme itself.

Second, it could be the players aren’t executing well — not setting or using screens properly, not timing cuts and movements well, or telegraphing what the play will be.

Third, it could be that the players aren’t good enough to successfully run their offense against a determined defensive group.

And fourth, it could just be that they need some more time to learn the system and get comfortable with it.

Given Wes Unseld Jr.’s strong reputation for preparation and game-planning, my guess is it’s a combination of the last three. The Wizards roster is deeper in rotation-quality players than they’ve been in previous years, but most of the rotation is comprised of average-to-below-average performers. When that’s the case, full effort can make a significant difference.

“Full effort” in this case doesn’t mean giving a strong physical effort, it means preparing hard, paying attention to details, and giving full effort to executing the scheme and helping teammates. And, it can be difficult to play at full speed when trying to remember how the set is supposed to work.

So, don’t read too much into the team’s offensive struggles in two of the first three games. They’re likely to get better on that end.

On the other hand, the Nets entered the game with one of the league’s worst defenses (defensive rating of 115.2) and they shut down the Wizards.

By the same token, tap the brakes on reading much into the Nets having an inefficient night of their own on offense. The Wizards defense was decent, but Brooklyn struggled offensively in their first three games (and now in their fourth). They entered the game with an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 103.9. Against the Wizards their ortg was 101.

While it’s too soon to make sweeping proclamations about what this team will be, it’s safe to say they can’t achieve their goals if the players they’re counting for production — Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma — continue to play this poorly.

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 simplified 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.

PACE is possessions per 48 minutes.

Wizards 90 at Nets 104

FOUR FACTORS NETS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS NETS WIZARDS
EFG 0.479 0.395
OREB 7 10
TOV 9 12
FTM 14 15
PACE 103
ORTG 101 87

Player Production Average

Player Production Average (PPA) is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, playmaking, 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 and role. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.

The table below is sorted by each player’s total contributions for the game.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

PTS = points scored

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 112.3.

USG = offensive usage rate. Average is 20%.

ORTG and USG are slightly modified versions of stats created by Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified slightly by me. ORTG is an efficiency measure that accounts for the value of shooting, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. USG includes shooting from the floor and free throw line, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.

Wizards PPA

WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA +/-
Daniel Gafford 23 49 13 132 21.7% 126 8
Montrezl Harrell 21 46 10 102 20.3% 107 -23
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 25 53 11 99 16.1% 81 -5
Isaiah Todd 5 10 4 137 25.5% 394 2
Spencer Dinwiddie 26 55 10 96 22.8% 66 -13
Corey Kispert 5 10 2 209 10.7% 366 2
Aaron Holiday 18 39 11 100 23.8% 71 -5
Joel Ayayi 4 8 0 0.0% 0 1
Deni Avdija 19 41 2 63 15.4% -46 -6
Kyle Kuzma 27 58 6 61 20.1% -34 -12
Raul Neto 16 35 2 52 11.9% -64 -4
Davis Bertans 21 45 0 22 6.4% -82 -7
Bradley Beal 32 68 19 74 34.2% -63 -8

Nets PPA

NETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA +/-
NETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA +/-
Kevin Durant 35 75 25 118 26.8% 254 6
Patty Mills 23 49 21 129 28.6% 281 13
Nic Claxton 16 35 6 159 10.7% 239 21
DeAndre' Bembry 18 39 7 115 15.7% 214 4
James Harden 30 65 14 91 30.4% 99 6
Bruce Brown 30 65 14 117 15.8% 86 0
Joe Harris 30 65 11 89 19.0% 35 13
James Johnson 7 15 2 194 5.5% 123 15
Day'Ron Sharpe 4 9 2 194 9.2% 173 -2
Blake Griffin 19 41 2 46 15.0% -59 -2
Jevon Carter 14 30 0 34 6.3% -87 -2
Paul Millsap 9 20 0 53 12.2% -148 0
Cam Thomas 4 9 0 0 27.5% -438 -2