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.
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
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.