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Wizards offense struggles in loss to Charlotte Hornets

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Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards
Wizards center Montrezl Harrell
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite getting wrecked by Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball, the Wizards’ defense against the Charlotte Hornets was good enough to win a lot of NBA games. But, for a second time in as many games against one of league’s weakest defenses, the Wizards couldn’t figure out how to score.

A return trip to the drawing board is necessary, as well as some remedial work on shooting. They’re last in the league in producing open shots, and they’re near the bottom in making the open shots they get. Hitting an unusually high percentage on contested shots looks great in highlights and produces oohs and ahs from the home crowd, but it’s not a good way to produce consistent, high-level offense.

The Wizards need several someones to make things happen on offense. Someone needs to make enough plays to cause what Ben Taylor (author of Thinking Basketball) calls power plays (basically drawing an extra defender), which then leaves a teammate open somewhere. And then Someone needs to hit that open shot.

Washington’s offensive system isn’t producing those power plays, though. Offball actions aren’t getting guys open. Ball screens aren’t forcing rotations, and even when they do, the Wizards are missing what should be easy shots.

The bright side is that over time, Washington is likely to start connecting on more of the open looks they get. The concern: the offense creates so few open looks.

Observations:

  • Dinwiddie was the team’s best player for a couple weeks, but he’s regressed hard the past few games. He is returning from a torn knee ligament that caused him to miss most of last season. The first couple weeks was also better than he’d played over the course of a full season. The Wizards need more from him than some deep threes, moving the ball and average-ish defense.
  • The Wizards also need more from Beal. The 9 assists and 7 rebounds were helpful, but it took 18 shots for him to score 18 points. He’s the primary guy on the roster with the ability to warp the defense. If he can’t do it, the Wizards may be in offensive trouble.
  • This season, refs were supposed to not call fouls when there’s contact if the defender maintains verticality. Last night — and throughout much of the season — they’re allowing defenders to bodycheck offensive players as long as the defender keeps his arms up. That’s been great for Deni Avdija, who isn’t getting whistled for as many fouls. It might also be part of Beal’s struggles so far this season.
  • It might be time to increase Montrezl Harrell’s minutes. He’s far more dynamic on offense than Daniel Gafford, and the defense hasn’t suffered when he’s been in the game. Last night, he dominated inside — 24 points and 18 rebounds in just 27 minutes. He had 7 of Washington’s 20 offensive rebounds, which were critical in a game in which they shot so poorly.
  • Kyle Kuzma has been trying to be more of a playmaker the past week or so. Last night, he tallied 5 assists...and 4 turnovers. Three of his four turnovers were bad passes.
  • Worth keeping in mind: despite the offensive struggles, declining production from Dinwiddie and bad games from Beal, the Wizards are 11-6.

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.

Four Factors: Hornets 109 at Wizards 103

FOUR FACTORS HORNETS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS HORNETS WIZARDS
EFG 0.522 0.435
OREB 6 20
TOV 10 18
FTM 14 22
PACE 103
ORTG 106 100

Key Stats

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). 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).

Game Score (GmSC) converts individual production into points on the scoreboard in this game. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero.

PPA is a per possession metric designed for larger data sets. In small sample sizes, the numbers can get weird. But some readers prefer it so I’m including PPA scores as well. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45. For a single game, replacement level isn’t much use, and I reiterate the caution about small samples producing weird results.

Now numbers.

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. Points produced is not the same as points scored. It includes the value of assists and offensive rebounds, as well as sharing credit when receiving an assist.

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.

Key Stats: Wizards

WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Montrezl Harrell 27 57 24 151 25.4% 337 43.3 8
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 28 60 17 143 18.0% 217 29.5 -17
Bradley Beal 39 84 18 99 25.4% 82 15.4 -5
Kyle Kuzma 31 66 11 89 21.1% 54 8.0 -14
Deni Avdija 19 41 6 93 13.4% 49 4.5 7
Aaron Holiday 17 36 5 77 21.2% 21 1.7 10
Daniel Gafford 21 45 8 87 20.0% 7 0.7 -14
Spencer Dinwiddie 30 64 8 87 14.3% -14 0.0 -6
Corey Kispert 16 35 2 54 10.5% -104 0.0 5
Raul Neto 11 24 4 52 26.6% -195 0.0 -4

Key Stats: Hornets

HORNETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
HORNETS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Terry Rozier 35 75 32 160 24.1% 369 46.9 5
LaMelo Ball 38 82 28 95 37.6% 173 23.9 12
Gordon Hayward 35 74 16 123 17.5% 119 14.9 6
Nick Richards 9 20 7 155 23.2% 290 9.8 1
Cody Martin 28 61 3 107 6.8% 84 8.7 5
Mason Plumlee 22 47 9 120 16.8% 60 4.8 3
Kelly Oubre Jr. 22 48 7 91 14.3% -5 0.0 -10
Jalen McDaniels 9 18 1 44 13.7% -203 0.0 -5
Miles Bridges 41 88 6 51 14.9% -68 0.0 13