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Wizards Heartbeat: Performance EKGs for Neto, Holiday, Kispert and Kuzma

Washington Wizards v Utah Jazz
Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma.

The Wizards take the court against the New York Knicks tonight, well-rested and (hopefully) ready to go. Reportedly, Rui Hachimura will travel with the team to New York, though it’s doubtful he makes his season debut. Reportedly, he’s now playing one-on-one with teammates, but he hasn’t engaged in full-contact five-on-five scrimmaging.

Tuesday, I presented performance EKGs for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Deni Avdija and Bradley Beal. The next morning, we learned that KCP tested positive for the virus. Reportedly, he’s vaccinated, and his case is asymptomatic. Hopefully he’s back on the court soon.

Yesterday, I posted EKGs for Montrezl Harrell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans and Daniel Gafford. So far, so good — no reports of any of them entering the Covid protocols.

Performance EKGs are fancy-schmancy line graphs showing the ups and downs of each player’s performance over the course of the season.

The EKGs use my Player Production Average metric, which rewards players for things that help a team win and dings them for things that hurt — each in proportion to how much/little it helps or hurts. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a degree of difficulty factor, as well as a position/role adjustment. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and 45 is replacement level.

In the charts below, the red line is each player’s season average PPA after each game, and the blue line is the player’s 10-game rolling average. The red line will be flatter with smaller fluctuations as the season wears on because it’s a progressively larger sample. The blue line will have more variation. So, when reading the charts, think of the red line as the player’s baseline performance and the blue line as a measure of how he performed over a recent stretch of games.

Today’s randomly selected players:

  • Raul Neto
  • Aaron Holiday
  • Corey Kispert
  • Kyle Kuzma

Raul Neto

Last season was the best of Neto’s career — a near average 93 PPA. This season, the best word for his performance is disappointing. He’s hitting just 25.0% of his three-point attempts (vs. a career average of 37.1%), and he’s inexplicably missing free throws. For his career, he’s an 80+% FT shooter. This season: 72.9%.

His assists are up, but so are his turnovers. His offensive efficiency has cratered from a little better than average last season to significantly below average this year. His defensive effectiveness has slipped a bit too.

He’s been a little better the past couple weeks, but that’s not the same as good or even adequate. Part of the issue: last season, he was largely an off-ball afterthought who could play in the space created by Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. That was good for him because he’s really an undersized shooting guard, not an undersized point guard.

His PPA frequencies:

  • 200+ — 10%
  • 150+ — 17%
  • 100+ — 27%
  • below 100 — 73%
  • below 45 — 47%
  • negative — 33%

Aaron Holiday

The charts for Neto and Holiday underscore the challenge Wes Unseld Jr. is attempting to manage. In an ideal world, he’d put the cratering Spencer Dinwiddie on the bench and start Someone Else. But, the Someone Elses are both basically replacement level players this season. It might make sense to do it anyway, in hopes that Dinwiddie can figure things out and become more like the player they imagined they were getting.

One out of the box idea: move Dinwiddie to the bench and start Deni Avdija. That would mean a lineup of Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Daniel Gafford. They might have some trouble scoring, but it would likely be a good defensive group, and it would slot Dinwiddie back into a 6th man kind of role where he’s been through much of his career.

Now, I realized little of that has much to do with Holiday. Unfortunately, there’s little to say about him. He’s been basically replacement level this season, which is exactly where he’s been throughout his career. His per possession stats are right at his career norms across the board except he’s shooting better on twos (which isn’t likely to continue). Like Neto, he’s more undersized SG than undersized PG. I still see no reason why the Wizards moved down in the draft to get him.

  • 200+ — 7%
  • 150+ — 17%
  • 100+ — 30%
  • below 100 — 70%
  • below 45 — 43%
  • negative — 30%

Corey Kispert

Kispert is going through fairly normal rookie growing pains, which is somewhat frustrating because at age 22 and after four years at Gonzaga, he was supposed to be NBA ready. So far, he’s bricking shots everyone thought he’d be making — he’s connected on just 26.4% of his three-point attempts.

Even with the crappy shooting, he’s been better than Davis Bertans, which to be clear is the faintest of praise. His shooting will likely improve as he gains experience in the NBA. He’s currently at 340 career minutes.

  • 200+ — 8%
  • 150+ — 12%
  • 100+ — 27%
  • below 100 — 73%
  • below 45 — 46%
  • negative — 31%

Kyle Kuzma

Kuzma’s been kinda consistent this season, which isn’t altogether good because his performance for the year is a bit below average (PPA 89). That’s a useful though meh player. Consistent meh at least lets the coach know what to expect most nights, but some volatility with some great performances mixed with bad would likely help a middling team win a few more games.

While he’s been starting all season, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with his play, Kuzma ought to be part of trade discussions with better teams looking for a frontcourt role player to round out their roster.

  • 200+ — 7%
  • 150+ — 28%
  • 100+ — 34%
  • below 100 — 66%
  • below 45 — 31%
  • negative — 24%