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Wizards PPA update, plus All-Star rosters and top rookies

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Denver Nuggets v Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal will start in the All-Star game. Who should join in this year’s festivities?
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Pop quiz: Look at the numbers below and choose Player A or Player B.

Player A or Player B?

STAT PLAYER A PLAYER B
STAT PLAYER A PLAYER B
MPG 35.6 35.3
Ortg 117 115
efg 61.2% 52.5%
2pt% 58.0% 53.4%
3pt% 43.7% 33.7%
ft% 84.7% 89.6%
reb 4.1 3.8
ast 3.8 3.4
creat 6.0 5.2
stl 0.8 1.0
blk 0.3 0.4
tov 2.9 2.3
pf 1.9 1.8
pts 21.1 23.9

Defense is about the same between the two.

Stats are presented per some number of possessions.

creat is short for Box Creation, which is a metric invented by Ben Taylor (author of Thinking Basketball) to measure playmaking. It’s scale is similar to assists, but it’s built on Taylor’s extensive tracking of games, and it accounts for how a player’s scoring and gravity create opportunities for teammates.

Poll

Player A or Player B?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Player A
    (107 votes)
  • 12%
    Player B
    (15 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now

I’ll reveal identities after the poll closes at noon on Feb. 20.

EDIT Feb. 20, 2021 after poll closed.

As some in the comments had already sleuthed, Player A is Zach LaVine and Player B is Bradley Beal.

The reader vote:

  • LaVine: 107
  • Beal: 15

Now, let’s be clear that the numbers I posted do NOT show LaVine is “better” than Beal. The data shows their performances are fairly close overall so far this season. LaVine is having the best season of his career, and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s broken through to a new level or if it’s just an outlier for him. This is Beal’s third or fourth season at this level.

The point of this exercise is not a “trick.” Rather, it’s a way of illustrating the power of narrative. What the data are saying about these two is their overall performances are “about the same” so far this season. It’s reasonable to place more value on Beal because he’s produced at this level for longer, but it would also be reasonable to place more value on LaVine because he’s two years younger and is more of an outlier athlete.

Last time I put together a season update, the Wizards were at the bottom of the standings and ranked among the team’s weakest teams. Despite a three-game winning streak, that’s largely unchanged.

Bradley Beal getting named a starter in the All-Star game gives the team and its fans something to celebrate. Beal leads the NBA in scoring, and his varied offensive attack has captured attention leaguewide.

With the starters named, here’s who my Player Production Average says should be in this year’s All-Star game:

2021 PPA All-Stars

EAST PLAYER TEAM PPA WEST PLAYER TEAM PPA
EAST PLAYER TEAM PPA WEST PLAYER TEAM PPA
G Kyrie Irving BRK 206 G Luka Doncic DAL 194
G Bradley Beal WAS 166 G Stephen Curry GSW 239
F Kevin Durant BRK 187 F LeBron James LAL 210
F Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL 215 F Nikoka Jokic DEN 232
F Joel Embiid PHI 205 F Kawhi Leonard LAC 241
G James Harden BRK 202 G CJ McCollum POR 224
G Jrue Holiday MIL 189 G Damian Lillard POR 210
F Jimmy Butler MIA 219 F Anthony Davis LAL 212
F Clint Capela ATL 181 F Zion Williamson NOP 205
F Khris Middleton MIL 172 F Paul George LAC 202
O Zach LaVine CHI 171 O Mike Conley UTA 189
O Nikola Vucevic ORL 170 O Christian Wood HOU 181
Alt Terry Rozier CHO 163 Alt Rudy Gobert UTA 180
Alt Jayson Tatum BOS 163 Alt DeMar DeRozan SAS 178
Alt Tobias Harris PHI 162 Alt Chris Paul PHO 175

I’ve included in the table the players with the highest scores who had at least 350 total minutes. Also included are the top three injury replacements for each conference. It’s possible that CJ McCollum, Anthony Davis, and Christian Wood could end up missing the game.

PPA 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 pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor. There’s also an accounting for role/position. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and replacement level is 45. It usually takes a score of 200 or higher to be part of the MVP conversation.

Since it’s a question I get constantly, here are scores for rookies with at least 200 minutes played this season:

2020-21 Rookies

RANK PLAYER TEAM PPA
RANK PLAYER TEAM PPA
1 Tyrese Haliburton SAC 133
2 LaMelo Ball CHO 130
3 Xavier Tillman MEM 108
4 Jae'Sean Tate HOU 106
5 Saddiq Bey DET 96
6 Immanuel Quickley NYK 92
7 Devin Vassell SAS 88
8 Dylan Windler CLE 85
9 Desmond Bane MEM 83
10 Precious Achiuwa MIA 74
11 James Wiseman GSW 71
12 Payton Pritchard BOS 70
13 Isaiah Stewart DET 69
14 Tyrese Maxey PHI 67
15 Facundo Campazzo DEN 65
16 Chuma Okeke ORL 65
17 Obi Toppin NYK 63
18 Patrick Williams CHI 62
19 Deni Avdija WAS 62
20 Isaiah Joe PHI 58
21 Mason Jones HOU 50
22 Kira Lewis NOP 50
23 Cole Anthony ORL 49
24 Anthony Edwards MIN 48
25 Theo Maledon OKC 42
26 Lamar Stevens CLE 33
27 Josh Green DAL 30
28 Jaden McDaniels MIN 29
29 Isaac Okoro CLE 19
30 Aleksej Pokusevski OKC -13

Here’s the PPA update for the Wizards — the last was Feb. 4. As the table below shows, most of the players were less productive over the past couple weeks than they were before the COVID layoff. The biggest improvers were Alex Len and Davis Bertans. The biggest dropoff was from Avdija, whose production plummeted from about average to well-below average.

Wizards PPA through games played Feb. 17

PLAYER GMS MPG LAST PPA
PLAYER GMS MPG LAST PPA
Bradley Beal 24 35.3 171 166
Thomas Bryant 10 27.1 130 128
Alex Len 13 16.6 84 108
Raul Neto 21 18.9 96 96
Garrison Mathews 20 16.1 106 94
Rui Hachimura 19 29.2 96 88
Robin Lopez 26 19.4 93 82
Moritz Wagner 14 13.6 85 72
Dāvis Bertāns 23 25.8 36 70
Russell Westbrook 19 33.2 84 69
Ish Smith 19 20.6 65 66
Deni Avdija 22 22.9 105 62
Cassius Winston 6 7.3 50 50
Anthony Gill 10 6.5 40 49
Jordan Bell 3 16.7 35 35
Isaac Bonga 17 13.5 42 27
Jerome Robinson 13 17.0 13 14
Troy Brown Jr. 13 15.8 28 9
Anžejs Pasečņiks 1 6.0 -347 -347

Some PPA scores for former Wizards (let me know in the comments if I miss anyone):

Former Wizards PPA

PLAYER TEAM PPA
PLAYER TEAM PPA
Otto Porter CHI 128
Bobby Portis MIL 123
John Wall HOU 118
Tomas Satoransky CHI 96
Kelly Oubre Jr. GSW 94
Jeff Green BRK 91
Trey Burke DAL 74
Garrett Temple CHI 62
JaVale McGee CLE 57
Dwight Howard PHI 55
Austin Rivers NYK 53
Markieff Morris LAL 49
Chris Chiozza BRK 42
Mike Scott PHI 10

Send questions, thoughts, requests for specific players, and “get out of your mom’s basement, nerd” snortling to the comments or to me directly at kevinbroomwrites at gmail dot com.