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Bullets Forever hands out Wizards midterm grades

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How are the Wizards doing at the almost halfway point?

NBA: All Star Game-Team Lebron vs Team Durant
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal attempts a shot in the All-Star game.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a #SoWizards, #SoPandemic, #So2020 kind of season. In the first 47.8% of the season, they’ve managed losing streaks of three, four and five games, as well as a five-game winning tear. The Daily Show could run a regular feature about the team called Indecision 2021.

Not us though. We’re decisive. Probably. Maybe. Well, as you’ll see below, we’ve rendered mid-term grades to the Washington roster, and handed out only a smattering of “incompletes.” We even made a few performance EKGs to get a read on how individual performances have fluctuated throughout the season.

The EKGs use Kevin’s Player Production Average (PPA) metric, which 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 that rewards guys for playing more difficult minutes. 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.

The PPA score is not saying one player is “better” than another in terms of skill, ability, athleticism, or replaceability (if the players hypothetically switched teams or were placed on a hypothetical average team). Rather, PPA says something about production so far this season in terms of doing things that help teams win NBA games.

Reading the performance EKGs:

  • Red line = the player’s PPA for the full season after each game.
  • Blue line = the player’s 10-game rolling PPA

The Grades

Deni Avdija: There’s been good: a 20-point game against Miami, clutch threes to help beat the Lakers, back-to-back double-digit outings to start the month of February. And there’s been...let’s call them rookie moments: seven games with at least as many fouls as points, and 13 games with a negative PPA. He’s young and has the potential to be good, but he’s some distance from that so far. His first six games would have earned him a B+, but as you see in the performance EKG his performance since has declined.

ROC grade: C

KJB grade: C-

PPA: 52

Kevin Broom

Bradley Beal: The only knock on Beal is that his dominance hasn’t translated into more wins. Okay, his defense isn’t stellar either — he looks decent individually much of the time, but the team allows a catastrophic 118.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. There’s also some debate about whether his 34.9% usage rate is what’s best for a team filled with youngsters who need to develop. That’s three knocks.

Still, knocks or not, he was a legitimate All-Star and could even crack All-NBA for the first time in his career. As his performance EKG shows, he had a somewhat rocky start to the year, a modest trough for a few games, and then bounced back to lead the team’s hot streak.

ROC grade: A-

KJB grade: A-

PPA: 166

Kevin Broom

Davis Bertans: It’s been noted on this site that Bertans is either the Latvian Laser or the Baltic Bust. Often, he’s been bust. Too often. The early reason was that he couldn’t get 5-on-5 full-court runs in Latvia during the pandemic. That doesn’t fully explain why his performance was still so poor as late as February. Still, his sniping accuracy has improved each month, and his torrid shooting was a big part of the five-game winning streak. Plus, dropping his career high against the Denver Nuggets earned him some extra credit points.

ROC grade: C+

KJB grade: D

PPA: 68

Kevin Broom

Isaac Bonga: Last season, he seemed to emerge as a viable rotation player. This season, he’s played rarely, and badly. #FreeBonga

ROC grade: incomplete

KJB grade: incomplete

PPA: 26

Troy Brown Jr.: Like Bonga, Brown had a solid second season. He wasn’t great, but he produced at the level of an average NBA player. Combined with his youth, it seemed he was on a trajectory to carve out a valuable role with the team. Then his role got shuffled, he played poorly, and he ended up on the bench with a flurry of DNP in his game log.

ROC grade: incomplete

KJB grade: F

PPA: 8

Thomas Bryant: Prior to tearing his ACL during the backend of a vaunted back-to-back, Bryant was having a solid year. He still hadn’t turned the corner on defense, but the kid was establishing himself as a quality offensive big man.

ROC grade: incomplete

KJB grade: incomplete

PPA: 127

Anthony Gill: Signing him from a Russian league was an interesting idea. Gill had shown he was a good shooter overseas. In scant playing time, he’s looked overmatched in the NBA.

ROC grade: incomplete

KJB grade: F

PPA: 49

Rui Hachimura: The second-year forward is the subject of goodwill narratives — He’s flashing more skills. He’s defending better. He’s stronger. He’s more assertive. There just isn’t much evidence to support any of these “improved” storylines, however. He’s 80th out of 80 power forwards in ESPN’s dRPM metric.

The NBA’s tracking data indicates opponents shoot about as well when he’s defending as they do normally. He doesn’t generate deflections, steals or blocks, and he doesn’t chase down loose balls or even challenge shots at a high rate.

To have value, he needs to score efficiently, and he’s a bit below average in that area too. Kevin recently ran a series of totally unfair Player A vs. Player B tests with a few friends that showed Hachimura compared unfavorably to himself in his rookie year and league average.

ROC grade: C+

KJB grade: D

PPA: 76

Kevin Broom

Alex Len: For a guy signed off the scrap heap when the Toronto Raptors released him, Len’s been decent. He’s good at being large and finishing open attempts around the basket.

ROC grade: C

KJB grade: C+

PPA: 94

Robin Lopez: Washington’s free agent “prize” was thrust into a larger role by Bryant’s torn ACL. While he’s astoundingly slow and awkward — he often looks like he’s doing an impression of 1950s dads in a parent/teacher fundraising game — he’s been...well...”good” is too strong, so we’ll go with “not as bad as expected.”

ROC grade: D

KJB grade: C-

PPA: 82

Garrison Mathews: It would have been fun to have a record of the moment when Scott Brooks — desperately searching for someone, anyone he could use at SG or SF — learned that Mathews was on the roster, and had been since last season. Mathews hits threes, gets fouled attempting threes, and tries hard on defense. Even more impressive is his courage going at the other team’s talented wings. Lipscomb University blessed the Wizards with a plucky scrapper who can shoot.

ROC grade: B-

KJB grade: C+

PPA: 106

Raul Neto: Another of the team’s free agent prizes, Neto’s had some excellent games, and some terrible ones. On balance, this is the best he’s played in the NBA, and he’s significantly outplayed the minimum salary contract he signed.

ROC grade: B

KJB grade: C

PPA: 85

Jerome Robinson: Good guy who’s gotten opportunities with the Wizards and just doesn’t measure up at the NBA level. He’s probably one of the 600 (700?) best basketball players in the world. Unfortunately, the NBA is ruled by the top 150-300. He’s a good candidate to have a long career winning scoring titles overseas.

ROC grade: Incomplete

KJB grade: F

PPA: 14

Ish Smith: Last season was one of Smith’s most productive. This year...not so much. His shooting has been atrocious, and too many possessions devolved into him dribbling in circles and accomplishing nothing.

ROC grade: C

KJB grade: D

PPA: 65

Moritz Wagner: Now in his third season, Wagner is getting his first extended playing time and he’s demonstrating some NBA skills beyond the ability to annoy. He still commits too many dumb fouls. He still thinks flopping is defense. But he’s enthusiastic and plays hard, and that’s worth something.

ROC grade: C+

KJB grade: C-

PPA: 93

Russell Westbrook: Started the season playing through a quad injury but he’s looked better physically in recent weeks. For the Wizards to reach their goal of reaching the postseason, they’re likely to need a stretch of sustained good play from Westbrook, which they haven’t gotten from him yet. His leadership skills, work ethic, and professionalism may help establish good habits in his younger teammates that could have a lasting impact on their careers, and the franchise’s fortunes.

ROC grade: B

KJB grade: D+

PPA: 87

Kevin Broom

Cassius Winston: The team took Winston in the second round after trading down to dump 2019 second round selection Admiral Schofield. Winston has barely played, and hasn’t looked ready when given the chance.

ROC grade: incomplete

KJB grade: incomplete

PPA: 49