If you’re assigning blame to Bradley Beal for the Wizards 14-24 record, stop it. Criticizing a team’s best and most productive player when the team fails is one of the dumber things NBA observers do.
Beal has his flaws, of course, but he’s leading the NBA in scoring, he’s three points per 100 possessions more efficient than average, and even with the high usage rate, he plays mostly within the team’s offensive structure. In addition to the scoring, he’s second on the team and 30th in the league in playmaking (measured by Ben Taylor’s box creation metric).
He’s not among the game’s elite players, but Beal is very good overall — certainly good enough to be a leading player on a winning team.
So why are the Wizards losing? Everyone else.
As you’ll see in the table below, Beal is the only Wizards player who’s played at least 300 minutes to have an average or better Player Production Average. Thomas Bryant rated better than average, but is out for the year with a knee injury.
Garrison Mathews (99) and Russell Westbrook (97) are close, but it’s fair to say Beal has received less support from his teammates than any player in the league.
The Memphis Grizzlies lead the way with 8 players who rate as average or better. They’ve been hindered by injuries to all their key players.
The Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz each have 7 — and Utah’s Royce O’Neal has a 99. Seven teams have 6 players who rate average or better (the Phoenix Suns are close to 8 — Jae Crowder has a 97 and Cameron Johnson a 96). Six teams have five.
League average is 4.6. The Wizards have 1, and two who are close.
Three teams have just two:
- Golden State Warriors with Draymond Green (98) and Andrew Wiggins (96) close.
- Miami Heat with Kedrick Nunn (95) and Kelly Olynyk (94) close.
- New York Knicks with Nerlens Noel (92) within striking distance, and Derrick Rose not to the minutes cutoff yet.
The Wizards will exit the “one-man gang” club if Westbrook continues his better play of late. Mathews is iffier because his performance trend has been down. Others on the roster rate sufficiently below average that cracking 100 would be an unrealistic expectation.
If you want to be an Abe Pollin-esque cockeyed optimist, you could probably talk yourself into predicting better play from the supporting cast, which could lead to more wins and maybe even a spot in the play-in games.
On the other hand, you might also temper expectations by noting that most of the the rotation either stayed the same or were less productive in recent weeks. Improved performance from Westbrook and Rui Hachimura was offset by declines from Mathews, Alex Len, Moritz Wagner, Raul Neto, and Robin Lopez. Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija also had modest production dips that would best be classified as “about the same.”
Player Production Average
Player Production Average (PPA) metric 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), each in proper proportion to how much it contributes to winning or losing.
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 shows production so far this season in terms of doing things that help teams win NBA games.
Wizards PPA through March 16
|Troy Brown Jr.||20||13.6||8||11|
A peek at production levels of former Wizards shows that the ones that got away aren’t exactly dominating the league.
Former Wizards PPA
|Kelly Oubre Jr.||GSW||103|