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The weird, wild and entertaining Russell Westbrook

And a PPA update.

San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards
Wizards guard Russell Westbrook
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

In my last Player Production Average update, the Wizards were four games into what would become an eight-game winning streak. Unsurprisingly for a team that won four of five since, several players in the rotation had significant production increases.

Biggest improvers among rotation players:

  • Daniel Gafford — 128 to 144 — +14
  • Raul Neto — 78 to 87 — +9
  • Bradley Beal — 154 to 160 — +6
  • Davis Bertans — 75 to 81 — +6

Beal’s jump is the most impressive because he added 6 points to his PPA with more than 1,700 minutes already on the odometer.

The team’s biggest leap honors go to Anthony Gill, whose PPA improved a whopping 49 points after having by far the best half of his career in the team’s loss to the Spurs. In #SoBrooks fashion, Gill didn’t play in the second half of THE BEST GAME OF HIS CAREER.

For the most part, the rest of the team held steady in their production.

The most interesting player on the team continues to be Russell Westbrook. His PPA declined a point, which doesn’t even begin to describe how volatile his play has been. He’s the team’s spiritual and competitive leader, and his effort, energy and intensity seems to be rubbing off.

He vocally encourages teammates to play smarter and harder even as he commits a raft of turnovers and takes terrible shots. He’s indispensable and insanely productive at times...and he’s inefficient and downright damaging at others.

He’s an all-time great, who at age 32 plays with the maniacal recklessness of an undrafted rookie trying to make the team.

He’s averaging a triple-double (again), already holds the Wizards franchise record for the stat, and he rates better than average (but not by a lot) this season. As Westbrook himself said, there isn’t another player like him. Good or bad, he’s always going hard, and he’s always worth watching.

So, how does a player averaging 28.0 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 14.1 assists per 100 team possessions rate just a 119 in PPA? (Keep in mind, in PPA average is 100 and higher is better.) Look to the offensive efficiency.

This season, Westbrook’s offensive rating (points produced per 100 individual possessions) is 12 points per 100 possessions below league average and he has a usage rate of 33.1%. The individual offensive rating stat includes the value of assists and offensive rebounds — this isn’t just looking at his scoring.

The big holes for Westbrook are his shooting — well below average on twos, threes and free throws — and a league high 6.5 turnovers per 100 team possessions.

The turnovers are borderline but in the realm of acceptable because his playmaking is exceptional. His assist to turnover ratio (2.2) is a) better than average, and b) as good or better than other dynamic playmakers like Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell and Stephen Curry.

The real issues are his shot selection and accuracy. Basketball-Reference estimates that Westbrook’s poor shooting has cost the team 139 points so far this season. They’ve been outscored by 199.

Back to the volatile fluctuations in his performance, here are Westbrook’s PPA scores for each of the last five games:

  • APR 19 vs. OKC — 8
  • APR 21 vs. GSW — 13
  • APR 23 at OKC — 299
  • APR 25 vs. CLE — 58
  • APR 26 vs. SAS — 57

Here’s a breakdown of his performance by PPA this season:

  • 200+ (MVP candidate level): 15%
  • 150+ (All-Star level): 35%
  • 100+ (better than average): 54%
  • 100> (below average): 46%
  • 45> (below replacement level): 19%
  • Negative: 13%
Russell Westbrook performance EKG. The blue line is his 10-game rolling average PPA. The red line is his season average PPA after each game.
Kevin Broom

A healthy Westbrook is a force to be reckoned with. His production has climbed after the bad start, which was clearly because of the quad injury. It’s unlikely he’s going to suddenly stop taking midrange jumpers. Might as well enjoy the show. On some nights, he’ll be the best player on the planet. On others he’ll look awful. On balance, he’s a very good player whose leadership could make him an important figure for the franchise’s future.

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 April 26, 2021

Bradley Beal 52 35.6 154 160
Daniel Gafford 12 18.2 128 142
Thomas Bryant 10 27.1 124 126
Russell Westbrook 54 35.7 120 119
Alex Len 46 16.1 98 101
Anthony Gill 21 6.9 40 89
Raul Neto 55 21.1 78 87
Robin Lopez 60 19.6 84 86
Dāvis Bertāns 46 25.0 75 81
Rui Hachimura 48 31.8 69 73
Cassius Winston 18 5.1 64 71
Garrison Mathews 55 17.2 68 67
Ish Smith 33 20.3 72 66
Deni Avdija 54 23.3 49 49
Jordan Bell 5 13.4 47 40
Isaac Bonga 37 11.3 7 10
Chandler Hutchison 7 17.3 -5 8
Moritz Wagner 25 15.0 80 81
Troy Brown Jr. 21 13.7 17 18
Jerome Robinson 17 17.9 -7 -7
Anžejs Pasečņiks 1 6.0 -339 -347