I swear I’m not picking on Rui Hachimura. He’s drawn my attention because I’m seeing a mismatch between what the team and its fans are saying about him and what he’s accomplishing on the court.
The Narrative is that he’s making a leap, perhaps The Leap. Yet in the 9 games since my last full season Player Production Average (PPA) update, his overall performance has declined.
How is that possible? During those 9 games, he’s averaged 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 51.1% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. That’s pretty good, right?
Actually, no. During that span, he’s played a ton of minutes (37.1 per game), and given that kind of time on the court, his production is pedestrian. On a per possession basis, his performance and impact remains below average.
His FG% looks superficially good because most of his shots are from two-point range. Over the last 9, he’s 53.8% on twos vs. a league average of 52.8%. Not bad. But, league average on threes is .367, and he averaged just 2 attempts per game in that span.
The net is that his effective field goal percentage has been a shade below average (.533 to .537) over the last 9. Then layer in that virtually all of his value is in scoring. He doesn’t rebound well. He’s not a playmaker. Despite The Narrative, he’s still a weak defender.
Hachimura, a 6-8 forward whose size and frame has drawn comparisons to Kawhi Leonard has four blocked shots total this season. For comparison, Kyrie Irving has 21. T.J. McConnell has 15. Trae Young has 11. Teammate Garrison Mathews has 6, in nearly 500 fewer minutes. His lack of defensive awareness is at times stunning to watch.
It’s difficult to understate just how ordinary Hachimura has been this season. Here’s a comparison of him vs. league average per 100 team possessions.
Hachimura vs. Average per 100 team possessions
Because Hachimura’s value is in scoring and so much of the rest of his game is lacking, he needs to do it at high efficiency. League average this season is about 112 points per 100 possessions. For the year so far, Hachimura’s offensive rating is 109. Over the last 9 games: 102.
None of this is to say he’s a bad player. He’s a bit below average in some areas, well below average in others, and he hasn’t shown elite production in any area that would compensate.
The reason I’m harping on this: Over the years, the Wizards have consistently failed to accurately evaluate their players. They invest too much in hoped for development that too often doesn’t happen. Unfortunately for the franchise, wishful thinking isn’t a strategy for building a good NBA team.
If Hachimura’s recent scoring numbers have them thinking he’s a key part of the team’s future, they’re deluding themselves. He could put in the work, get better, and become a valuable contributor at some point in the future. At this juncture, he profiles more like a frontcourt Nick Young with better manners.
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 1
|Troy Brown Jr.||21||13.7||11||17|
The PPA update is a sobering look at the team. Only three rotation players rate average or better — Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, and Russell Westbrook. Bryant is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Beal is sidelined with a hip contusion, and Westbrook just cracked league average in the past two weeks.
No, Daniel Gafford’s 197 doesn’t count. He played just 14 (impressive) minutes for the Wizards before spraining his ankle. He has some promise as a center, though. His rookie PPA was 75. With the Chicago Bulls this season, it was 110.
Improvers over the past 9 games include Westbrook, Alex Len, and Robin Lopez.
Guys with declining performance: Beal, Mathews, Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Isaac Bonga, and Jerome Robinson.
I’m not opposed to replacing Scott Brooks as the team’s coach, but the team’s problem isn’t coaching, it’s talent. They don’t have an elite player, much less the two or three necessary to contend. They defend poorly and don’t shoot well. They lack depth. At every turn, the roster is barren of good players or quality prospects.
Maybe several of these young guys commit to developing their craft this summer and come back much improved. So far this season, it’s not looking good.
As Fred Katz might say, “Yikes guys.”