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The weird, wild and entertaining Russell Westbrook, part II

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And a PPA update.

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images

With Russell Westbrook becoming the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, it’s fitting that he deserves top billing in this updated statistical evaluation. The Wizards went 5-3 since the last one with wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers (x2), and losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

As you’ll in the table below, most of the rotation maintained their general level of production. Bradley Beal fluctuated within norms as did most of the rotation. The guys with noteworthy changes: Westbrook (+10 on his full-season PPA over the past 8 games), Daniel Gafford (-9), Raul Neto (+6) and Davis Bertans (-7).

PPA (short for Player Production Average) 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.

Exposition out of the way, Westbrook’s performance the past 8 games has been at All-NBA or MVP candidate level.

Russell Westbrook’s performance ekg. Red line = full season PPA after each game. Blue line = 10-game rolling average.
Kevin Broom

That’s not to say his performance the past several weeks merits those kinds of honors, which are awarded based on the full season of work. While Westbrook’s dedication and willingness to play through injuries is commendable, his performance did suffer. Those games count too.

That said, he’s been sensational of late. Over the past 8 games, his PPA is 218. If he’d done that over the full season, it would be the 6th best mark in the league — about the per possession performance level of Nikola Jokic and LeBron James. (He’d rank behind Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo.)

Assuming Beal’s hamstring heals in time, Westbrook’s excellence as the regular season draws to its conclusion gives the Wizard a chance to make some noise in the postseason despite roster flaws.

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 May 10, 2021

WIZARDS GMS MPG LAST PPA
WIZARDS GMS MPG LAST PPA
Bradley Beal 59 35.8 160 156
Daniel Gafford 20 17.7 142 133
Russell Westbrook 62 36.3 119 129
Thomas Bryant 10 27.1 126 124
Alex Len 54 16.0 101 104
Raul Neto 63 21.8 87 93
Robin Lopez 68 19.2 86 86
Anthony Gill 24 7.9 89 82
Rui Hachimura 54 31.4 73 76
Dāvis Bertāns 54 25.4 81 74
Garrison Mathews 61 16.3 67 66
Ish Smith 41 20.5 66 66
Cassius Winston 21 4.6 71 50
Deni Avdija 54 23.3 49 48
Jordan Bell 5 13.4 40 40
Chandler Hutchison 15 15.7 8 38
Isaac Bonga 40 10.8 10 4
TRADED/RELEASED
Moritz Wagner 25 15.0 81 81
Troy Brown Jr. 21 13.7 18 18
Jerome Robinson 17 17.9 -7 -7
Anžejs Pasečņiks 1 6.0 -347 -347