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The Doppelgänger Machine Sets Sights on The Latvian Laser

2021-22 Washington Wizards Media Day
Wizards forward Davis Bertans.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m almost afraid to write about the Wizards now. Plan A was to present Rui Hachimura’s statistical doppelgängers. Immediately, the team announced he’d be out indefinitely for personal reasons. So he’s out.

Plan B: talk about Bradley Beal’s statistical doppelgängers. And then Beal decides to spend Media Day reciting tired anti-vaccination talking points — mostly in the guise of just asking questions that have been asked and answered a gazillion times and are most commonly just asked by right wing trolls.

Since I don’t feel much like writing about covid-19 vaccinations (this isn’t a medical site, at least most of the time), I’ll skip Beal for a few days.

So, let’s go international and see what the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine can tell us about The Latvian Laser Davis Bertans.

Before turning to the Machine, I’m going to make a complete list of Bertans’ NBA-level skills:

  1. Three-point shooting

Okay, that’s the list.

Well, that’s not completely fair. Bertans does have additional assets. He’s 6-10 with long arms and a high release point on his shot, he moves well, and he does a good job using screens. Those attributes get him lots of three-point attempts, which he converts at a high rate.

What else? He often tries on defense.

That’s really the full list.

On defense, his effort does not compensate for a lack of ability. He doesn’t rebound or pass. He’s too spindly for regular use in pick-and-roll/pop sets. That lack of strength also lets opposing teams guard him with wings and even point guards, if they want. Deny him the ball and he disappears.

Still, that shooting is beyond “NBA quality,” it’s genuinely elite. He’s had a major impact on the Wizards offense the past couple seasons, even when his three-point percentage dipped to just .395 last year. Out of shape and hobbled with a calf injury, the Wizards were still +6.0 per 100 possessions on offense with Bertans on the floor in 2020-21. They were no worse on defense.

So, what kind of list will the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine produce? Average-to-below-average wings who shoot threes and leave the other work of winning basketball to teammates.

The Statistical Doppelgänger Machine works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.

The comps for Bertans’ 2020-21 season:

  1. Ben McLemore, Houston Rockets, 2019-20 — This was the best season of McLemore’s career — a PPA 85 (a little below average — in PPA, 100 is average and higher is better). He’s played nine seasons, and all but two were replacement level or worse. In other words, Bertans is better.
  2. Langston Galloway, Detroit Pistons, 2019-20 — This was the best season of Galloway’s career. He tried to make it as a PG first, but he lacked playmaking ability. He learned to shoot threes, shifted to SG and has managed to stick around as an okay reserve on bad teams.
  3. Martell Webster, Washington Wizards, 2013-14 — Webster had one above average season in his career (PPA 114), which happened in Washington. This was the season after that one when Webster was gutting through a back injury that wound up ending his career.
  4. Matt Carroll, Charlotte Hornets, 2007-08 — Carroll hustled and shot threes. That was enough to get him 10 NBA seasons and two extended stints in Charlotte, where he was a fan favorite. Most of those 10 seasons were replacement level or worse.
  5. Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat, 2017-18 — Good shooter who was probably on his way out of the league before the Heat got him in shape and into a role he could fill. His three best seasons: PPA 103 at age 33 (last season), PPA 98 at 31, and PPA 89 at 30 (the comp season).
  6. Mickael Pietrus, Orlando Magic, 2009-10 — Ah yes, every offseason, a Wizards fan friend would regale me with tales of how wonderfully Pietrus would fit in Washington. Each offseason, the Wizards would fail to acquire him. And each subsequent season, the idea of Pietrus was better than his performance.
  7. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets, 2017-18 — An obvious comp, though Harris does a bit more non-shooting work than Bertans. In the comp season, Harris grabbed more rebounds and generated twice as many pace-adjusted assists. This is not to say playmaking is any kind of strength for Harris — just that his toolbox isn’t as barren as Bertans’ when it comes to creating for teammates.
  8. Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat, 2016-17 — See above. This was Ellington’s age 29 season, which was his first with the Heat, the best in his career to that point, and currently sits as the fourth best overall.
  9. Anthony Morrow, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2014-15 — I’m kinda kicking myself for not coming up with this name unassisted by technology. Great shooter. Never added sufficient strength. Like Bertans, almost nothing other than shooting.
  10. Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs, 2019-20 — While Forbes and Bertans were teammates in San Antonio, they’re not obvious comps. Bertans, as previously mentioned, is a 6-10 forward from Latvia. Forbes is a 6-2 guard from America. Their production is fairly similar, however.

Poll

Who’s next through the Doppelgänger Machine

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Daniel Gafford
    (51 votes)
  • 36%
    Deni Avdija
    (35 votes)
  • 10%
    Raul Neto
    (10 votes)
96 votes total Vote Now