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Schedule gets easier for Covid-riddled Wizards

Key numbers for the Washington Wizards 35 games into the season

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford leads the team in per possession production.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Happy New Year!

After 35 games, the various individual and team statistical indicators seem to have largely stabilized for the Washington Wizards. The exceptions:

  • Bradley Beal’s PPA (see below) climbed 15 points to 118 — its highest mark of the season.
  • Davis Bertans improved 11 points to a still below replacement level 37.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each improved their PPAs by a modest five points to slightly above average, and Aaron Holiday’s rose seven points to a well-below average 63.

The team is in much the same position as they’ve been the past few updates, although the offense has ticked up slightly while the defense has gotten a little worse.

  • 22nd in strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin.
  • 20th in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions)
  • 23rd in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions)

Here’s how their offense, defense and pace has ebbed and flowed over the course of the season.

Kevin Broom

The chart above shows the team’s season averages after each game.

  • Blue line = offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions)
  • Red line = defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions)
  • Gray line = pace (possessions per 48 minutes)

Accounting for the level of competition, the Wizards offense has been 0.5 points per 100 possessions below average this season, and their defense has been 1.2 points worse than average.

The Four Factors

OFFENSE

  • 16th in effective field goal percentage
  • 11th in turnover percentage
  • 25th in offensive rebounding percentage
  • 12th in free throws made / field goal attempts

DEFENSE

  • 7th in defg
  • 29th in dtov%
  • 18th in dreb%
  • 29th in dftm/dfga

More simply: on offense they’re an average shooting team that does a decent job avoiding turnovers but does little on the offensive glass. On defense, they do a good job lowering opponent shooting percentage (normally the sign of a good defense) but do foul too much, don’t force turnovers, and are meh at grabbing defensive boards.

Their schedule has been relatively tough so far — about 0.80 points per game better than average. Their average opponent has been about the quality of a 43-win team over an 82-game schedule. The road ahead gets easier — at this point, their average remaining opponent is about the quality of a 39-win team.

In other words, Washington’s remaining schedule will be about the quality of themselves. Their negative scoring differential suggests a below .500 team. Here’s what my various methods of measuring team strength predict for their final record:

  • Game-by-game predictions: 37-45
  • Aggregate vs. remaining schedule: 40-42
  • Average team vs. remaining schedule: 43-39
  • kWins (PPA converted to wins): 41-41

My prediction machine says 38.7 wins. Rounding would bring that to 39-43, which was my preseason forecast.

Player Production Average

Player Production Average (PPA) metric credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, playmaking, 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 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 225 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 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.

Washington Wizards PPA through December 30

PLAYER GMS MPG PREV PPA
PLAYER GMS MPG PREV PPA
Daniel Gafford 32 22.4 149 149
Montrezl Harrell 33 25.4 137 139
Bradley Beal 29 35.8 103 118
Spencer Dinwiddie 29 30.1 100 105
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 32 29.2 99 104
Kyle Kuzma 33 32.3 91 94
Deni Avdija 35 22.5 80 81
Aaron Holiday 32 16.8 56 63
Corey Kispert 30 15.8 58 56
Raul Neto 31 20.2 50 49
Dāvis Bertāns 24 16.3 26 37
Non-Rotation
Brad Wanamaker 1 27.0 206
Anthony Gill 15 5.5 142 127
Craig Sword 2 8.5 108
Isaiah Todd 8 4.0 193 78
Alize Johnson 1 9.0 45
Joel Ayayi 7 2.9 82 10
Jaime Echenique 1 3.0 0
Cassius Winston 2 3.5 -42 -42
Jordan Schakel 2 7.0 -110
Jordan Goodwin 2 3.0 -232

At this point in the season, the Wizards have five players with a rating of average or higher — two of whom play the same position — one who’s been a little below average, and another who’s at the decent reserve level.

The Next Six Games

My next PPA update will be at the halfway point, which is six games away. When I mentioned above that the schedule gets easier...that starts over the next couple weeks. Of course, Covid is roiling rosters around the league — including Washington’s — so the usual numbers may not be as predictive as normal.

It’s gotten so crazy, the Wizards signed Brad Wanamaker to a 10-day hardship contract to give them enough players to cope with the number of guys in Covid protocols. After one game, Wanamaker is now in the protocols.

Four of the next six are at home, and my prediction machine has the Wizards favored in four of them. In fact, the machine has Washington as favorites in 7 of the next 9 and 9 of the next 13. The next several weeks is an opportunity for the team to bank wins for a more challenging stretch that follows.

Wizards odds of winning the next six games, according to the prediction machine, and the team’s record after each game if the prediction is correct:

My guess is they’ll split with the Bulls and lose one of the “should-wins” against Charlotte, Houston, Orlando or Oklahoma City. The net result will be 4-2 to reach the halfway point with a winning record.