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On a 10-game losing spiral, Wizards still have their complacency

Stats and analysis from the team’s 10th straight loss.

Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Lakers
Former Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant slams home the game winner.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Wizards continue to operate with a disconcerting complacency. The players jog through the offensive progressions with the same lack of urgency displayed by a coaching staff making no substantive tactical or lineup changes, and a front office office making no roster moves.

They’ve lost 10 in a row and 13 of their last 14, and the franchise’s collective reaction is yawn and stretch and say: “This is fine.”

Of course, it’s not fine to most fans, except for those who’ve decided to root for increased odds to draft Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson. Even those fans should acknowledge the crushing reality that this team isn’t tanking. Ted Leonsis, Tommy Sheppard, Wes Unseld Jr. — they’re trying to win. They put this roster together to accumulate wins and make the playoffs.

And they’re 11-20 with 10 straight losses.

There are a few obvious adjustments the team could implement if they want to try and win games:

  1. Start Jordan Goodwin. While he catches a lot of criticism, Monte Morris has been fine — quite literally exactly what the Wizards could have reasonably expected. But Goodwin is bigger, more athletic, more dynamic and (potentially) better. Morris’s steadiness and decision-making could be an asset to a second unit. Goodwin’s defense and upside could be what the team needs with the starters.
  2. Drop Will Barton from the rotation. Trade him, release him, or just replace his minutes. He’s been unproductive all season. A younger player could be just as unproductive but be learning and developing in those minutes.
  3. Pick up the pace. Here, I’m not talking about the number of possessions — the statistical measure of pace — but how the players are physically moving their bodies. The team jogs through its offensive sets, going from spot to spot and progression to progression with little urgency and very little sense that the actions might create fissures in the defense that can be exploited with teamwork. If the players can’t sustain that level of effort, a) get them in better shape, b) shorten rotations until they’re in better shape, and c) get new players.

To be blunt, the above suggestions are tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The roster construction is atrocious, in part because it’s built on the original sin of pretending Beal is elite. He’s not. He never was. Acting as if he merited that status capped the team before it took the court.

One of Sheppard’s repeated mantras is that players tell you what to do with their performance. At this point they’re screaming a simple message: We’re not good enough.

The franchise-level move should be to trade away everyone another team wants for future assets. That this is the franchise’s state less than halfway into the first year of Beal’s max contract highlights the rank absurdity of giving him a trade kicker and a no-trade clause.

Good Stuff

  • Jordan Goodwin was good. Again. His line: 7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists in 19 minutes. He had zero turnovers and an offensive rating of 158. The team defense was stellar with him in the game.
  • Daniel Gafford was productive again — 12 points (6-6 from the floor), 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 21 minutes. He can be difficult to handle inside and could be a good pick-and-roll partner with Morris.
  • Kuzma had 16 rebounds.
  • Deni Avdija was 2-4 from three-point range.
  • The game turned out quite well for my household: it was close and interesting throughout, it didn’t go to overtime, and my wife’s favorite player Thomas Bryant made some nice places and the game-winning shot.

Not So Good Stuff

  • The so-called Big Three was...okay. All three were a little better than average. It would be unfair to say any of them caused the team to lose. But these are supposed to be the team leaders and best players, and none of them could be said to have done anything in particular to make the team win. They kinda-sorta did their jobs, but Goodwin and Gafford were better, as were LeBron James and Lakers scrubs and kids. No shame in getting outplayed by James, but Lonnie Walker and Austin Reaves?
  • Monte Morris missed — 3-10 from the floor, 1-5 from three. He had his usual 4 assists to zero turnovers. The team defense was a disaster with him out there. Overall this season, he’s been fine. Like everyone on the roster, he’s in a role that’s beyond ideal. He’s a quality backup and spot starter, who can be a full-time starter with a true superstar. The Wizards are asking him to start without benefit of a superstar.
  • Will Barton was atrocious, again. In 20 minutes, he was 2-8 from the floor. He posted 5 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, a block, a turnover and a foul. For those keeping score at home, he used 8 possessions to produce 5 points.
  • Corey Kispert bricked his shots and contributed his usual nothing else — 1 rebound and 1 assist in 17 minutes. The team’s defense was apocalyptic with him on the floor.
  • Deni Avdija hit a couple threes but was mostly invisible otherwise.
  • Goodwin and Gafford combined to use 11 possessions to produce 20 points. Kuzma produced the same number of points but used 19 possessions. Porzingis used 21 possessions to produce 23 points. (In addition to scoring, points produced includes the value of offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.)

Four Factors

Below are the four factors that decide wins and losses in basketball — shooting (efg), rebounding (offensive rebounds), ball handling (turnovers), fouling (free throws made).

I’ve simplified them a bit. While the factors are usually presented as percentages, I find the raw numbers more useful when analyzing a single game.

Four Factors: Wizards at Lakers

EFG 0.516 0.560
OREB 10 6
TOV 10 9
FTM 19 16
PACE 103
ORTG 113 115

Stats & Metrics

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). PPA is my overall production metric, which 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).

Game Score (GmSC) converts individual production into points on the scoreboard. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero.

PPA is a per possession metric designed for larger data sets. In small sample sizes, the numbers can get weird. But some readers prefer it, so I’m including PPA scores as well. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45. For a single game, replacement level isn’t much use, and I reiterate the caution about small samples producing weird results.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

PTS = points scored

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 112.0. Points produced is not the same as points scored. It includes the value of assists and offensive rebounds, as well as sharing credit when receiving an assist.

USG = offensive usage rate. Average is 20%.

ORTG and USG are versions of stats created by Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified slightly by me. ORTG is an efficiency measure that accounts for the value of shooting, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. USG includes shooting from the floor and free throw line, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.

Stats & Metrics: Wizards

Kyle Kuzma 40 86 22 105 22.0% 131 22.2 -4
Daniel Gafford 21 45 12 206 11.9% 239 21.3 11
Kristaps Porzingis 38 81 21 109 26.4% 128 20.5 5
Jordan Goodwin 19 41 7 158 13.6% 208 16.9 10
Bradley Beal 32 68 29 121 33.9% 116 15.6 1
Deni Avdija 21 46 8 102 14.4% 72 6.5 2
Corey Kispert 17 36 6 122 12.7% 49 3.5 -14
Monte Morris 29 62 7 14.0% 14 1.7 -12
Taj Gibson 4 8 0 62 12.6% -44 0.0 -7
Will Barton 20 43 5 67 17.9% -45 0.0 -2

Stats & Metrics: Lakers

LeBron James 37 79 33 131 32.6% 269 41.8 10
Lonnie Walker IV 34 74 21 150 16.5% 170 24.8 -6
Austin Reaves 34 72 12 170 9.1% 173 24.7 15
Thomas Bryant 33 71 16 106 19.9% 80 11.2 0
Max Christie 24 51 8 130 9.4% 107 10.7 -2
Russell Westbrook 23 49 9 78 35.3% 77 7.5 -5
Damian Jones 17 36 8 105 16.3% 61 4.4 3
Dennis Schroder 30 64 12 106 21.2% 21 2.7 7
Troy Brown Jr. 10 21 0 22 13.7% -136 0.0 -12