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What to expect from the Wizards in their final 24 games

And an All-Star PPA update

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
Washington Wizards guard Ish Smith.
Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The All-Star break is in the rearview mirror, and — considering no Wizards participated in the festivities — everyone should return for the homestretch well rested and ready to go.

A few hours before Stephen Curry opened fire on the Cleveland nets with 16 threes and 50 points in the All-Star game (the former an All-Star game record, the latter just two points off Anthony Davis’ high-water mark), Ron Oakes-Cunningham and I recorded a new episode of the #SoWizards podcast about what we hoped and expected to see from the Wizards in their final 24 games.

We got started by talking about All-Star Saturday night events, which evolved into a conversation about ways the league could tweak its schedule to make regular season games into more meaningful “events,” and create space during the year for other formats such as a single-elimination tournament, an under-23 and G-League tournament, and three-on-three or one-on-one contests.

Most of the episode focused on the Wizards. We had differing perspectives on the team’s roster and the relative merits of individual players. Shockingly, Ron had the more optimistic view.

After 58 games, here’s where the Wizards stand in key measures of relative strength:

  • strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin: 23rd
  • offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions): 21st
  • defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 21st
  • strength of schedule: 11th

Not that it matters much, but they’re 22nd in pace (possessions per 48 minutes).

And, here’s where they stand in the four factors:

Offense

  • effective field goal percentage: 22nd
  • turnover percentage: 12th
  • offensive rebounding percentage: 25th
  • free throws made / field goal attempts: 6th

Defense

  • defg: 11th
  • dtov%: 30th
  • dreb%: 16th
  • dftm/dfga: 24th

To summarize: on offense, the Wizards have done a decent job getting to the free throw line and avoiding turnovers, but they haven’t shoot well or gotten many of their missed shots. On defense, they force misses and are about average getting defensive boards, but they foul a lot and do a terrible job forcing turnovers.

Usually, defensive efg is the most important defensive stat, and it is again this year. Leaguewide, about 82% of the variation in defensive rating can be explained by variation in defg. In other words, while they’ve done a decent job in the most important category, their defense is still bad overall because they’ve performed so poorly in the other relatively important categories.

Based on the quality of their opponents this season, I calculate that the Wizards offense has been 0.8 points per 100 possessions worse than average, and their defense has been 1.7 points per 100 below average.

My prediction machine is downright pessimistic about the team’s chances of making the play-in games. Here are some possibilities using different approaches to predicting outcomes:

  • Game-by-game (predicting each game individually based on each team’s performance so far this season): 7-17 the rest of the way to finish 34-48.
  • Aggregate remaining games (forecasted record based on Washington’s performance so far this season and the average performance of their remaining opponents): 11-13 to finish 38-44.
  • Average team vs. remainder of the schedule: 12-12 to finish 39-43. This is just what it sounds like — an estimate of an average team’s record against the quality of opponent left on the schedule.
  • Pythagorean wins estimate per 82 games based on strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin: 34-48.

The Wizards could win as few as 7 games the rest of the way, or as many as 11. Best guess is 9 more wins and a 36-46 finish. They still have slim (and shrinking) shot at squeaking into 10th.

One potential wild card in these prognostications is the newly-acquired Kristaps Porzingis. If he is healthy enough to play 20+ games at a high level, the team could outperform expectations and win 12-13 games. That might be just enough to slide past the Charlotte Hornets or Atlanta Hawks for 10th place and a spot in the play-in games.

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.

CORRECTION: Hat tip to Osman Baig, who noticed that Rui Hachimura’s PPA line didn’t update. His PPA improved from 59 to 79 in the four games he played since the previous update.

Wizards PPA through 58 Games

PLAYER GMS MPG PREV PPA
PLAYER GMS MPG PREV PPA
Daniel Gafford 49 20.6 152 150
Ish Smith 4 22.0 150
Bradley Beal 40 36.0 119 118
Kyle Kuzma 55 33.2 112 108
Thomas Bryant 16 17.3 54 100
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 55 29.4 82 87
Rui Hachimura 18 18.3 59 79
Deni Avdija 58 23.4 73 76
Corey Kispert 53 19.8 75 74
Anthony Gill 26 8.7 74 73
Raul Neto 49 20.3 41 57
Non-Rotation/No Longer with Team
Brad Wanamaker 1 27.0 206 191
Greg Monroe 2 9.0 135 132
Montrezl Harrell 46 24.3 130 131
Spencer Dinwiddie 44 30.2 102 102
Aaron Holiday 41 16.2 68 68
Craig Sword 3 6.3 64 62
Cassius Winston 4 5.8 -42 61
Isaiah Todd 10 4.1 89 60
Dāvis Bertāns 34 14.7 32 32
Alize Johnson 3 6.0 24 24
Tremont Waters 1 8.0 16 15
Joel Ayayi 7 2.9 10 10
Jaime Echenique 1 3.0 0 0
Jordan Schakel 2 7.0 -110 -108
Jordan Goodwin 2 3.0 -232 -220