In their last game before the NBA’s February 10 trade deadline, the Washington Wizards made a strong closing argument to tear the roster apart. They fell behind the Miami Heat by as much as 35 points in the second half before a garbage-time “comeback” cut the final margin to “just” 21 points.
Team president Tommy Sheppard often says the players will tell you what to do with them by their performance. These players are crying out to be traded or to have their roles reduced.
This is not to say the players on the roster are bad (though, by NBA standards, a few are). Rather, they’re average or worse. Several guys on the roster would be useful in the right role. But on this team, virtually everyone needs to play a step or two outside their comfort zones.
Sometimes — like that 10-3 start or like Kyle Kuzma’s recent binge — they look good for a time. Other times, like last night against the Heat, they look terrible. They’ll draw criticism for a lack of effort or inattention to details or inconsistency. The truth: they’re just not that good.
Wes Unseld Jr. may be a fine coach someday, but it’s unlikely that even he would say he’s done a good job with this group. Realistically, it probably wouldn’t make much difference even if he was doing great. Now more than 50 games into the season, his players continue to make correctable errors.
Last night, for example, Duncan Robinson — the Heat’s version of Davis Bertans — got repeated wide open looks from three-point range with simple ball screens. Again and again, Washington’s perimeter defenders died on screens while the big man played drop coverage.
Against a career 40.7% three-point shooter.
More than 50 games into the season, the team still has trouble executing inbounds plays.
Too many offensive possessions involve big men slipping screens they never set while three guys stand around at the three-point line, and a guard dribbles the air out of the ball. They still seem befuddled by a zone defense. Or full-court pressure.
The list could go on.
The bottom line is that the Wizards are getting their butts kicked on the court this season because the organization isn’t good enough. It starts at the top — with Ted Leonsis, who sets the franchise’s goals.
This is not new. I wrote about their nonsensical goals when they parted ways with Scott Brooks. And in 2013 when Leonsis blogged about the trade for Marcin Gortat. And at least as far back as 2012 when they traded their cap space for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
What the team should do is obvious. Trade Bradley Beal and anyone else another team wants and is willing to pay for with promising youngsters and draft picks. There are no building blocks for a contending team on this roster. Not among the veterans, and not among the youngsters. It’s a grab bag of guys who can play a role in the right situation but are ultimately replaceable.
What they will do seems similarly obvious. If they can’t swing a trade for Domantas Sabonis (and they probably can’t), they’ll make a small move or two, and beg Beal to take the supermax contract this summer.
Below are the four factors that decide who wins and loses 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, that’s more useful over a full season. In a single game, the raw numbers in each category are easier to understand.
Four Factors: Heat 121 at Wizards 100
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 in this game. 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 112.3. 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.
Key Stats: Wizards
Key Stats: Heat