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Gafford, Wizards slam Timberwolves

Washington Wizards v Minnesota Timberwolves
Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford dominated against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Faced with the horror of elimination from play-in contention, Washington Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. cut the rotation to eight players and the team blasted the Minnesota Timberwolves 132-114 to keep their postseason hopes alive...

EDITORIAL INTERJECTION: The Wizards were eliminated from play-in contention on April 1.

Hmm...need new lede. Got it.

In a clever-but-humorous twist, Washington Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. waited until April 5 to unveil his April Fool’s joke. It was a classic trolling of fans by trimming the rotation after the team had been eliminated from qualifying for postseason play. Demonstrating the advanced comedic skills that can be developed only as a long-time NBA assistant coach, Unseld even played a Twin Towers lineup of 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis and 6-10 pogo stick Daniel Gafford.

Comedy gold!

So, here’s a quick recap of Washington’s last three games:

  1. Wizards +32
  2. Wizards -42
  3. Wizards +18

The swing from 1 to 2: 74 points. From 2 to 3: 60 points. And Amazon didn’t deliver my cervical collar!

While it’s been a weird week, the explanation is all to mundane — the Wizards aren’t much good, and meh-to-bad teams often have wild swings in performance. Usually, it takes more than a week, but the principle remains.

What Went Well

  • Daniel Gafford — 10-11 from the floor, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in 31 minutes. He had terrific lob synergy with...
  • Ish Smith — The diminutive PG grabbed 8 rebounds and dished 14 assists vs. zero turnovers. Despite 5-14 shooting, Smith’s offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) was 121.
  • Kristaps Porzingis — The 7-3 unicorn seemed to enjoy playing PF with Gafford at center. He scored 25 points on 17 shots, including 3-5 from three-point range. He’s so long that closeouts are largely irrelevant because there’s almost no way to get a hand in his sight-line.
  • Everyone Ate — The Wizards had 38 assists on 56 field goals. With Smith’s 14 and Tomas Satoransky’s 7, 21 came from the PGs. Deni Avdija added 5, and Hachimura 4.
  • The 8-Man Rotation — Yes, I poked fun at it earlier in the article, but with the possible exception of Satoransky and Smith, everyone who played figures to fill a significant part of the rotation next season. And the team has no realistic options currently to replace either Satoransky or Smith in the lineup.

What Didn’t Go Well

  • Turnovers — While they weren’t a problem overall in the game, Avdija had 3 turnovers to 5 assists, and Corey Kispert had 3 to 1 assist. The team wants Avdija to play with aggression, but the turnovers and so-so shooting (7-15 from the floor and 2-7 from three-point range) left him with an offensive rating of just 98. Washington’s offensive rating was 126.
  • Fouls — Gafford had 5. Avdija and Kispert had 4 each. Porzingis, Hachimura and Satoransky were each whistled for 3. That gave Minnesota a +9 advantage in free throw attempts (+11 in makes). They need to figure out how to defend without fouling.

The Four Factors

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: Wizards 132 at Timberwolves 114

FOUR FACTORS WIZARDS TIMBERWOLVES
FOUR FACTORS WIZARDS TIMBERWOLVES
EFG 0.619 0.527
OREB 9 6
TOV 10 9
FTM 7 18
PACE 105
ORTG 126 109

Key Stats

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 this season is 111.7. 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

WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Daniel Gafford 31 69 24 191 17.6% 252 27.5 17
Ish Smith 30 65 11 121 21.7% 208 21.6 9
Kristaps Porzingis 27 59 25 153 23.0% 190 17.9 2
Rui Hachimura 37 82 21 121 20.0% 115 15.0 17
Deni Avdija 36 78 17 98 22.2% 85 10.5 16
Corey Kispert 31 68 13 104 16.7% 79 8.6 10
Tomas Satoransky 20 44 8 129 18.3% 100 7.0 11
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 27 59 13 99 20.2% 56 5.3 8

Key Stats: Timberwolves

TIMBERWOLVES MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
TIMBERWOLVES MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Jaylen Nowell 12 26 11 165 25.0% 462 18.9 5
D'Angelo Russell 29 63 17 116 28.1% 144 14.4 -15
Karl-Anthony Towns 35 76 26 107 31.6% 107 12.9 -14
Jordan McLaughlin 21 47 5 135 11.5% 155 11.6 -3
Malik Beasley 32 70 14 121 12.7% 79 8.9 -19
Taurean Prince 23 51 11 103 19.7% 92 7.5 -11
Anthony Edwards 32 70 18 97 25.6% 57 6.4 -17
Jarred Vanderbilt 20 44 8 128 13.1% 86 6.0 -10
Josh Okogie 5 10 0 0.0% 0 0.0 6
McKinley Wright IV 3 7 0 0.0% 0 0.0 -1
Jaden McDaniels 15 32 0 58 3.4% -14 0.0 -7
Naz Reid 13 29 4 45 27.4% -156 0.0 -4