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Wizards blown out in home finale

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Wizards forward Rui Hachimura
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Wizards lost, and I’m annoyed — thought not because they lost. In yet another woebegone season, losing to the New York Knicks in game 81 was the best thing for the franchise and its fortunes over the next few seasons. Probably.

Sure, the Wizards weren’t exactly trying to lose, but they did sit Kristaps Porzingis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, in addition to Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, which probably increased the odds a bit.

So, what has me annoyed? The pollyannish tomfoolery that got peddled on the broadcast. I get the imperative to find something to positive to say. I don’t live by it, but I know fans like it, the team executives and owners like it, and the players like it. If you want to make your living from the team, it pays to a cockeyed optimist.

But man it’s a slog listening to Glenn Consor do a Baghdad Bob routine. When Justin Kutcher is going into a commercial break leaving Consor with the tough question of whether Anthony Gill has done enough to attract the attention of other teams, which could make it difficult to re-sign him — the whole operation has blasted past being positive or optimistic and has slouched into dishonesty.

I mean, my podcast co-host Ron Oakes-Cunningham is as positive and upbeat as they come. But he doses it with reality. He’ll talk about the possibility of Rui Hachimura becoming terrific, and he’ll detail reasons why it could happen (hell, sometimes he’ll even assert that it will happen), but he’ll also acknowledge that the most realistic scenario is something different.

To hear Consor and the rest of the broadcast team talk, you’d think the Wizards and Knicks had 70 wins each, not that they entered the game with 70 wins combined. It evoked my son’s immortal question about a previous sad-sack Wizards team: “If everyone’s so good, and they lead the league in everything, why do they lose all the time?”

The narrative through-line from last night’s broadcast was that the Wizards young players are very good, and that they’re significantly improved. As I’ve written and podcasted over the past week, neither of these stories are true.

The young players are — at best — below average for all players in the league, and for players of a similar age. And, there’s little to suggest they’re improving. There’s no need to rehash that stuff here. If you’re interested, give my recent articles a read and/or listen to my podcast.

And, the Gill question is irrelevant. Sure, he’s a good guy who has some skills and works hard to stay ready, but he’s immaterial to whether or not the Wizards are good next year. You don’t get worried about a player like Gill going to a different team, you go sign someone else to take his roster spot and don’t waste time thinking about it.

In the same way, if you’re in the Wizards front office, choosing to re-sign Kuzma or Hachimura isn’t a tough choice because they’re about the same in overall impact — average or less. Pick one or both or neither, but never stop looking for someone who’s actually good to displace them.

My message to NBC Sports Washington would be this: analyze, don’t cheerlead. You’re not doing fans any favors by lying to them. And, pretending this franchise is making progress or gaining on the nebulous goals they’ve presented isn’t helping anyone.

So anyway, there was a game last night, and I should probably say something about that.

Positives

  • Rui Hachimura made shots in the first half. At the break, he had 18 points on 7-11 shooting. In the second half, he scored 3 points on 1-3 shooting to finish with 21 points.
  • Jordan Schakel, just up from the G-League, hit a three and had 5 points and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes.

Negatives

  • Hachimura finished with a classic Hachimura stat line — the efficient 21 points in 28 minutes was nice, but he offered next to nothing otherwise: 3 rebounds, 1 assist and a block. His defense was atrocious, and he was thoroughly outplayed by New York’s Obi Toppin.
  • Turnovers! The Wizards committed 22, and it wasn’t the G-Leaguers creating the problem. Deni Avdija and Raul Neto had 4 each, Anthony Gill and Tomas Satoransky committed 3 apiece, and Ish Smith and Cassius Winston had two.
  • Avdija was terrible, again. He’s starting to make me think of Antoine Walker a bit — he’ll make plays that have me thinking he has an excellent basketball IQ, and then he’ll make two or three true WTF? plays. And, the team’s defensive rating was a disastrous 137 when he was on the floor.

The negatives could go for a while, but I’ll stop there and get to the numbers.

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: Knicks 114 at Wizards 92

FOUR FACTORS KNICKS WIZARDS
FOUR FACTORS KNICKS WIZARDS
EFG 0.557 0.572
OREB 10 2
TOV 10 22
FTM 16 13
PACE 95
ORTG 120 97

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 +/-
Rui Hachimura 28 56 21 132 24.3% 166 17.2 -14
Ish Smith 16 31 7 125 20.9% 209 12.1 -3
Corey Kispert 26 51 8 144 10.5% 127 12.0 -16
Daniel Gafford 20 39 9 198 9.6% 100 7.3 -16
Jordan Schakel 12 24 5 86 22.4% 92 4.1 0
Anthony Gill 16 32 4 82 17.4% 19 1.1 -8
Deni Avdija 26 51 11 78 28.3% 8 0.8 -20
Raul Neto 20 40 14 103 30.6% 9 0.7 7
Tomas Satoransky 20 40 4 81 26.0% -3 0.0 -19
Cassius Winston 8 15 4 87 33.0% -48 0.0 0
Vernon Carey Jr. 7 15 1 53 14.2% -106 0.0 -13
Thomas Bryant 26 51 0 0 8.6% -33 0.0 0
Isaiah Todd 16 31 4 61 20.0% -116 0.0 -8

Key Stats: Knicks

KNICKS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
KNICKS MIN POSS PTS ORTG USG PPA GmSC +/-
Obi Toppin 38 76 35 143 25.9% 327 45.7 18
Immanuel Quickley 36 72 23 130 26.2% 316 42.2 23
Evan Fournier 28 55 17 121 21.9% 179 18.1 22
Taj Gibson 23 46 10 133 19.2% 188 16.2 3
Jericho Sims 34 67 6 132 11.4% 110 13.6 24
RJ Barrett 15 30 14 126 33.4% 238 13.0 3
Feron Hunt 2 4 0 0.0% 230 1.5 3
Miles McBride 19 37 3 72 11.0% 7 0.5 -3
Ryan Arcidiacono 13 25 0 31 8.1% -40 0.0 -8
Alec Burks 33 65 6 75 18.6% -27 0.0 25