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Wizards blasted by shorthanded Pelicans

Stats, analysis, commentary and questions.

New Orleans Pelicans v Washington Wizards
Wizards big man Daniel Gafford writhes on the floor after getting injured in Washington’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans entered the night without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — their two best players. Three of their five starters had crappy games. And they ran away with the game in the second half and coasted home to a comfortable 20-point victory over the Washington Wizards.

I’m just back from helping a family member move to New York City, and I don’t have the energy for the kind of foundational questions the Wizards should be asking themselves. Questions some guy blogged about 14 years ago like: “Can this team—as constructed—ever win a championship?”

I also don’t have the energy for a big debate about head coach Wes Unseld Jr. Most of the anger sent his way sounds to my ear like criticizing NFL play calling. Maybe if the “Unseld sucks” folks could be specific, we could have a real conversation. So, I have a few questions that could get things started. Like:

  1. If Unseld’s offensive system is bad, what offensive system should the team be using?
  2. How will that different offensive system maximize the players on the roster and enable the team to become as good as it’s capable of being?
  3. If Unseld’s defensive system is bad, what defensive system should the team be using?
  4. How will that different defensive system limit the ability of the other team to score? How will it maximize the effectiveness of players on the roster?
  5. If Unseld is playing the wrong guys, who should he be playing?
  6. In what ways are those players better than the guys who are playing? How will they improve the team’s ability to win?
  7. If Unseld is misusing players, identify them and describe how they should be deployed? Whose role should be diminished so someone else can take on more responsibility?
  8. Which players are performing demonstrably better or worse than their career norms?
  9. If Unseld is failing to motivate the team properly, what kind of motivational strategies do you think might be more effective?

I have some thoughts on those kinds of questions, but overall — like Scott Brooks before him — Unseld is probably doing about as good a job as most NBA coaches would. There are maybe a few coaches who could make this team a little better. I don’t think there’s one who’s lived that would make this roster a consistent winner. As I’ve written dozens times before: they lack talent.

Back to last night’s game — the Wizards, who were missing their best player, got blasted by the Pelicans, who were missing their two best players.

Good Stuff

  • Kristaps Porzingis scored efficiently — 23 points on 16 field goal attempts. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, which was nice. He offered 0.0 resistance inside to New Orleans center Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Monte Morris hit shots (6-8 from the floor) and showed some offensive aggressiveness. He flashed some fancy dribbling at one point...which ended up in a bad pass turnover. But, he had 9 assists and 3 turnovers.

Not So Good Stuff

  • Kyle Kuzma had a staggering 37.4% usage rate and an offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) of 101. League average offensive rating is 113.6. In this game, the Wizards’ offensive rating was 110. New Orleans’ was 130. Kuzma’s shooting was fine — 6-13 from the floor and 3-8 from three — but he committed 5 turnovers and produced just 2 assists. And he fouled out in 23 minutes.
  • Delon Wright was 0-2 from three-point range, bringing his long range shooting for the season to 6-28 — just 21.4%.
  • Rui Hachimura shot 4-12 from the floor and collected only 3 rebounds in 27 minutes. Because of the lack of all-around production, he must make shots at a high level to have value.
  • Per, here are the defensive ratings (points allowed per possession x 100) for the team with each non-garbage time player on the floor (remember, league average is 113.6): Porzingis 124.3, Morris 122.8, Kispert 120.8, Gafford 122.4, Goodwin 131.4, Kuzma 130.2, Wright 141.7, Avdija 132.7, Hachimura 137.3, Gibson 132.0.
  • There was a moment about halfway through the fourth quarter when it was clear garbage time was a minute or two away. I glanced at the box score to remind myself which youngsters I’d get a chance to see, and...the only two active players without minutes to that point were 30-year-old Anthony Gill and 32-year-old Will Barton.

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 often find the raw numbers more useful when analyzing a single game.

Four Factors: Pelicans at Wizards

EFG 0.581 0.598
OREB 12 7
TOV 9 20
FTM 24 14
PACE 102
ORTG 130 110

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

Kristaps Porzingis 34 72 23 131 22.8% 181 26.2 -2
Monte Morris 27 56 13 134 21.0% 166 18.8 -12
Corey Kispert 34 72 17 106 19.1% 84 12.2 -12
Daniel Gafford 23 49 13 175 14.8% 119 11.8 -5
Jordan Goodwin 17 37 4 101 16.1% 57 4.2 -9
Kyle Kuzma 23 49 19 101 37.4% 42 4.1 -15
Delon Wright 17 36 4 83 16.8% 31 2.2 -8
Anthony Gill 5 10 2 99 16.1% 24 0.5 0
Deni Avdija 22 46 4 85 14.5% -1 0.0 -9
Rui Hachimura 27 58 9 71 18.3% -26 0.0 -22
Taj Gibson 11 24 4 84 15.5% -71 0.0 -6

Stats & Metrics: Pelicans

CJ McCollum 31 65 34 140 32.3% 296 38.7 9
Devonte' Graham 18 37 11 187 19.1% 400 29.9 16
Larry Nance Jr. 26 54 6 135 10.7% 201 21.9 30
Jonas Valanciunas 28 60 27 136 32.0% 173 20.9 0
Jose Alvarado 22 47 10 169 15.1% 217 20.8 12
Dyson Daniels 19 41 4 166 7.3% 100 8.3 5
Naji Marshall 34 71 18 96 26.3% 57 8.2 19
Garrett Temple 3 5 3 311 14.0% 566 6.1 1
Jaxson Hayes 18 37 6 127 11.2% 63 4.8 7
Herbert Jones 13 27 5 144 12.4% 80 4.3 -6
Willy Hernangomez 2 4 0 0.0% 0 0.0 5
Dereon Seabron 3 5 2 87 46.8% -71 0.0 1
Trey Murphy III 23 48 6 71 17.3% -10 0.0 0
Kira Lewis Jr. 3 5 0 0 18.9% -204 0.0 1