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The Numbers Crunch: Wizards fall short despite Kuzma’s 28-9-10 outburst

Stats, analysis, commentary.

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

I know the Wizards ended up losing after taking a 19-point lead in the second half. I know they made a bunch of mistakes in the fourth quarter. I know Wes Unseld Jr. made a few...sub-optimal coaching decisions.

I just can’t work up anger or even frustration, and it’s not even because of the Thanksgiving feast set for later today. Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.

The Wizards played hard, and for stretches at least, well. They executed their defensive scheme for portions of the game, and on offense, they found some ways to get Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma easier shots — at least until Poole and Kuzma attempted hero ball.

The starters played pretty well, and Poole gained on being at least a useful player at times.

Sure, the bench stunk, Unseld kept Deni Avdija on the bench for the final seven-plus minutes of the game, and they lost, but Coulibaly got reps defending LaMelo Ball and showcased some excellent screen navigation. It was refreshing to see Wizards defend on the perimeter without soft switching everything.

Musings & Observations

  • For the most part, Kuzma played an excellent game. He was a rebound short of a triple-double, and he shot well (12-22 from the floor and 3-6 from three-point range). He was credited with 10 assists. Four or five of those assists wouldn’t meet my criteria, but they do adhere to the NBA scorekeeping standard, and he’s showing more playmaking skills than at any previous point in his career.
  • During the game, I felt Kuzma could have juiced his efficiency and helped the team with better shot selection — specifically taking difficult shots with plenty of time on the shot clock. Upon post-game review, not so much. He had 2-3 “bad” shots, but the vast majority of his field goal attempts were decent shots. Some of the tough ones that missed were later in the 24-second clock, and the team needed someone to get a shot up.
  • I didn’t like Unseld’s decision to sit Avdija the final seven minutes of the game. He played a solid game and harassed Gordon Hayward into a terrible one, but Unseld went with Tyus Jones, Poole, and Coulibaly down the stretch. Coulibaly was a no-brainer, even though he had a poor game overall. He needs the reps, and he was giving a good effort defending Ball. Given Charlotte’s personnel, I’d have replaced Poole or Tyus Jones in the lineup to have more defensive versatility and rebounding. That said, while I didn’t like it, I can see the reasoning.
  • After getting knocked around by Charlotte big men the previous two times they played this season, Daniel Gafford battled inside with 15 points (on 9 field goal attempts) and 16 rebounds. The team defense was at its best with Gafford on the floor.
  • If Danilo Gallinari isn’t making shots, he has basically no value out there. His immobility handicaps their defense. The Wizards should be looking for Someone Else to take those minutes.
  • LaMelo Ball made a three-point floater last night. Just a preposterous shot to even take...and he made it.
  • Corey Kispert’s lone made three was a half court jumper (yes, jumper) at the end of the second quarter. NBA.com has it down as a 39-foot shot, which I think is incorrect. That should be recorded as being from 42 feet.
  • The 6-9 Brandon Miller somehow had zero rebounds in 31 minutes.
  • While Poole played probably his best game of the season, his offensive efficiency was still 13 points per 100 possessions below league average, and his defense was subpar.

I fired up the Prediction Machine for the first time this season, and entering the Charlotte game, The Machine had the Wizards winning 20 to 21 games this season (20.4 was the exact estimate).

Including the loss to the Hornets, Washington is on a seven-game losing streak. The next time they’re favored: Dec. 21 at Portland. And they’re only coin-flip favorites in that one. While they’ll probably get a win or two over the next nine games, an extended losing streak is on the table. I had them with a 40% chance of beating Charlotte, which is their best odds of winning until they get to Portland.

If you’re circling potential wins, Nov. 27 at the Detroit Pistons isn’t impossible — Washington has about a 35% chance of victory.

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).

Four Factors: Wizards at Hornets

FOUR FACTORS WIZARDS HORNETS
FOUR FACTORS WIZARDS HORNETS
EFG 0.510 0.554
OREB 11 11
TOV 10 11
FTM 15 15
PACE 101
ORTG 113 116

Stats & Metrics

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score. 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. 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 sometimes producing weird results.

POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.

ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 114.8. 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 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.

+PTS = “Plus Points” is a measure of the points gained or lost by each player based on their efficiency in this game compared to league average efficiency on the same number of possessions. A player with an offensive rating (points produced per possession x 100) of 100 who uses 20 possessions would produce 20 points. If the league average efficiency is 114, the league — on average — would produced 22.8 points in the same 20 possessions. So, the player in this hypothetical would have a +PTS score of -2.8.

Stats & Metrics: Wizards

WIZARDS MIN POSS ORTG USG +PTS PPA GmSC +/-
WIZARDS MIN POSS ORTG USG +PTS PPA GmSC +/-
Kyle Kuzma 35 74 128 29.1% 3.1 264 36.7 13
Daniel Gafford 34 72 137 15.6% 2.5 151 20.4 15
Tyus Jones 35 73 123 15.9% 1.0 134 18.3 10
Deni Avdija 28 60 130 15.9% 1.5 134 14.9 3
Jordan Poole 33 70 101 31.2% -2.9 115 14.9 -14
Landry Shamet 18 37 112 17.1% -0.1 16 1.1 1
Corey Kispert 18 38 84 19.0% -2.2 9 0.6 -3
Johnny Davis 5 11 0.0% 0.0 0 0.0 -6
Bilal Coulibaly 19 40 111 16.7% -0.2 -8 0.0 -16
Danilo Gallinari 14 29 34 17.3% -4.0 -63 0.0 -18

Stats & Metrics: Hornets

HORNETS MIN POSS ORTG USG +PTS PPA GmSC +/-
HORNETS MIN POSS ORTG USG +PTS PPA GmSC +/-
Miles Bridges 37 78 132 27.6% 3.9 253 37.0 -1
LaMelo Ball 40 84 108 39.5% -1.8 188 29.3 4
Bryce McGowens 23 48 185 12.7% 4.2 272 24.1 11
Brandon Miller 31 66 134 15.0% 2.0 125 15.4 -2
Mark Williams 35 73 106 16.0% -1.0 75 10.2 6
JT Thor 23 48 109 8.5% -0.2 53 4.7 7
Ish Smith 20 42 89 6.7% -0.7 28 2.2 14
Nick Smith Jr. 1 3 198 26.6% 0.6 232 1.2 -6
Gordon Hayward 30 63 67 17.5% -5.2 -6 0.0 -18