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Wizards rally comes too late to catch Miami Heat

Stats, analysis, and commentary.

Washington Wizards v Miami Heat
Wizards guard Jordan Poole
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Maybe just start The Garbage Time Gang?

Through the Washington Wizards first five games, their best lineups include Eugene Omoruyi, Ryan Rollins, and Bilal Coulibaly — The Garbage Time Gang. Mix-and-match the lineups with Anthony Gill, Johnny Davis, Delon Wright, and Deni Avdija, each of whom have imbibed of the garbage time elixir.

Sure, it’s all Small Sample Size Theater. Sure it’s almost certainly just a fluke of getting on the floor when the team is so far behind there’s no hope of changing the outcome.

But what is there to lose exactly?

If the Wizards came out Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers with a starting lineup of Rollins, Wright, Omoruyi, Gill, and Coulibaly, they’d almost certainly get run off the floor. Here’s the thing though: they’re already getting run off the floor with their “best” players out there.

Kuzma, Poole, and Jones are supposed to be the team’s best players. Through five games, the Wizards have been utterly destroyed with these guys out there.

None of this should be taken a criticism of Wes Unseld Jr. and the coaching staff, who I think are doing a professional job with this group. The offensive design is solid, as is their defensive scheme. The problem isn’t a lack of adjustments or playing the wrong guys. The truth is, they’re all wrong guys — at least for the role they have with the Wizards.

This is the nature of rebuilding teams. Some guys have to take on more responsibility than they should based on their skills and abilities while the franchise figures out if they can get the young guys to become good someday.

Kuzma’s best role is as a sixth man or fifth starter who plays more with bench units. Jones was an excellent backup and spot starter. Poole seems ideal for an instant offense off the bench role. As the top two or three players, they’re out of their depth.

That’s not a knock on them as players — each has genuine strengths and real value to an NBA team. Just not in the roles they have to assume in Washington.

What Unseld is doing in assembling a rotation is a kind of “least bad” calculation. He’s essentially estimating which players will be least bad in a bigger role. For good reasons, he’s chosen Kuzma, Poole, and Jones to take on major roles. Those roles probably won’t change much this season, because the truth is the other options are probably going to be even worse in a role of similar scope.

Much as I love the effort of Omoruyi (for example), does anyone other than Omoruyi believe he can lead a decent offense? Does Omoruyi even believe it?

Last night, the Wizards played Miami about as well as could be expected. They were even after one, trailed by six at the half, and then got stomped in the third quarter. They fell behind by as much as 25 with 6:38 remaining in the game, at which point Unseld gave up.

He subbed in Omoruyi, Anthony Gill, and Johnny Davis to go with Rollins and Coulibaly, whereupon the Wizards immediately staged one of their fourth quarter comebacks, slicing Miami’s lead to just 10 in the final minute. A Rollins three with eight seconds left gave the game its final seven-point margin.

Observations & Musings

  • Poole played his best game of the season, at least on offense. He shot 8-14 from the floor and 3-4 from three, and produced 6 assists to just 2 turnovers. The team defense was a wreck when he was out there, despite his four steals. At least he kept the Shaqtin’ a Fool plays to a minimum. The only real embarrassing moment was when he tried to attack Bam Adebayo in iso, lunged into the four-time All-Defense selection to try to draw a foul call and wound up falling to the ground for a turnover.
  • Probably the best game of Davis’ career — 5-5 from the floor, including a three to go with a rebound and a steal. I don’t think he can shoot a good percentage from three with the knock-knee form and flyaway elbow, but I do buy his defense.
  • Deni Avdija played a solid game with good shooting, good decision-making, and timely cuts. The team defense was atrocious with him out there, but I don’t think that’s particularly on him. I’d look to the backcourt — especially Poole.
  • Coulibaly had some good moments in transition, and he hit a catch-and-shoot three. He also had a nice drive on a garbage time pick-and-roll, which is something he needs to do when the game’s outcome is still in doubt.
  • Kuzma hit shots in the first quarter and then fell apart. His overall shooting wasn’t bad (52.6% effective field goal percentage), but the five turnovers to three assists crushed his efficiency.
  • Washington’s efg was 64.8% and they lost because the Heat shot 68.1%. The starting lineup was especially porous. To reiterate: I don’t think this is about scheme or poor coaching. I think it’s about stuff like Poole and Jones being small and not very strong...and giving up middle penetration. I think it’s about Kuzma being focused more on the offensive end, and Daniel Gafford getting into foul trouble by chasing blocks. And I think it’s about Avdija’s defensive impact dropping since his second season...and giving up middle penetration.
  • Count me as someone who likes the In-Season Tournament. I didn’t love the court, but I did enjoy there being something special about a regular season game in November.
  • By the way, for whoever needs to hear this: The Miami Heat do not play in South Beach. South Beach is basically the southern tip of Miami Beach, which is across the Biscayne Bay from Miami. The Kaseya Center, where the Heat play, is located in downtown Miami. It’s about a 10-minute drive from downtown to South Beach if there’s no traffic, and you take the MacArthur Causeway.

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 Heat

EFG 0.648 0.681
OREB 4 7
TOV 20 19
FTM 9 12
PACE 100
ORTG 114 121

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

Jordan Poole 28 59 125 25.1% 2.1 178 20.2 -21
Johnny Davis 13 27 221 14.1% 4.2 333 17.5 19
Deni Avdija 24 49 131 20.0% 2.1 131 12.4 -14
Bilal Coulibaly 26 55 135 12.0% 1.6 107 11.2 13
Ryan Rollins 7 15 147 32.5% 1.8 264 7.8 15
Tyus Jones 24 50 119 14.3% 0.6 69 6.7 -14
Eugene Omoruryi 7 14 141 22.5% 0.9 234 6.2 18
Anthony Gill 7 14 129 32.8% 0.9 176 4.7 18
Danilo Gallinari 9 19 105 34.9% -0.4 113 4.3 -4
Kyle Kuzma 31 64 93 33.6% -3.8 20 2.5 -20
Daniel Gafford 20 41 104 11.6% -0.3 6 0.4 -10
Mike Muscala 12 26 88 19.9% -1.2 -2 0.0 -11
Landry Shamet 14 29 62 7.0% -1.0 -12 0.0 -13
Delon Wright 17 36 26 13.6% -4.1 -75 0.0 -11

Stats & Metrics: Heat

Tyler Herro 37 76 123 25.9% 2.6 231 33.9 7
Duncan Robinson 30 61 142 20.0% 3.8 223 26.4 2
Jimmy Butler 31 65 127 21.5% 2.3 209 26.3 6
Jaime Jacquez Jr. 21 44 182 13.5% 4.2 270 23.0 3
Kyle Lowry 26 53 104 14.3% -0.5 117 12.0 2
Josh Richardson 26 53 128 16.2% 1.5 113 11.6 -2
Thomas Bryant 18 37 109 24.1% -0.2 60 4.3 1
Haywood Highsmith 22 45 116 11.6% 0.3 24 2.0 10
Bam Adebayo 30 62 91 28.3% -3.5 12 1.4 6