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The Morning After: Kuzma, Wright sting the Hornets

Stats, analysis, commentary.

Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets
Washington Wizards guard Delon Wright dominated in the team’s win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

It was another not-so competitive game, but this time it was the Wizards administering the beating, not taking it. Washington and the Charlotte Hornets were tied at 35 with 8:33 to go in the second quarter. The Wizards closed the period with a 30-11 run and never looked back.

Their lead ballooned to as much as 26 in the fourth quarter before the Hornets made one those phony “comebacks” that trimmed the final margin to 16.

It was the kind of win I’d want if I was coaching a rebuilding team because several players did good stuff, the coaches experimented with lineups and roles, and there were lots of teachable moments.

Good Stuff

  • Kyle Kuzma was outstanding — 33 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and at least adequate defense. He shot well (13-24 from the floor and 4-11 from deep) and even grabbed three offensive rebounds (about triple his norm).
  • Delon Wright hit his shots and was highly disruptive on defense. He scored 18 points on five field goal attempts (not a typo), and had an offensive rating of 203. He also nabbed four steals.
  • Landry Shamet shot the leather off the ball, threw down a highly unexpected dunk (just the 32nd of his career) and played well enough on defense to maybe make another team give up more in a trade for him.
  • Wes Unseld Jr. and the coaches tried some things that are potentially interesting. Chief among them was removing Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole from the game in the third quarter and not going back to them again. The Wizards opened the lead with their starting backcourt on the bench, and finished the competitive portion of the game with Wright, Shamet, and Deni Avdija sharing ball-handling duties.
  • Another experiment: With Gafford in foul trouble, and Gallinari running out of gas, Unseld deployed Avdija at center. This is something I’ve wanted to see for the past couple seasons, and it kinda worked — at least against the Hornets. Now, Charlotte helped by playing smaller lineups in five-out sets. It was effective and interesting enough to warrant further testing in future games.
  • While Avdija’s numbers stunk, I mostly liked what I saw from him. He played in center, forward and guard roles, which features his versatility. As a ball handler in the fourth quarter, he attacked the paint and mostly made good decisions. His shots didn’t fall, but I thought he played the right way.

Not So Good Stuff

  • Jordan Poole needs some remedial work on how to play basketball. As I’ve written previously, he’s enormously skilled — flashy ball handling, fancy footwork, seemingly unlimited shooting range. And leads to some of the worst shots I’ve ever seen in four decades of watching NBA games. Last night: 3-12 from the floor, 1-5 from three, and an offensive rating of just 86 on 29.0% usage. I’d very seriously consider bringing him off the bench for awhile to see if he can figure out how to play NBA basketball within a team construct.
  • Speaking of someone who should transition back to the bench, Tyus Jones shot 1-6 and missed both his threes. Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball repeatedly drove past him in much the manner of a layup line. As a backup, he’s aces. As a starter? Not for me.
  • Bilal Coulibaly played the second most minutes on the team and had a 3.9% usage rate. He took three shots in 30 minutes of action. I don’t expect a Coulibaly takeover, but I think it would be wise to run some plays to get him involved in the offense. Maybe that comes when GM Will Dawkins trades Poole, Jones, and Wright.
  • Conjure an image in your mind of a dream meal. Think of the appetizer, the main course, the dessert. Picture the perfect wine pairing. Now understand: that’s what opposing players see when Corey Kispert picks them up on defense. The thought every NBA player must have is that they’re about to get some buckets.
  • The relatively positive defensive outcome seemed to my eyes more a case of Charlotte missing shots and making mistakes than the Wizards defending well. NBA tracking says Washington contested 36 shots, which is actually below their average. And for the season, they’re 23rd in contests per game — even worse when considering they play at the league’s fastest pace.
  • I’d suggest that Unseld have a cake ready for the day when someone (anyone) in a Wizards uniform correctly executes the team’s force rules on defense, but I fear the cake would go stale first.

Other Stuff

  • Ball is a good player who’s fun to watch. I suspect he could be even better if Charlotte would put shooters and finishers around him. The Hornets are a year or two ahead of the Wizards in their rebuild, but they’re still some distance from being any good.
  • I think Gordon Hayward could help a contending team. The challenge in trading him: the $31.5 million he’s getting this season (the final year of his contract).

These same two teams face each other Friday night in DC. It’ll be one of the NBA Cup games — the first for Charlotte.

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

EFG 0.577 0.570
OREB 13 11
TOV 10 20
FTM 20 26
PACE 103
ORTG 129 113

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

Delon Wright 26 56 203 17.1% 8.7 399 40.7 26
Kyle Kuzma 31 67 134 34.3% 5.0 273 33.5 8
Landry Shamet 17 37 168 20.9% 4.3 281 18.9 24
Danilo Gallinari 20 42 143 25.2% 3.3 184 14.2 18
Corey Kispert 23 49 121 19.7% 0.9 123 11.1 6
Daniel Gafford 13 29 161 14.4% 2.0 139 7.3 3
Bilal Coulibaly 30 63 213 3.9% 2.5 41 4.7 23
Tyus Jones 19 41 70 16.5% -2.8 21 1.5 -8
Ryan Rollins 3 6 218 19.0% 1.3 774 0.0 -2
Johnny Davis 3 6 0.0% 0.0 111 0.0 -2
Eugene Omoruyi 3 6 0 11.9% -0.8 106 0.0 -2
Deni Avdija 28 59 94 20.9% -2.2 -15 0.0 -5
Jordan Poole 20 44 29.0% -3.2 -67 0.0 -5
Anthony Gill 4 9 26 28.2% -2.1 -192 0.0 -4

Stats & Metrics: Hornets

LaMelo Ball 36 77 121 36.8% 2.6 155 37.6 -3
Gordon Hayward 32 69 105 25.5% -1.2 104 22.6 -8
Mark Williams 18 39 167 20.4% 4.4 167 20.6 2
Brandon Miller 30 64 104 19.9% -0.9 61 12.2 -11
Nick Richards 16 33 156 12.2% 1.8 89 9.2 -9
P.J. Washington 36 76 99 18.3% -1.7 29 7.0 -8
Theo Maledon 18 38 111 16.6% 0.0 49 5.9 -21
Leaky Black 4 9 64 11.5% -0.5 33 0.9 4
Nick Smith Jr. 4 9 154 28.8% 1.1 443 0.0 4
JT Thor 21 45 64 6.8% -1.5 -12 0.0 -21
Bryce McGowens 15 32 87 10.1% -0.8 -36 0.0 -1
Ish Smith 10 21 0 9.5% -2.3 -43 0.0 -8