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The Numbers Crunch: Real Trouble 23 games into the season

Interim report, stats, analysis, commentary.

Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Wizards forward Deni Avdija is having the best season of his career.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Trouble.

Right here in Capital One Arena.

With a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for Poole.

Okay, in fairness, Jordan Poole isn’t the Wizards’ only problem. But his play so far this season is a gargantuan whopper of an anchor on anything they hope to accomplish. Aside from just losing, of course.

Let’s start simple: the Wizards are -19.5 points per 100 possessions when Poole’s on the floor. That’s the worst mark on the team. And yes, that number is in very large part because of him. I’ll come back to it.

Poole averages 62.7 possessions per game. That works out to -12.2 per game. For the season, Washington’s scoring margin is -11.1. With a bit of math, we can see that the Wizards are +1.1 per game when he’s sitting.

The array of improvements when he’s out of the game are kinda amazing. Here’s a partial list: more assists, better three-point shooting (38.3% vs. 32.7%), higher three-point attempt rate, fewer midrange shots, faster offensive possessions, longer defensive possessions, more fouls drawn, better offensive and defensive rebounding, better defensive shot quality, fewer opponent at-rim field goal attempts...the list could continue, but you get the point.

Now, is this because of Poole or is this just coincidence? Most of his teammates have double digit efficiency deficiencies when they’re on the floor. The Wizards are -15.0 with Kuzma, -16.0 with Tyus Jones, -10.2 with Deni Avdija, -10.3 with Daniel Gafford, -13.6 with Corey Kispert. Why assume Poole’s the problem?

Player pair data.

Jordan Poole Player Pairs

Player BOTH ON BOTH OFF WITHOUT JUST POOLE
Player BOTH ON BOTH OFF WITHOUT JUST POOLE
Kyle Kuzma -20.0 +5.4 -2.3 -16.7
Deni Avdija -14.2 +3.0 +0.9 -30.8
Tyus Jones -18.1 +6.8 -9.1 -23.4
Bilal Coulibaly -37.9 -23.1 +8.8 -10.3
Corey Kispert -18.4 +28.9 -10.8 -19.9
Daniel Gafford -10.5 +4.6 -8.0 -34.0
Danilo Gallinari -27.3 +2.6 +1.3 -17.3
Landry Shamet -26.5 -0.6 +6.2 -18.6

BOTH ON = both Poole and the player pair are on the floor together

BOTH OFF = Poole and the player pair are out of the game at the same time

WITHOUT = the player pair in the game while Poole is out of the game

JUST POOLE = Poole on the floor while the player pair is out of the game

What do we see? The team has been significantly better this season with every player in the rotation when Poole is not in the game.

Now, lineup data is still a fairly small sample size at this point. That leads me to another piece of evidence that points to Poole’s destructive impact on the team: the box score. As shown in the table at the bottom of this article, Poole has been the team’s least productive rotation level player by a significant margin. In my PPA metric, he’s the only rotation player on the team to rate below replacement level.

Gallinari, Kispert and Shamet haven’t exactly crowned themselves with glory either — each of them is problematic in their own way. But none of them have cratered the team on both ends of the floor as Poole has. Not even Gallinari, who’s functionally immobile.

On offense, Poole’s 95 offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions used) is -19.4 per 100 possessions — the eighth worst mark in the NBA so far this season among players with at least 150 minutes of playing time. In my +PTS (plus-points) metric, which compares a player’s efficiency with league average efficiency on the same number of possessions, he’s third worst. His possession usage has been a total of 69.8 points below average. Only Cade Cunningham and Victor Wembanyama have cost their teams more.

And here’s the thing, Poole’s defensive impact has been even worse. He routinely fails basic defensive chores on the perimeter, doesn’t bother to get involved with rebounding, and has a penchant for jogging back in transition.

So far this season, the Wizards offense has been -5.6 points per 100 possessions relative to average when he’s in the game. On defense: -13.9. Yeesh.

Does that mean the Wizards would have a winning record if he hadn’t played? Nah. Their roster is talent deficient top to bottom. But they would have been more competitive and better able to evaluate the rest of the roster without him burning through 26.0% of possessions and creating a cargo ship worth of defensive breakdowns when he’s in the game.

I know Poole claimed the Wizards as “his team.” I know it’s going to be painful for him, and maybe for the coaching staff. I also know it’s time to take it back from him — at least until he can figure out stuff like taking good shots, making basic passes, dribbling the ball without giving it to the other team, and paying attention on defense.

Interim Report: 23 games

With a 3-20, the Wizards remain near the bottom in every measure of team strength. Here’s where they rank (where they ranked at the last check-up is parentheses):

  • strength of schedule adjusted efficiency differential: 29th (24th)
  • offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions): 25th (23rd)
  • defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 30th (26th)

They’ve fallen to second in pace behind the Indiana Pacers.

The Wizards are 16th in three-point attempt rate and 22nd in three-point percentage.

On defense, Washington allows the ninth most at-rim attempts, and they’re second worst in opponent at-rim field goal percentage. The words “layup line” come to mind.

Their defensive performance has slipped as their luck on opponent three-point shooting has evened out. At the last checkup (after 10 games), Washington had the league’s 11th best defensive three-point percentage. They’re now 10th worst.

Here’s a look where they rank in The Four Factors.

Four Factors Offense

  • efg% — 9th (10th)
  • tov% — 17th (16th)
  • oreb% — 30th (28th)
  • ft/fga — 23rd (24th)

Four Factors Defense

  • efg% — 29th (26th)
  • tov% — 16th (5th)
  • dreb% — 29th (30th)
  • ft/fga — 12th (8th)

On offense, they’re still shooting decently. They’ve slipped from 4th to 11th in at-rim field goal attempts. They’re now taking the third most floater range shots, and while they have the 9th best floater range FG%, those shots are inefficient.

Consider: the Wizards are knocking down 46.3% from floater range. That’s 0.93 points per shot. The league average points per shot: 1.08.

Remember, floater range shots generally come when someone drives and can’t get to the rim. This is exactly what’s been happening with the Wizards, whose at-rim attempts have dropped while floater range attempts have increased.

Defensively, what matters is making the other team miss, and they’re second worst at doing it. They don’t rebound effectively on either end. Opponent turnovers were high early in the season, but they’ve plummeted in the games since.

Player Production Average

Here’s a look at individual performance using my Player Production Average metric. PPA credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, play-making, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls). PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor. There’s also an accounting for role/position. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better, and replacement level is 45. It usually takes a score of 225 or higher to be part of the MVP conversation.

I’m including some other stats, including usage, offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions used), relative offensive rating (offensive rating - league average offensive rating. For reference, I’m also including league average at the bottom of the table.

Stats & Metrics: Wizards through 23 games

WIZARDS POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG LAST PPA
WIZARDS POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG LAST PPA
Deni Avdija F 23 26.9 122 18.2% 7.2 120 122
Kyle Kuzma F 23 31.1 110 29.1% -4.5 122 116
Tyus Jones G 23 26.7 125 16.2% 10.2 87 108
Daniel Gafford C 20 24.8 136 14.7% 21.6 100 107
Bilal Coulibaly W 22 26.8 111 13.8% -3.5 77 87
Corey Kispert W 22 22.8 117 17.5% 1.8 52 60
Landry Shamet G 15 16.9 116 17.8% 1.3 76 51
Danilo Gallinari C 21 15.7 120 18.3% 5.5 83 50
Jordan Poole G 22 29.1 95 26.0% -19.4 43 28
NON-ROTATION POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG LAST PPA
Eugene Omoruyi F 13 6.2 130 28.0% 15.6 120 120
Ryan Rollins G 8 6.1 115 29.0% 0.1 110 97
Delon Wright G 8 17.6 134 14.2% 19.0 107 97
Patrick Baldwin Jr. F 6 6.0 138 14.5% 23.7 -68 65
Jared Butler G 11 8.6 112 21.6% -2.5 -51 48
Johnny Davis G 14 9.1 103 14.6% -12.1 61 36
Anthony Gill C 14 6.6 101 19.9% -14.2 64 27
Mike Muscala C 11 21.0 96 13.9% -18.7 4 21
Jules Bernard G 2 5.0 52 24.3% -62.5 -67
114.8 20.0% 100 100