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Led by Beal, Wizards inch closer to the play-in

A check-in on stats, indicators and metrics

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards
Wizards guard Bradley Beal is trying to lead the team into the play-in.
Photo by Kenny Giarla/NBAE via Getty Images

With a couple days off between games, it’s time for a check-in on key stats and indicators for the 32-37 Washington Wizards.

The Wizards currently sit 10th in the East, which would get them at least one play-in game. The team doesn’t have a plausible scenario to reach the top six and avoid the play-in. They’re two games back of the Atlanta Hawks for 8th, one game behind the Toronto Raptors for 9th, and they hold a half game lead on the Chicago Bulls and a full game on the Indiana Pacers for 10th.

My prediction machine concurs with other forecasting approaches that gives the Wizards approximately a 50/50 chance of making the play-in. The most likely path is for them to finish with 38 or 39 wins and finish 10th or 11th. When I replicate the remaining schedules for each of these teams, the most common outcome was for the Wizards to finish 11th with the Bulls claiming 10th.

Here’s a snapshot of where they rank in key indicators of team strength:

  • Strength of schedule adjusted scoring margin: 17th
  • Offensive rating: 17th
  • Defensive rating: 19th

Offensive Four Factors

  • eFG%: 11th
  • TOV%: 19th
  • oREB%: 21st
  • FTM/FGA: 18th

Defensive Four Factors

  • eFG%: 6th
  • TOV%: 28th
  • dREB%: 17th
  • FTM/FGA: 4th

As the rankings indicate, the offense is stuck in the middle across the board. They shoot a little better than average, but they’re a bit below average in each of the other key factors.

On defense, they’re doing two things well by holding opponents to a low shooting percentage and not sending opponents to the free throw line. But they don’t force turnovers and their defensive rebounding has slipped since early in the season. The decline in rebounding is odd considering they frequently play lineups with two centers.

One note: As ESPN’s Zach Lowe has pointed out, 26th functions as a kind of “last place” this season because of the four tanking teams — Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs. Yes, I also note that the Wizards are 28th in forcing turnovers.

A few quick thoughts on the team’s rotation players before getting to the PPA scores:

  • Bradley Beal — The team’s most productive and important player. His efficiency has dropped in recent weeks after a strong return from injury. His offensive rating is now less than a half point per 100 possessions better than average on a 29.7% usage rate. And that’s after the monster 13-15 shooting night against the Pistons.
  • Kristaps Porzingis — The most efficient of the team’s so-called Big Three, Porzingis is scoring 34.2 points per 100 team possessions with a 121 offensive rating (+6.5 relative to league average). His personal defense has been good, though the team defense has been meh with him out there. In fairness, the defense has been meh when he sits too. His rebounding has fallen off as the season has worn on.
  • Delon Wright — Quality defender, low usage on offense and insanely efficient (128 offensive rating). His 4.2 steals per 100 team possessions lead the league among players with at least 500 minutes.
  • Monte Morris — The other half of the team’s PG tandem, Morris helps the offense the way Wright helps the defense. He’s a good shooter and decent playmaker who avoids turnovers and mistakes. But he’s often overmatched defensively.
  • Daniel Gafford — Spring-loaded legs and shooting nearly 75% from the floor — virtually all of his shots coming within three feet of the rim. Good offensive rebounder and shot blocker but gets out of position and doesn’t excel on the defensive glass.
  • Kyle Kuzma — For some reason, he’s considered part of the team’s Big Three, and reporting from The Athletic’s Shams Charania says the Wizards brass view him a franchise cornerstone. Meanwhile, his offensive rating is 12.5 points per 100 possessions below league average. Considering his high 27.0% usage rate, Kuzma is arguably the league’s third least efficient offensive player behind only Jalen Green and Russell Westbrook. My +PTS metric, which combines efficiency and usage against league average, estimates Kuzma’s inefficiency has cost 150 points relative to average efficiency this season. Green’s total is 159. Westbrook: 158.
  • Corey Kispert — Terrific three-point shooter and effective cutter who does almost nothing else well at the NBA level. His efficiency is outstanding, but his 12.3% usage rate makes Otto Porter look aggressive.
  • Deni Avdija — Tommy Sheppard claimed the team traded Rui Hachimura to open minutes and opportunities for Avdija. After a few good games, Avdija’s playing time has held steady at his previously established levels, and his production has taken a nose dive. His issues: basic skills on offense like shooting and ball handling. Meanwhile, his defensive effectiveness has plummeted this season. Opposing players shoot about the same when he’s the nearest defender. The team defense is about the same with or without him. And he’s committing a career high 5.3 fouls per 100 team possessions.

That’s the core rotation. Others getting at least some rotational minutes include Jordan Goodwin, Taj Gibson and Kendrick Nunn. They’re all vacillating between a few minutes here and there to DNP-CD (that’s Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision).

Player Production Average

Below is a look at individual performances 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.

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

Stats & Metrics through 69 games

Bradley Beal SG 47 33.5 29.4% 115 0.4 24.9 151 155
Kristaps Porzingis C 59 32.7 26.9% 121 6.5 22.9 148 148
Delon Wright PG 40 24.3 13.9% 128 13.5 16.1 145 140
Monte Morris PG 55 27.8 16.3% 126 11.1 17.5 134 133
Daniel Gafford C 67 19.8 16.0% 138 23.0 12.4 131 132
Kyle Kuzma PF 62 35.2 27.0% 102 -12.5 15.9 95 96
Corey Kispert SG 61 27.5 12.3% 127 12.6 12.1 93 93
Jordan Goodwin PG 49 17.3 16.9% 112 -2.1 7.3 95 89
Deni Avdija SF 67 25.9 16.7% 106 -8.8 9.4 80 77
Kendrick Nunn SG 19 14.4 21.3% 104 -10.4 4.2 63 61
Taj Gibson C 43 9.6 16.1% 114 -0.9 1.9 39 42
Quenton Jackson SG 3 2.7 16.9% 183 68.1 2.2 166 166
Anthony Gill F/C 46 10 12.3% 134 19.8 3.0 62 64
Devon Dotson PG 6 8.8 13.1% 78 -36.4 0.8 20 20
Johnny Davis SG 15 5.9 15.5% 88 -26.2 0.0 -32 -19
Isaiah Todd PF 4 3.3 11.3% 50 -64.4 0.0 -45 -45
Jamaree Bouyea PG 4 6 6.1% 0 0.0 -78
Jay Huff C 1 3 33.2% 0 0.0 -310
Lg. Avg. 20.0% 114.5 0.0 10.9 100 100