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Wizards lose season finale to Houston Rockets

Stats, analysis and commentary

Houston Rockets v Washington Wizards
Wizards wing Corey Kispert scored 18 points in 12 minutes during the team’s final game of the season.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Wizards closed out the 2022-23 season with a loss at home to the Houston Rockets. They finish with a 35-47 record and 12th place in the Eastern Conference. Their loss combined with the Indiana Pacers’ win leaves Washington in a tie for seventh worst record.

After playing a few rotation-level veterans and winning against the Miami Heat, the Wizards’ braintrust came to their collective senses and deployed the kids and deep-bench backups.

Isaiah Todd, who’s been a below average player in the G League got the first start of his NBA career and played 45 minutes. Xavier Cooks, signed a few weeks ago from Australia’s National Basketball League, started and played 39 minutes. Johnny Davis, the first round pick who has struggled in the transition from NCAA to NBA, played 40.

Corey Kispert, the only rotation player who took the floor for Washington, torched the Rockets with 18 points in 12 minutes, and then took a well-deserved rest.

Winning against Miami cost Washington a little over two percentage points in this year’s NBA Draft Lottery. But at least they can’t pick worse than 11th now.

I’ll have many more thoughts and much more analysis about this season in the coming weeks, but for now...this is what I expected. Ted Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard decided to “build around” a “franchise player” who doesn’t actually perform at the level of a true franchise player. That’s not a knock on Bradley Beal, who’s been very good when healthy enough to play, it’s a statement of fact.

That “build around” decision is the original sin that doomed this current Wizards era to sub-.500 records and missing even the play-in. It drives roster decisions, acquisitions and trades that result in virtually everyone playing a role or two above their best level.

They’re about to commit a second sin that could be even more destructive — investing in Kyle Kuzma as part of what they think is their “Big Three.” As I’ve written before (and will write again — probably again and and again and again and...), Kuzma isn’t that good. If you watched the right dozen games, you could reasonably think he was elite. Watch the wrong dozen games, you could reasonably wonder why the Wizards were giving so much rein to a scrub.

The rest of what’s on the roster offers little hope for the team to make a leap forward. The rotation is comprised mostly of established role players whose performance levels are defined and are at an age where decline is more likely than improvement.

The younger guys — like Corey Kispert and Deni Avdija (Daniel Gafford is already at that “improve the margins” point) — are iffy candidates for big leaps. Kispert shoots the hide off the ball...and does very little else. When defenses are paying attention, they’re largely able to make him disappear.

Avdija spent a chunk of the summer working with skills guru Drew Hanlen, and then had his worst shooting season from the field and commit a career high in turnovers per possession. And his defensive impact slipped.

The team’s one real hope is getting lucky in the draft lottery and then lucky with their draft selection — because Sheppard’s draft acumen hasn’t impressed so far. Barring a move up or finding a gem with a later pick, the next few Wizards seasons seem likely to look a lot like this one.

But, that’s wreckage of the future, and we’ll get there in time.

The Run Down

  • Kispert scored 18 points in 12 minutes on 6-8 shooting from the floor and 5-7 from deep. That’s some shooting.
  • Quenton Jackson had a strong game — 19 points, 5 assists and 2 steals, with 9-13 shooting from the floor.
  • {Evergreen bullet point} Jordan Goodwin was solid — 22 points on 14 field goal attempts, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block. I’d like to see him clean up the turnovers — he had 4 against the Rockets.
  • Xavier Cooks was active and effective on the offensive glass. He got offensive boards by worming through traffic to the rim, establishing position, and out-jumping Houston defenders. He was officially credited with 7 offensive rebounds, though I question one — he tipped the ball but not in the direction of the basket.
  • Johnny Davis had 20 field goal attempts — 15 from deep — plus 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals. While I appreciated his willingness to keep shooting even after missing so many, the form on his shot is worrisome — in part because it looks different from shot to shot. Among the flaws: setting his base so he’s pointing diagonally away from the basket, knocking his knees together on the gather, flyaway elbow, following through to the side, push shot from his chin, slinging the ball from his shoulder. I think there’s a decent NBA player in there, but he has to figure out that shot. (Also, I’d like for him to start thinking more about what’s a good shot and what isn’t — and floaters are almost always bad shots.)
  • Todd shot atrociously — just 2-13 from the floor and 1-7 from deep. I actually liked some of what I saw from him, especially when they used him as a high post center. He tallied four assists, and made 3-4 other excellent passes. And he grabbed 12 rebounds. Still, for a guy who’s supposed to be a good shooter, the ball doesn’t go in much.

One last thought on Todd: This was his first start and first time getting extended NBA minutes. For a 21-year old who’s played mostly in the G League, this likely generated big-time nerves. This is one reason to give a kid like him minutes several games ago when it was clear the team wouldn’t make the playoffs.

This game might have looked different if he’d acclimated to the NBA by averaging 15-20 minutes per game over the last 5-6 games of the season. At minimum, it would have given the team a bigger sample size of actual NBA minutes to evaluate him. The course they followed made this last game everything he would do publicly.

Big deal? Unlikely. He’s been with the franchise for two years, and they should know what he can and can’t do well. And while I advocated for starting him and playing him the full 48, it just feels a little unfair to do that only in the final game of the season. As soon as they entered tank mode, he should have been part of the rotation — there was nothing to be gained by continuing to play guys like Delon Wright, Daniel Gafford and Corey Kispert.

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: Rockets at Wizards

EFG 0.528 0.500
OREB 13 13
TOV 15 11
FTM 20 13
PACE 102
ORTG 112 107

Stats & Metrics

Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). 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 112.0. 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 slightly 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,” this stat 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

Corey Kispert 12 26 215 26.5% 6.9 597 29.6 4
Quenton Jackson 32 68 146 17.3% 3.7 208 27.2 -6
Jordan Goodwin 30 63 115 27.9% 0.1 163 19.4 2
Xavier Cooks 38 81 98 14.6% -2.0 107 16.4 3
Kendrick Nunn 22 46 94 27.3% -2.6 110 9.7 -8
Johnny Davis 40 84 81 23.9% -6.9 5 0.8 -13
Anthony Gill 21 44 93 18.8% -1.8 6 0.5 -1
Isaiah Todd 45 96 72 13.6% -5.6 -6 0.0 -6

Stats & Metrics: Rockets

Tari Eason 27 57 124 23.4% 1.2 201 21.8 9
Boban Marjanovic 13 27 131 28.4% 1.2 353 18.0 10
Jalen Green 27 57 137 17.6% 2.2 162 17.7 3
Jabari Smith Jr. 31 66 137 19.6% 2.8 133 16.7 1
Alperen Sengun 24 50 104 30.2% -1.6 144 13.7 -4
Frank Kaminsky 17 36 131 17.8% 1.0 182 12.5 4
TyTy Washington Jr. 21 44 132 10.3% 0.8 141 11.9 2
Josh Christopher 30 64 97 21.0% -2.4 32 3.8 6
Kenyon Martin Jr. 21 45 102 22.4% -1.3 41 3.5 -4
Daishen Nix 18 38 50 11.2% -2.7 -47 0.0 -1
Usman Garuba 12 25 14 17.8% -4.5 -209 0.0 -1