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How do the Wizards young players compare to their NBA counterparts?

Let’s take a deeper dive!

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards
Daniel Gafford was the only player 24 or under who was above average last season for the Washington Wizards.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards have a new management group and championship aspirations, which sounds hopeful and exciting. As they launch their roster (pick your term) teardown, overhaul, renovation, renewal, the focus will logically be on young players and player development.

At issue is not whether Washington’s young holdovers are likeable or fan favorites or seem talented. The question — as it would be in any competitive environment — is how they compare to their counterparts around the league.

Here’s a brief tour of different ways I compared Wizards youth to that of other teams. For this exercise, I drew the line at players entering their age 25 season in 2023-24 (average age last season was 26.3). I’m not forecasting anything in this article — instead I’m looking at last season’s production. There’s no sense in making guesses about players improving or getting worse since any guess applied to the Wizards would have to apply in equal measure to young players from every other team.

First up: total production using estimated wins. Immediately there’s an oddity — the Los Angeles Clippers had zero players who met the criteria of being age 24 or younger and playing at least 500 minutes. Ivica Zubac was 25. Terance Mann, the “young” player they keep refusing to trade for yet another aging star, was 26.

Anyway, in this measure, the Wizards ranked 18th with an estimated 12.2 wins coming from players 24 and under. Their leaders were Daniel Gafford: 3.5, Corey Kispert: 3.4, and Deni Avdija: 2.6.

Jordan Poole produced an estimated 4.0 wins for the Golden State Warriors last season. If we add those wins — and subtract the wins generated by the departed Rui Hachimura and Jordan Goodwin — the Wizards would net another 1.3 wins. That would put them at 13.5 e-wins from youngsters, moving them to a tie for 14th with the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s still a bit below average, which was 14.7 last season (if we include the Clippers). In other words, teams on average got about 14.7 wins from players 24 years old or younger. Washington got 12.2.

Here’s the full list of teams and e-wins from players 24 and under last season:

  1. OKC 34.8
  2. MEM 30.0
  3. CLE 27.4
  4. ORL 27.1
  5. NYK 26.7
  6. IND 20.3
  7. HOU 18.8
  8. NOP 17.9
  9. SAC 17.3
  10. ATL 16.7
  11. BOS 16.1
  12. MIN 15.8
  13. TOR 13.9
  14. PHI 13.5
  15. UTA 13.2
  16. LAL 13.1
  17. DAL 12.6
  18. WAS 12.2
  19. SAS 11.3
  20. DET 11.0
  21. DEN 10.5
  22. BRK 9.7
  23. CHO 9.5
  24. POR 9.3
  25. CHI 9.1
  26. PHO 8.5
  27. GSW 7.3
  28. MIA 6.0
  29. MIL 1.6
  30. LAC 0.0

Next up: counting. More specifically, I’m looking at how many players 24 and under rated average or better in my PPA metric last season. (PPA is my overall per possession production metric. It’s pace neutral and accounts for defense. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.)

For the Wizards, only Gafford cracked average. Kispert was close with a 95. Two teams had five (Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder). The Orlando Magic had four, though they parted ways with Bol Bol. Cole Anthony was close (PPA 92 last season).

Seven teams had three — Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons (though they traded Saddiq Bey), Houston Rockets (though they traded Kenyon Martin Jr.), Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs.

Another seven teams had two. The New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings were close to having three — Quentin Grimes had a 98 PPA for New York, and Malik Monk had a 94 for the Kings.

In the category of premium youth (players with a 150 PPA or better — typically the minimum production rate of an All-Star), the Memphis Grizzlies are the clear leader. They had three (Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane). No other team had more than one.

The other teams:

  • BOS — Jayson Tatum
  • BRK — Nic Claxton
  • CLE — Jarrett Allen
  • DAL — Luka Doncic
  • DEN — Michael Porter Jr.
  • IND — Tyrese Haliburton
  • NOP — Zion Williamson
  • NYK — Mitchell Robinson
  • OKC — Shai Gilgeous Alexander
  • UTA — Walker Kessler

Gafford was closest for the Wizards at 130. To save some time, Jordan Poole rated below average last season.

Just six 24-and-under players reached the super-premium production level of an All-NBA or MVP candidate (a 175+ PPA). In order of total production:

  1. Jayson Tatum, BOS
  2. Luka Doncic, DAL
  3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC
  4. Jaren Jackson Jr., MEM
  5. Tyrese Haliburton, IND
  6. Zion Williamson, NOP

Only the top three would qualify for post-season awards based on the league’s new 65 games minimum criterion. Jackson played 63 games. Haliburton got 56, and Williamson just 29.

Washington isn’t bereft of young players, but Tommy Sheppard’s repeated draft whiffs have them starting from a step or two behind. To build a sustainable contender, the Wizards will need to stock up on youngsters with talent and invest in their development — starting with Bilal Coulibaly.