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Big picture check-up: Wizards go from bad to worse

A PPA and analytics update

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards guard Tyus Jones.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Almost halfway through another dismal Washington Wizards season, it’s worth reminding ourselves: the team needed to go through something like this 3-4 years ago. The owner and the front office didn’t have the stomach for it them and instead frittered away value they could have gotten by trading away top players for draft picks in hopes of contending for the playoffs.

When Bradley Beal requested a trade, and Kristaps Porzingis told them his preferred destination, the new front office put an end to the patch-and-spackle era, got what they could, and looked to the future.

Unfortunately, the Ernie Grunfeld and Tommy Sheppard patch-and-spackle was hiding a yawning pit of basketball sins that has a bottom not visible to the naked eye. The checklist includes uninspired and conventional coaching, substandard effort, poor decision-making, selfishness, personal agendas ahead of the team, and plain old lack of talent.

More simply: the Wizards aren’t smart enough, big enough, strong enough, fast enough, skilled enough to win, and they don’t try particularly hard to make up for it. The bright side? They’ll change players and coaches over the next few seasons, maybe change the culture along the way, and maybe-maybe-maybe construct a team that contends for something more than just squeaking into some form of postseason competition.

The dark side? Until that happens, fans and observers are stuck watching crap like the somnambulant loss to the short-handed Detroit Pistons.

Since my last stats update, the Wizards have gone 1-6 and continue to languish 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: 28th (27th)
  • offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions): 25th (25th)
  • defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 30th (29th)

Here’s where they rank in The Four Factors.

Four Factors Offense

  • efg% — 13th (10th)
  • tov% — 16th (16th)
  • oreb% — 30th (30th)
  • ft/fga — 26th (24th)

Four Factors Defense

  • efg% — 28th (28th)
  • tov% — 15th (14th)
  • dreb% — 30th (30th)
  • ft/fga — 12th (12th)

To sum up: the Wizards aren’t doing much of anything well. What they’re doing “best” is mid to the rest of the league. What they do poorly, they do as bad or worse than anyone in the league.

It may be tempting to take the Alfred E. Neuman approach to this season. After all, most of these guys will be gone (including the coaching staff) by the time the team is good again.

I think there’s at least some reason to worry, however. The new front office planned to lose, but they also re-signed Kyle Kuzma, traded for Jordan Poole, and acquired Tyus Jones in an effort to keep from bottoming out. The team has enjoyed good health...and have gotten their teeth kicked in game after game after game.

The move now should be to admit defeat, trade off veterans that other teams want, and stockpile picks for the future. Waiting runs the risk of devaluing players — and that’s a show Wizards fans have seen. It’s not worth repeat viewing.

Last time I wrote one of these, I included some results from my +PTS (plus-points) stat, which compares a player’s offensive efficiency to league average on the exact same number of possessions. Here’s the NBA’s top 10 in total +PTS:

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC — 144.5
  2. Nikola Jokic, DEN — 136.6
  3. Tyrese Haliburton, IND — 112.7
  4. Lauri Markkanen, UTA — +90.4
  5. Joel Embiid, PHI — +81.0
  6. Domantas Sabonis, SAC — +76.0
  7. Jarrett Allen, CLE — +75.0
  8. Giannis Antetokounmpo — +74.1
  9. Mike Conley, MIN — +73.5
  10. Obi Toppin, IND — +67.0

Daniel Gafford is 11th in this stat. Tyus Jones ranks 14th.

And here’s the bottom 10:

  1. Scoot Henderson, POR — -127.0
  2. Paolo Banchero, ORL — -100.5
  3. Cade Cunningham, DET — -84.8
  4. Jordan Poole, WAS — -80.6
  5. Jalen Green, HOU — -78.6
  6. Kyle Kuzma, WAS — -75.7
  7. Victor Wembanyama, SAS — -74.7
  8. Andrew Wiggins, GSW — -67.8
  9. Jordan Clarkson, UTA — -67.3
  10. Shaedon Sharpe, POR — -64.3

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.

PPA & Other Metrics: Wizards through 39 games

WIZARDS POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG LAST PPA
WIZARDS POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG LAST PPA
Tyus Jones G 39 28.0 130 17.2% 14.8 129 131
Daniel Gafford C 36 26.1 138 14.2% 22.8 117 116
Deni Avdija F 39 27.4 116 19.1% 0.7 112 93
Kyle Kuzma F 39 31.1 106 29.7% -9.8 106 87
Delon Wright G 18 17.2 117 14.9% 1.6 82 76
Corey Kispert W 38 21.9 119 18.6% 3.7 66 63
Bilal Coulibaly W 38 26.5 107 13.7% -8.3 61 51
Landry Shamet G 23 16.0 113 18.6% -2.6 40 49
Jordan Poole G 38 29.1 102 25.1% -13.5 43 48
NON-ROTATION POS GMS MPG ORTG USG relORTG PPA PPA
Eugene Omoruyi F 19 5.8 126 27.6% 10.4 117 88
Jared Butler G 17 7.5 131 22.6% 15.7 68 87
Patrick Baldwin Jr. F 11 7.6 113 16.1% -2.3 26 36
Anthony Gill C 24 6.1 106 18.3% -9.5 34 36
Johnny Davis G 19 7.9 97 14.5% -19.1 30 25
Jules Bernard G 3 5.0 37 23.3% -79.1 -67 -109
115.7 20.0% 100 100