Wizards Update: Still Cause for Concern

wittman & gortat

The Wizards are 7-2 to start the season, which ought to be cause for celebration. And, judging by media reports and fan reaction, that’s mostly what’s happening. So what’s wrong with me?

I’m unconvinced that the good record is particularly meaningful. This is not to suggest the Wizards need to apologize for the competition they’ve faced. They don’t make the schedule, and it’s not their fault that the East is possibly weaker than it was last season — when it was aggressively bad. All Washington can do is keep beating whoever’s on the calendar, which is what they’ve been doing so far.

But…I’m still concerned because of the way they’ve been winning. In sports, the best teams typically have the highest scoring differentials. The Wizards this season stand 11th in scoring differential at +2.22, which doesn’t sound bad except that their opponents have a collective scoring differential of -2.52. In other words, the Wizards are winning by less than the rest of the league against their opponents. At least so far.

There’s a strong sentiment that’s something like: Hey, the Wizards are winning games they should win, which is real progress for this franchise. To an extent, I agree. But, what often happens to an average team (and the numbers are suggesting the Wizards are pretty average) is that over time, they’ll lose games they “shouldn’t.” And there are a TON of games left on the schedule.

Some have pointed out that Washington has played so far without Bradley Beal, which is true but perhaps not as meaningful as some think. Beal was pretty average last season, and didn’t project to make a huge leap this year (at least not in my preseason analysis). Much of what I anticipated he’d provide has been produced by Garrett Temple and Rasual Butler thus far.

Perhaps the best reason to think Washington might be able to win 48-50 games this season is the good fortune of playing in a historically weak conference. Just six Eastern Conference teams have a positive scoring differential so far, and the sixth (Brooklyn) is us by one point total so far this season. All that said, in Basketball-Reference’s simple rating system (which combines scoring margin with strength of schedule), the Wizards currently sit 16th overall and 6th in the East. If they want to make some noise this season, they need to play better.

Below is the Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

Marcin Gortat 9 31.3 181 186
John Wall 9 35.6 185 180
Paul Pierce 9 27.4 140 138
Rasual Butler 5 19.2 60 131
Garrett Temple 9 31.1 121 112
Otto Porter 9 24.2 97 106
Nene Hilario 8 28.6 108 102
Kris Humphries 8 13.9 46 87
Andre Miller 9 12.9 72 69
Drew Gooden 6 19.5 42 40
Kevin Seraphin 8 14.5 38 13
DeJuan Blair 3 3.7 -41 -40
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -118

The numbers show Gortat and Wall playing outstanding basketball. Both are performing at an All-Star level. Wall could push his way into All-NBA consideration, if he continues. Gortat’s PPA is currently sixth among centers behind Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins and Robin Lopez.

Biggest improvers this week were Butler and Humprhies. Largest drop was from Seraphin, whose field goal percentage dropped while his rebounding, turnovers and fouling remained poor.

How Does Robert Griffin III Compare to Other Young QBs?

griffin sacked

In what has become an annual event, the Washington Slurs have ended the competitive portion of their season. Sure, there’s another games to go, but with a 3-7 record, there’s no realistic scenario that gets the Slurs into the playoffs. So, the Washington coaching staff and front office will surely go into player evaluation mode to see what they have to build upon.

Their most important evaluation will be at quarterback. Three years ago, the franchise paid a heavy price to acquire Robert Griffin III, and even the most ardent of Griffin supporters would have to agree that major improvement is necessary.

While the knee-jerk reaction from fans (judging by Twitter commentary, office chit-chat, and sports radio callers) is that Washington should move on from Griffin. The verdict: he’s shown he’s not an NFL-caliber QB. He doesn’t read defenses well enough, and when he does try to run, he seems to be missing that world-class sprinter speed he exhibited before the wrecked knee and the dislocated ankle.

To me, what makes the most sense is to ride out the season with Griffin and see if he’s able to learn and improve. While Griffin had a tough game against the pitiful Buccaneers, backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins each performed worse when given extended chances to play. McCoy did have a good game a few weeks ago, but was dismal as the starter in Cleveland. Cousins may have potential, but had a tendency to throw the ball to the other team.

I don’t see a ton of reason to play McCoy or Cousins, barring an injury or a catastrophic meltdown. Griffin looks like a guy who needs experience, which he won’t get by standing on the sideline. If he doesn’t show improvement, I’d lean toward picking up that fifth year option, and then holding an open competition for the QB job.

But, before diving headfirst into the wreckage of the future, it’s worth a look at how Griffin compares to other QBs at a similar point in their respective careers. In his third season, and with 32 starts, Griffin is obviously struggling. My search through the historical record suggests that’s actually pretty normal for young QBs.

To find similar players, I used Pro Football Reference’s database to find QBs with at least 20 starts in their first three seasons (since 1995). Using PFR’s passer rating index (Rate+) (where average = 100 and higher is better), Griffin is tied for 14th with Jay Cutler. A total of 63 QBs made the list. Here’s the top 20:

  1. Kurt Warner — 132
  2. Jeff Garcia — 119
  3. Daunte Culpepper — 118
  4. Carson Palmer — 114
  5. Russell Wilson — 114
  6. Marc Bulger — 113
  7. Brian Griese — 113
  8. Tom Brady — 110
  9. Peyton Manning — 110
  10. Nick Foles — 109
  11. Colin Kaepernick — 109
  12. Mark Brunell — 108
  13. Ben Roethlisberger — 108
  14. Jay Cutler — 106
  15. Robert Griffin III — 106
  16. Joe Flacco — 105
  17. Matt Ryan — 104
  18. Aaron Brooks — 101
  19. Cam Newton — 101
  20. Matthew Stafford — 101

Notable players falling just outside the top 20: Andy Dalton (21st), Donovan McNabb (23), Andrew Luck (26), Michael Vick (32), Drew Brees (38), Eli Manning (44), Vince Young (55), Trent Dilfer (58), and Alex Smith (60).

At least a few of those guys seemed to turn out okay in the long run.

However, recall that Griffin’s rookie season was one of the best ever. His Rate+ was 122, which tied with Roethlisberger for second best all-time behind Dan Marino’s 125. He obviously hasn’t performed to that level the past two seasons. The more “normal” progression is for young QBs to improve as they gain experience. Griffin was great immediately, but then played worse. It begs the question…What happens if we look ONLY at second and third seasons?

To answer that question, I pinged PFR’s database to find QBs who started at least 15 games in their second and third seasons (Griffin has 17 starts so far in his second and third seasons). As a rookie, Griffin’s Rate+ was 122, which is outstanding. For his full career, it’s 106 (a bit above average). But for the past two seasons, it’s 95, which is a little below average.

This suggests Griffin isn’t playing catastrophically bad (which he’s sometimes accused of doing), but it’s also clear he’s nowhere near the offensive force the Slurs need him to be.

Among the 67 QBs with at least 15 starts in their second and third seasons (since 1995), Griffin ranks 39th in Rate+. At the top of the list are a virtual who’s-who of good-to-great QBs. Kurt Warner tops the list. Peyton Manning landed fourth. Russell Wilson — selected 73 picks after Griffin — ranks 11th. Tom Brady is 12th.

Players in the “about the same” grouping with Griffin include names like: David Carr, Shaun King, Gus Frerotte, J.P. Losman, Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Eli Manning,and Patrick Ramsey.

Guys who rated worse, but became good QBs later include Drew Brees (51st), Alex Smith (63rd), Drew Bledsoe (65th) and (kinda-sorta) Trent Dilfer (67th).

Not very encouraging.

Probably the most hopeful scenario for Griffin is the Ben Roethlisberger story, but that narrative is different. Roethlisberger was terrific as a rookie, and followed it up with an outstanding second season. His third season was rough, but he bounced back in year four and has been a solid-to-excellent QB since.

Griffin, of course, had a great rookie season, a MAJOR drop-off in year two, and a modest recovery in year three (so far). Unless Griffin can find a way to improve, he’s far more likely to be someone’s backup in the near future than to be the franchise bedrock the Slurs were hoping he’d be.

Wizards Update: The Worries

wall the leap

The Washington Wizards are off to a 5-2 start, tied with Miami for first place in the NBA’s Southeast Division, and sitting on pretty good odds of getting to 7-2 before they face Dallas at Verizon Center. And yet…in classic Wizards’ follower fashion, I’m actually a little worried.

Yep, it’s good they’re winning. But, they should be winning given the quality of the opponents they’ve faced so far. No, this isn’t one of those “they would be X record if they’d faced teams A, B and C” critiques. I don’t believe a team (or its fans) should ever have to apologize for the schedule, which is something they don’t control.

What has me a little worried is how pedestrian the Wizards have looked so far this season. They’ve outscored their opponents by 1.57 points per game so far this season; the league has outscored their opponents by 1.99 points per game.

I’d be more willing to buy the injury excuse if they weren’t getting career-best play from Garrett Temple standing in for Bradley Beal and Martell Webster.

But, this is this “little worry” because we’re still in the annual performance of Small Sample Size Theater. A study by Kevin Pelton, then-writing for Basketball Prospectus, showed that team-level stats tend to stabilize around the 25th of the season. Other research has shown that per minute stats for individual players begin to have validity as quick as 150 minutes. More is better, though.

Still, the early indications are that, despite the good record early on, the Wizards are an average team again this season. They’ve been good defensively, but a bit below average on offense. The hope is that getting Beal and Webster will help bolster the team offensively when they can return from injury.

Here’s the first Player Production Average (PPA) update of 2014-15. PPA is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

John Wall 7 35.7 185
Marcin Gortat 7 32.7 181
Paul Pierce 7 28.0 140
Garrett Temple 7 33.7 121
Nene Hilario 6 29.2 108
Otto Porter 7 24.7 97
Andre Miller 7 12.9 72
Rasual Butler 3 14.3 60
Kris Humphries 6 9.8 46
Drew Gooden 6 19.5 42
Kevin Seraphin 6 13.8 38
DeJuan Blair 3 3.7 -41
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120

Wall and Gortat should jump out immediately (they are at the top of the chart). Both guys have produced at an All-NBA level in the first seven games. This could be The Leap from Wall that fans have been waiting for. If he keeps it up. Gortat has actually performed at a 180ish PPA for a full season (2011-12).

Pierce has been everything Washington could have hoped he’d be. Over the summer, I went hunting through the stats to find players who’d be most likely to replace what Trevor Ariza had provided. The top name on the list: Paul Pierce. His offense could be more efficient, but he’s producing at about the level Ariza did last season — and his defense has been outstanding.

Nenê appears to have picked up more or less where he did last season, and that’s not such a great thing for the Wizards. He’s still a good defender, but his offensive efficiency seems to be departed.

It’s good to see Porter hovering around average. He’s been an asset off the bench, and seems to be figuring out the NBA game. Porter hasn’t been helped much by his oldster bench mates Miller and Gooden, who have been awful defensively since arriving in Washington.

And check out Porter look-alike Garrett Temple, who has so far played at the level of an almost-average NBA starter. Major kudos to Temple for all the work he’s done on his jumper. It shows in his form — especially in the way he sets his feet for takeoff, freezes the follow-through, and plants the landing.

I know folks are going to wonder about Kevin Seraphin, who rates below replacement level yet again. Seraphin is shooting 63% from the floor, and has had a couple nice games. His offensive efficiency is above average. And yet…he continues to be plagued by the same problems he’s had since his rookie year. Specifically, his rebounding is sub-par, he’s turnover prone, and he fouls too much.

Also worth noting are Kris Humprhies and DeJuan Blair, who were acquired in the offseason to provide frontcourt depth. So far, they’ve been behind Seraphin on the depth chart, which is astonishing. Humphries at least has some excuse — he missed three weeks of preseason with a hand injury. Blair has apparently been healthy, but can’t get on the floor despite dreadful play from Seraphin.

At some point, I gotta believe they’ll end the Seraphin experiment and give playing time to Humphries and/or Blair. Based on what they’ve done on the court so far this season, it’s fair to say that neither has made a case for playing ahead of Seraphin. At least not yet.

Projection: Wizards Will Win 45 and Return to the Playoffs

Improvement from the Washington Wizards youngsters, and an infusion of frontcourt depth will be offset by missed time due to injuries and declines from the team’s older players to keep the team in the middle of the NBA pack for another year. However, the team could be a dangerous playoffs matchup if they’re able to enter the postseason healthy.

Below, I’m offering up projections done a couple different ways. The first is built on the similarity scores I’ve posted after the past week. This approach finds players in NBA history with similar production at a similar age, and then looks at what they did in subsequent seasons. Those findings are then applied to the Wizards roster and combined with a playing time estimate for each player.

For this estimate (and the other one, which I’ll get to later in this post), I’ve used my overall metric Player Production Average (PPA), which is calibrated to explain individual player contributions to winning and losing. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the court. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better, and 45 = replacement level.

Statistical Doppelganger Projection

PG John Wall 2812 139 156 9.0
C Marcin Gortat 2464 154 132 6.7
SG Bradley Beal 2325 96 112 6.1
SF Paul Pierce 1800 139 108 4.0
SF Otto Porter 1800 15 85 3.2
PF Kris Humprhies 1608 132 133 4.4
F/C DeJuan Blair 1450 97 97 2.9
PF Nenê 1430 102 90 2.7
PG Andre Miller 1165 86 65 1.6
G/F Glen Rice Jr. 1029 20 78 1.2
F/C Drew Gooden 1002 106 100 2.1
G/F Martell Webster 1000 77 74 1.5
POS TEAM 19885 107 110 45.4

MIN = projected TOTAL minutes for the upcoming season

Projected kWins = how many wins that player will contribute based on his projected PPA and projected total minutes.

Over the past few seasons, the Wizards’ front office has converted the team from being one of the league’s youngest to being one of the league’s oldest. Gortat, Nenê, Pierce, Gooden and Miller all figure to play prominent roles this season, and all are past 30. Well past 30 for Pierce and Miller.

Projections for Porter and Rice were difficult because they played so little last season. For both, I elected to throw out their rookie numbers and rely instead on projections based on the rookie seasons of the players they were most like from college. Using the rookie numbers would lower Porter’s projected PPA to 66 and Rice’s to 30. That would drop Washington’s projected win total 43.8.

Note that I didn’t include Kevin Seraphin, Garrett Temple or Rasual Butler in the above table. They’ll get some minutes along the way, but — barring several catastrophic injuries — none should see enough court time to have a major effect on the team’s fortunes. For those interested, this is what I project for the end-of-the-bench trio:

  • Garrett Temple: 33
  • Kevin Seraphin: 49
  • Rasual Butler: 55

I can hear the cockeyed optimists already: “Why do you just assume the old guys will get worse? What if they maintain for a year?” Quick answer (and one I’ve given before): athletes past 30 tend to two things — get hurt and get worse.

But, let’s say the “Ancients” are able to do this season what they did last year. In that event, Washington’s projected win total would climb to 48.5. Which would be hella fun.

On the other hand, there are scenarios where there are more injuries than expected, younger players don’t make anticipated improvements and/or older players decline more steeply. That gives a potential “bottom” of 40.7 wins.

Simple Rating System Projection

PG John Wall 2812 139 143 8.3
C Marcin Gortat 2464 154 144 7.3
SG Bradley Beal 2325 96 111 5.3
SF Paul Pierce 1800 139 117 4.3
SF Otto Porter 1800 15 63 2.3
PF Kris Humphries 1608 132 133 4.4
F/C DeJuan Blair 1450 97 135 4.0
PF Nene Hilario 1430 102 102 3.0
PG Andre Miller 1165 86 108 2.6
G/F Glen Rice 1029 20 82 1.7
F/C Drew Gooden 1002 106 118 2.4
G/F Martell Webster 1000 77 102 2.1
G/F Rasual Butler 0 63 81 0.0
C Kevin Seraphin 0 35 53 0.0
G Garrett Temple 0 24 54 0.0
POS TEAM 19885 107 117 47.9

The guys over at Basketball-Reference have up Simple Rating System projected stats for everyone who played in the NBA last season. Go here for an explanation. They don’t estimate minutes, which I can understand because it’s frigging hard to do.

The SRS approach is more optimistic than the one I used — at least at the bottom line. SRS generally predicts less of a decline for older players, but also not as much improvement from the younger ones. The SRS approach would suggest the Wizards will win 48 games this season — with a low end prediction of 43 and a high of 52.

Here’s a table comparing results from the two approaches:

PG John Wall 156 143 9.0 8.3
C Marcin Gortat 132 144 6.7 7.3
SG Bradley Beal 112 111 6.1 5.3
SF Paul Pierce 108 117 4.0 4.3
SF Otto Porter 85 63 3.2 2.3
PF Kris Humprhies 133 133 4.4 4.4
F/C DeJuan Blair 97 135 2.9 4.0
PF Nenê 90 102 2.7 3.0
PG Andre Miller 65 108 1.6 2.6
G/F Glen Rice Jr. 78 82 1.2 1.7
F/C Drew Gooden 100 118 2.1 2.4
G/F Martell Webster 74 102 1.5 2.1
G/F Rasual Butler 55 81 0.0 0.0
C Kevin Seraphin 49 53 0.0 0.0
G Garrett Temple 33 54 0.0 0.0

DOPP PPA = projected PPA using the Statistical Doppelganger approach

SRS PPA = projected PPA using the Simple Rating System numbers published by Basketball-Reference

DOPP kWINS = projected individual wins contributed using the Statistical Doppelganger approach

SRS kWINS = projected individual wins contributed using the Simple Rating System numbers published by Basketball-Reference

Final Word

In the end, I’m using my own projection system. Last year, I projected the Wizards would win 43 — they won 44, albeit not exactly in ways that I expected. I’ve refined my projection system (I hope), although I’m hoping the team outperforms my prediction by a wide margin.

While still lacking an elite producer, the Wizards could be a tough out in the playoffs when rotations shorten and there’s more rest between games (especially in the first round). If they can get there healthy, of course.

I’m projecting the Wizards will win between 41 and 48 games this season. Final projection: 45 wins and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Wizards Doppelgangers: Bump and Bruise

NBA: Preseason-Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls

So far, I’ve used my Statistical Doppelganger Machine to find “most similar” players in NBA history for the following:

Next through the machine: Bump (Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and Kevin Seraphin), and Bruise (Martell Webster).

For those interested, I discuss the method a bit in the first post. Basically, the Machine looks for most similar production at a similar age.

First up: Humphries.

Kris Humphries PF 2013-14 28 BOS 100 132 146
Chris Wilcox PF 2010-11 28 DET 90 121 165
Lawrence Funderburke PF 1998-99 28 SAC 89 120 120
Mark Strickland F/C 1997-98 27 MIA 89 111 111
Tom Owens PF/C 1977-78 28 POR 89 126 149
Taj Gibson PF 2011-12 26 CHI 89 105 105
Antonio McDyess PF 2006-07 32 DET 88 115 175
Marcus Camby C 2002-03 28 DEN 88 131 212
Will Perdue C 1994-95 29 CHI 88 140 140
Loy Vaught PF 1992-93 24 LAC 87 99 131
Clarence Weatherspoon PF 1999-00 29 MIA 87 108 168

What Humphries did last season generates a nice list of solidly productive role playing bigs, which is about what I’d have expected. The group’s average peak performance is 147 — for Humprhies it’s 146. Average peak age for this group was 26.5 — Humprhies appears to have peaked at 25. I say “appears” because Humphries, of course is still going.

In the seasons after those shown here, the similars were a mixed bag of ups and downs. As a group, they were steady. This suggests that Humphries may be in the “plateau” portion of his career production arc. (That arc typically follows a trendline of improving production early in a player’s career to a peak between ages 25 and 28, a plateau until the early 30s, and then decline.

DeJuan Blair PF 2013-14 24 DAL 100 97 145
Dennis Rodman* F 1986-87 25 DET 90 84 180
Craig Smith PF 2006-07 23 MIN 90 87 91
Matt Geiger F/C 1993-94 24 MIA 89 87 153
Gary Trent PF 2002-03 28 MIN 88 103 133
Channing Frye PF 2007-08 24 POR 88 77 118
Jerome Whitehead C 1982-83 26 SDC 88 104 128
Alan Henderson PF 1996-97 24 ATL 88 67 116
Robert Traylor C 2003-04 26 NOH 88 79 143
Greg Ballard SF 1978-79 24 WSB 88 114 157
Ivan Johnson PF 2011-12 27 ATL 88 73 83

I very much like seeing Dennis Rodman’s name on the list, although this is the pre-RODMAN Rodman. This was actually Rodman’s rookie season, and while he rebounded well, he wasn’t yet the outlandish board man he’d later become. This Rodman was even willing to shoot the ball now and then — he used roughly 19% of his team’s possessions while on the floor (average is 20%).

The rest is kind of an odd group at first glance. There are physical, burly types like Smith, Trent, Traylor and Johnson, and more finesse types Frye, Henderson and Geiger.

You may be wondering what Frye is doing on this list at all. But, this isn’t the stretch-4 Frye, this is the PF/C type in his second to last year in Portland. He had just 10 three-point attempts that season with the Blazers. Two years later, he’d hoist 392 for the Suns.

The average peak PPA for this group was 132 at age 25.6. Blair’s best season was a 145 as a rookie, but he’s just 25 years old this season. This group of similars was a mix of improvement and decline in the year following the one shown.

Kevin Seraphin C 2013-14 24 WAS 100 35 95
Stanislav Medvedenko PF 2002-03 23 LAL 90 17 84
Mark Alarie PF 1987-88 24 WSB 88 42 77
Keith Lee F/C 1986-87 24 CLE 87 55 77
Bill Martin SF 1985-86 23 IND 86 34 34
Greg Foster F/C 1990-91 22 WSB 86 36 42
Malik Allen PF 2006-07 28 CHI 86 35 76
Channing Frye PF 2008-09 25 POR 86 27 118
Melvin Turpin C 1986-87 26 CLE 86 50 130
Josh Powell PF 2008-09 26 LAL 86 29 61
Brad Lohaus F/C 1987-88 23 BOS 85 49 93

I know there’s a lot of hope that Seraphin may finally have a breakout season. Even before looking at his comps, I’d have recommended betting against that “breakout.” This list only solidifies that recommendation.

To me, Seraphin is a reflection of how brutal the NBA can be. He’s one of the better basketball players in the world — top 600, easy. Maybe top 500. But, he hasn’t been good enough to be a bona fide NBA player.

No matter what slice of time I examine, I keep finding the same problems with Seraphin’s play: too many turnovers, too few rebounds, rampant fouling. That was true, even during his “good” stretch a few years ago when he performed at about the level of an average NBA player. Since then, he’s been awful. The league’s least productive center two years ago. The second least productive center last season.

This group of similars can be characterized as peaking early (age 24.8) and low (average peak PPA: 81). The best of the group was Mel Turpin. That Frye season was his last in Portland, and the worst of his career.

The good news is that most of these players improved the season following the one that appears on the list. The bad news: the average improvement wasn’t much.

Martell Webster SF 2013-14 27 WAS 100 77 114
Keith Bogans SG 2007-08 27 ORL 95 81 89
Morris Peterson SF 2003-04 26 TOR 90 86 111
Richard Jefferson SF 2011-12 31 SAS/GSW 90 93 162
Rasual Butler G/F 2006-07 27 NOK 90 61 89
Pat Garrity SF 2002-03 26 ORL 89 79 89
Matt Carroll SF 2007-08 27 CHA 89 59 105
Brandon Rush SG 2010-11 25 IND 89 66 106
Quentin Richardson SG 2008-09 28 NYK 89 82 123
Gordan Giricek SF 2003-04 26 ORL 88 71 99
Ryan Gomes SF 2009-10 27 MIN 88 83 119

Webster will be out for a significant chunk of the season after back surgery during the summer. His list of similars is an unsurprising mix of role-playing G/F types. This group’s average peak was at age 26.7 — Webster is 28 and appears to have peaked at 26 (his first year in DC). The average peak PPA was 110 — barring a miraculous recovery, Webster’s was 114.

The guys on this list tended to decline a bit the following season, though not much. Assuming Webster gets healthy, it’s reasonable to expect him to play about as well as he did last season.

Just for those who might be interested, here are the “similars” for Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker, the team’s significant free agent losses:

Trevor Ariza SF 2013-14 28 WAS 100 145 145
Nick Anderson SG 1995-96 28 ORL 93 151 164
Bryon Russell SF 1998-99 28 UTA 88 128 128
Bryon Russell SF 1999-00 29 UTA 88 127 140
Hersey Hawkins G/F 1995-96 29 SEA 88 148 173
Kerry Kittles SF 2003-04 29 NJN 88 136 179
Hersey Hawkins SG 1994-95 28 CHH 88 148 173
Brent Barry SG 1999-00 28 SEA 87 132 183
Dan Majerle SG 1992-93 27 PHO 87 133 135
Wesley Person SG 1997-98 26 CLE 87 150 150
Rashard Lewis PF 2007-08 28 ORL 87 138 165
Trevor Booker PF 2013-14 26 WAS 100 123 123
Gustavo Ayon PF 2011-12 26 NOH 90 134 134
Luc Mbah a Moute PF 2011-12 25 MIL 90 106 106
Chucky Brown PF 1995-96 27 HOU 90 117 117
Kent Benson C 1983-84 29 DET 89 119 137
Ben Poquette PF 1981-82 26 UTA 89 100 106
Rasho Nesterovic C 2006-07 30 TOR 89 120 140
Tyrone Corbin SF 1988-89 26 PHO 89 110 126
Nenad Krstic C 2009-10 26 OKC 89 107 118
Jason Thompson PF 2011-12 25 SAC 89 130 130
Olden Polynice C 1991-92 27 LAC 89 114 127

And finally, here’s the “All-Sims” team, so to speak. The method here is to take the guy from the top of each player’s list:

POS Wizards Similars
PG John Wall Kemba Walker
SG Bradley Beal Brandon Jennings
SF Paul Pierce Toni Kukoc
PF Nenê Danny Manning
C Marcin Gortat Bill Laimbeer
PG Andre Miller Rod Strickland
SG Martell Webster Keith Bogans
SF Otto Porter Lance Stephenson
PF Kris Humphries Chris Wilcox
C DeJuan Blair Dennis Rodman
G/F Glen Rice Jr. Scott Padgett
G/F Rasual Butler Steve Kerr
C Kevin Seraphin Stanislav Medvedenko
SF Trevor Ariza Nick Anderson
PF Trevor Booker Gustavo Ayon

Wizards Doppelgangers: The Enigmas

otto porter

In case you missed them, I’ve done two installments using my Statistical Doppelganger Machine to look at the player seasons most similar to Wizards (similar production at similar age):

Here’s a look at low-minute Wizards for whom finding comps was challenging because of their scant playing time: Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr., and Garrett Temple.

Let’s start with the guy likely to play the biggest role for the team this season: Porter.

Otto Porter SF 2013-14 20 WAS 100 15 15
Lance Stephenson SG 2011-12 21 IND 87 14 116
Cory Joseph SF 2011-12 20 SAS 86 18 94
Jumaine Jones SF 2003-04 24 BOS 86 24 98
Quincy Pondexter SF 2010-11 22 NOH 86 38 67
Shawne Williams SF 2006-07 20 IND 85 39 53
Kareem Rush SG 2002-03 22 LAL 85 3 53
Brandon Bass PF 2005-06 20 NOK 85 37 116
Kevin Martin SG 2004-05 21 SAC 84 32 162
Kedrick Brown SF 2002-03 21 BOS 84 44 97
Gerald Henderson SG 2009-10 22 CHA 84 36 99

Wizards fans know Porter had what amounts to a lost rookie season. He missed training camp with a hip injury, barely played, and was terrible when he did play. When I post my projections Wednesday, I’ll go through a couple different ways I dealt with predicting his performance, but the exercise today is NBA similars.

The list of similars was something of a pleasant surprise. It’s basically a list of players who had a disastrously bad season and then (for the most part) went on to become contributors. That said, “contributors” is a broad term. As a group, Porter’s similars tended to peak young (average age 23.4) and low (average peak PPA: 88). But, they all improved the following season — generally by a bunch.

And, the list includes Kevin Martin, who’s been a good player for nearly a decade, and Lance Stephenson who became an above average performer this season — and is likely to continue improving.

Glen Rice Jr. SG 2013-14 23 WAS 100 20 20
Scott Padgett PF 1999-00 23 UTA 90 20 96
Will Barton G/F 2012-13 22 POR 87 28 60
Quincy Douby SF 2006-07 22 SAC 86 34 34
Orlando Johnson SG 2012-13 23 IND 85 60 60
Reggie Jackson G 2011-12 21 OKC 84 32 101
Bostjan Nachbar SF 2003-04 23 HOU 84 24 84
Ronnie Price G 2006-07 23 SAC 84 40 54
Thabo Sefolosha SG 2006-07 22 CHI 84 31 129
Nolan Smith G 2011-12 23 POR 84 10 10
Kevin Brooks SF 1992-93 23 DEN 84 18 34

While Porter’s comps were somewhat comforting, it’s difficult to say the same about Rice’s. Like Porter’s list, Rice’s similars tended to peak early (average age: 24.0), but even lower (average peak PPA: 62). But, Will Barton and Reggie Jackson are both still works in progress. And, a few more had a productive season or two in which they helped their team, and one (Sefolosha) became a decent role-playing starter.

All that said, Rice played just 109 total minutes last season. The players who performed like him (similar age, similar production) isn’t a list all-time greats, but that shouldn’t be expected from a second round pick. There’s little reason to think Rice will be unable to work himself into being a contributor.

Garrett Temple G 2013-14 27 WAS 100 24 60
Rick Carlisle G 1985-86 26 BOS 89 28 28
Pace Mannion SF 1987-88 27 MIL 88 30 61
Pace Mannion SF 1983-84 23 GSW 88 32 61
David Wingate SG 1994-95 31 CHH 88 32 89
Dudley Bradley SG 1985-86 28 WSB 86 60 102
Jason Hart PG 2005-06 27 SAC 86 13 119
Ronnie Price PG 2012-13 29 POR 86 14 54
Randy Brown PG 1995-96 27 CHI 86 50 86
Royal Ivey PG 2006-07 25 ATL 86 38 38
Reece Gaines PG 2003-04 23 ORL 85 11 20

Temple may have been the most difficult player to project because so many of the guys who produced like he did last season didn’t have a follow-up year. In other words, the league took a collective look at players like Temple, and decided to sign Someone Else.

Players like Temple peaked low (average peak PPA: 65) and fairly young (25.5). Two of the 10 most similar got significantly worse the following season, four got better, and four stayed about the same. The list certainly doesn’t offer much hope for improvement.

Later today: Bump and Bruise.

Wizards Doppelgangers: The Ancients

nene fights

In the classic mode of a franchise finished with rebuilding, and ready to repeat their overwhelming success of the previous season, the Washington Wizards went out this offseason and got older. Yes, I’m sure they’d much prefer if we all thought of it as adding “veterans,” and that’s a fine way of looking at it, if you like.

Understand, I’m not against “veterans,” I’m just aware of the reality that athletes over 30 years old typically do two things: get hurt and get worse. Hopefully, Father Time will give the Wizards a reprieve until the summer of 2016 when Kevin Durant is a free agent.

It could happen.

Last week, I ran the Wizards young backcourt (John Wall and Bradley Beal) through my statistical doppelganger machine. Today, let’s look at the oldsters Washington has added in recent years: Nenê, Marcin Gortat, Paul Pierce, Andre Miller, Drew Gooden and Rasual Butler. (Please take a look back at that link above for notes about the method.)

Nenê PF 2013-14 31 WAS 100 102 176
Danny Manning PF 1996-97 30 PHO 90 107 157
Clifford Robinson PF 1997-98 31 PHO 90 131 143
Ruben Patterson SF 2006-07 31 MIL 89 126 165
Mickey Johnson PF 1983-84 31 GSW 88 83 145
Elton Brand PF 2009-10 30 PHI 87 100 224
Christian Laettner PF 1997-98 28 ATL 87 127 146
Jermaine O’Neal C 2008-09 30 TOR/MIA 87 93 166
Matt Harpring SF 2005-06 29 UTA 87 105 161
Frank Brickowski C 1992-93 33 MIL 87 117 123
Antoine Carr PF 1992-93 31 SAS 87 106 109

The good news is that these doppelgangers were pretty good players. Nenê had the second highest peak PPA behind Elton Brand’s 224. He also peaked about a year later than the average for this group. Frank Brickowski and Clifford Robinson each peaked past 30.

But, Nenê’s production has slipped the past couple years, as has his availability, and there isn’t much reason to think he’ll regain something close to that peak performance. His comps offer an ideal optimist vs. pessimist test: five of his ten most similar players performed better the following season, give performed worse.

Marcin Gortat C 2013-14 29 WAS 100 154 186
Bill Laimbeer C 1986-87 29 DET 93 154 175
Mike Gminski C 1989-90 30 PHI 90 129 170
Bill Laimbeer C 1988-89 31 DET 90 144 175
Dave Robisch C 1979-80 30 CLE 90 132 132
P.J. Brown PF 1998-99 29 MIA 89 127 150
Bill Laimbeer C 1985-86 28 DET 89 156 175
Billy Paultz C 1977-78 29 SAS 89 164 164
Tom Gugliotta PF 1999-00 30 PHO 89 147 176
Maurice Lucas PF 1981-82 29 NYK 89 149 149
Luis Scola PF 2008-09 28 HOU 88 143 143

Obviously, Gortat isn’t really an “ancient.” He’s just 30 years old, he’s played relatively few minutes for a player his age, and he’s a fitness fanatic. But, eight of the ten most similar seasons to the one Gortat posted last year were followed by a less productive season.

If I throw out the two least similar seasons from Laimbeer, each of the 10 seasons most similar to Gortat last season were followed by a season that was less productive. Bright side here: it’s not like these comps became catastrophic failures. In general, they remained productive…just not quite as good.

Paul Pierce SF 2013-14 36 BRK 100 131 173
Toni Kukoc PF 2002-03 34 MIL 85 113 164
Vince Carter SF 2012-13 36 DAL 84 107 200
Chris Mullin* SF 1997-98 34 IND 84 156 182
Sam Perkins PF 1996-97 35 SEA 84 119 147
Bob Lanier* C 1983-84 35 MIL 83 152 138
Chris Mullin* SF 1998-99 35 IND 83 168 182
Sam Perkins PF 1994-95 33 SEA 83 132 147
Sam Perkins PF 1995-96 34 SEA 82 114 147
Chucky Atkins PG 2006-07 32 MEM 82 111 111
Terry Porter PG 1998-99 35 MIA 82 114 211

Gotta say that Pierce’s set of doppelgangers may be the weirdest assemblage of players I’ve gotten from The Machine. I think the challenge here is that not very many players even last to age 36 (plus), so the pool is shallow. Note that Pierce’s most similar player has a Sim Score lower than the 10th most similar for Wall, Beal, Nenê and Gortat. In other words, the list above are kinda similar, but not super close.

Overall, this is a terrific group of players that tended to peak young (around age 25-26 — Pierce peaked at 24), but had long-lasting careers. As would be expected for a group of mid-30s athletes, most declined the following season. However, most remained decent players for another year or two.

Andre Miller SG 2013-14 37 TOT 100 89 172
Rod Strickland PG 2003-04 37 ORL/TOR 90 81 176
Terry Porter SF 2001-02 38 SAS 88 87 211
Mark Jackson PG 2002-03 37 UTA 86 66 181
Don Buse PG 1983-84 33 KCK 86 96 148
Toni Kukoc SF 2004-05 36 MIL 85 84 164
Muggsy Bogues PG 1998-99 34 GSW 85 111 153
Maurice Cheeks PG 1992-93 36 NJN 85 89 180
Rod Strickland PG 2002-03 36 MIN 85 95 176
Gary Grant PG 1997-98 32 POR 84 108 115
Rickey Green PG 1991-92 37 BOS 84 57 157

Miller’s comps are an interesting assemblage of good-to-great players. I was surprised to see Muggsy Bogues make the list, primarily because I’d forgotten the 5-3 Bogues played so many seasons. Just about everyone on this list had a good career, but…as should be expected for a group this old — all 10 either declined or were out of the league completely the following season.

Drew Gooden C 2013-14 32 WAS 100 106 169
Nazr Mohammed C 2010-11 33 CHA/OKC 86 98 150
Chris Wilcox PF 2010-11 28 DET 86 121 165
Antonio McDyess PF 2006-07 32 DET 86 115 175
Joe Smith PF 2005-06 30 MIL 85 89 143
Nazr Mohammed C 2009-10 32 CHA 85 150 150
Antonio McDyess PF 2005-06 31 DET 85 91 175
Jermaine O’Neal C 2012-13 34 PHO 83 83 166
Chris Kaman C 2012-13 30 DAL 83 101 130
Frank Brickowski PF 1991-92 32 MIL 83 107 123
Chris Gatling PF 1995-96 28 GSW 83 82 131

For Gooden, I wonder whether these comps are particularly meaningful given that he was signed late in the season and played in fairly few games. This group basically split between those who declined the following season and those who got better. The net effect is that the group average was “about the same.” So, it could be a case of lather-rinse-repeat with Gooden this season — albeit with more total minutes.

Rasual Butler SG 2013-14 34 IND 100 63 89
Steve Kerr PG 1999-00 34 SAS 92 59 124
Jalen Rose SF 2006-07 34 PHO 89 72 117
Matt Bullard PF 1998-99 31 HOU 87 49 98
Jaren Jackson SG 2000-01 33 SAS 87 44 90
Anthony Bowie SG 1997-98 34 NYK 86 72 97
Eric Piatkowski SG 2004-05 34 CHI 86 79 121
Rashard Lewis PF 2012-13 33 MIA 85 60 165
Steve Kerr PG 2001-02 36 POR 85 64 124
Eric Piatkowski SF 2007-08 37 PHO 84 34 121
Eric Piatkowski SG 2005-06 35 CHI 84 16 121

Last up for today: the 15th man, Rasual Butler. You’ll notice this list is heavy on Eric Piatkowski, which isn’t exactly a great thing. Piatkowski hung around into his late 30s for some reason I don’t remember. Perhaps he had a contract that was being passed around. Perhaps he’s a really nice guy. There wasn’t much reason to keep him because of his on-court performance.

Otherwise, it’s mostly swingmen who peaked at the level of an average starter (Rashard Lewis excepted) and then declined. In limited minutes, Butler will probably play a little above replacement level this season. I’d have preferred this roster spot went to someone younger and with potential to improve.

Tomorrow: the rest of the roster.