Wizards Update: Just the Stats

wall3

Tight schedule this week, so not much commentary. A few brief thoughts:

  • Congratulations to John Wall for receiving a well-deserved spot in his second All-Star game. Many more to come for the Wizards PG.
  • Hearkening back to last week’s piece, in which I compared this year’s Wizards to teams in NBA history with a similar SRS (stands for Simple Rating System — it’s a measure of team strength that combines scoring margin with strength of schedule), there’s this: In NBA history (including this year to-date), 247 teams have had a winning percentage of 65% or better. (The Wizards are currently at .674.) Where does Washington’s squad this year stand on that list in SRS? 247th.
  • During a game this week, CSN threw onto the screen one of its pointless, irrelevant and cherrypicked “stats.” In this case, it was something about Kevin Seraphin being among the league leaders in 4th quarter FGs. The information was correct, but without meaning. Seraphin is among the league leaders in 4th quarter minutes played, 4th quarter turnovers and 4th quarter fouls. He’s played more than twice as many 4th quarter minutes as Marcin Gortat. When I checked, he had one fewer 4th quarter rebounds than Damian Lillard. Seraphin’s 4th quarter PPA: an anemic 59. And oh yeah, the Wizards have been outscored by 53 points (9.0 points per 48 minutes) during Seraphin’s time on the floor during the 4th quarter.

Weekly Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (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.

PLAYER GMS MPG 11/10 11/18 11/24 12/3 12/8 12/17 12/23 12/29 1/6 1/14 PPA
John Wall 43 35.5 185 180 180 168 167 175 171 171 167 172 167
Marcin Gortat 43 29.6 181 186 170 175 179 178 178 173 158 157 160
Paul Pierce 41 26.7 140 138 165 134 134 154 142 143 148 144 141
Nene Hilario 36 24.8 108 102 68 67 83 94 96 97 101 112 124
Bradley Beal 34 33.4 122 63 69 94 90 98 102 106 108
Kris Humphries 42 21.3 46 87 90 82 109 100 88 109 103 98 101
Rasual Butler 39 22.5 60 131 116 128 155 140 134 123 99 101 89
Andre Miller 43 12.6 72 69 92 103 102 101 89 85 97 94 84
Otto Porter 39 18.0 97 106 101 95 84 81 84 82 85 82 78
Garrett Temple 32 11.9 121 112 96 100 98 91 90 75 73 68 78
Kevin Seraphin 42 15.6 38 13 17 12 28 34 45 36 35 44 48
Drew Gooden 22 11.9 42 40 59 78 64 47 47 44 32 22 23
DeJuan Blair 14 4.6 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46 -34 2 16 19
Martell Webster 8 9.8 -150 -44 -67
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111 -111 -110 -110 -110

Largely a status quo update. Wall and Pierce were down a little, but Gortat, Nenê and Beal were up. Rasual Butler and Andre Miller had rough weeks. Seraphin’s production rate crept past replacement level.

Wizards Update: Just How Good Are They?

wall calls play

The Wizards continue to rack up wins — even over the last 10 games, which has been the team’s most challenging stretch of the year. Last night, they did something that has me typing words that would have been difficult to imagine typing just last season: Fueled by a strong performance from Kevin Seraphin, Washington blew open a close contest late to secure a comfortable win against the San Antonio Spurs.

It was the team’s first win over the Spurs since 2005. The team’s record now sits at 26-12, good for second in their division and in the conference. Their .684 winning percentage is that of a 56-win team over an 82-game schedule — rarefied air for this franchise.

But…are they really that good? Basketball analytics has shown that scoring differential is a better predictor of team strength than its record. Luck can push a team’s record up or down a few wins, but how much it outscores its opponents offers a truer measure of relative strength.

So far this season, Washington’s scoring differential is +2.13, a mark that would suggest a 47-win team. Add in their weak schedule (fifth easiest in the league), and their differential falls to +1.49, which would suggest a 45-win team.

That +1.49 is Basketball-Reference’s Simple Rating System, a strength rating that combines scoring differential with strength of schedule. Of teams in NBA history with a similar SRS (between +1.0 and +2.0), the Wizards have the best winning percentage. They’re at .684 so far. Next closest is the 1961-62 Lakers at .675.

Of the 115 teams in that similar SRS grouping, the average winning percentage is .554 — so, 45 wins.

Narrow the focus to an SRS between +1.4 and +1.6, and the field is cut to 17 teams. And the winning percentage drops to .541 — about 44 wins.

But, here’s where that strength of schedule thing works in Washington’s favor. While the Wizards aren’t overwhelmingly strong, the East remains historically weak. Their schedule the rest of the way is about 0.7 points per game weaker than average — roughly the quality of a 39-win team the rest of the way. Because of that, Washington projects to finish with 51-53 wins, even without improving their scoring differential.

Weekly Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (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.

PLAYER GMS MPG 11/10 11/18 11/24 12/3 12/8 12/17 12/23 12/29 1/6 PPA
John Wall 38 35.5 185 180 180 168 167 175 171 171 167 172
Marcin Gortat 38 29.5 181 186 170 175 179 178 178 173 158 157
Paul Pierce 36 26.4 140 138 165 134 134 154 142 143 148 144
Nene Hilario 31 24.5 108 102 68 67 83 94 96 97 101 112
Bradley Beal 29 33.4 122 63 69 94 90 98 102 106
Rasual Butler 34 22.7 60 131 116 128 155 140 134 123 99 101
Kris Humphries 37 21.5 46 87 90 82 109 100 88 109 103 98
Andre Miller 38 12.6 72 69 92 103 102 101 89 85 97 94
Otto Porter 28 18.2 97 106 101 95 84 81 84 82 85 82
Garrett Temple 29 12.8 121 112 96 100 98 91 90 75 73 68
Kevin Seraphin 37 15.6 38 13 17 12 28 34 45 36 35 44
Drew Gooden 21 12.2 42 40 59 78 64 47 47 44 32 22
DeJuan Blair 12 4.8 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46 -34 2 16
Martell Webster 5 11.6 -150 -44
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111 -111 -110 -110

It was fun to see Seraphin follow a good performance against the Hawks with an outstanding one against the Spurs. But, it’s going to take a sustained run of solid play from the big fella to convince me he belongs in the rotation. Previous analysis of Seraphin’s game log showed he has an above average game about 20% of the time. Over the course of an 82-game schedule, it’s almost inevitable that he’d have at least one two-game sequence where he performs above average in each. There’s approximately a 47% chance he’ll have a three-game sequence in which he performs above average.

In fact, he’s already done it this season against Denver, at Boston and home against Boston from December 5-8. He followed up that three-game stretch with a meh game at Orlando, two negative games against the Clippers and Jazz, and then a replacement level performance against Minnesota. If you want a sign that he’s truly improved, wait until he’s strong together four or more consecutive above average performances.

Also good: upticks in performance from Wall, Nenê, and Beal. Gortat’s performance was flat, but significantly down his production in December.

There seems to be some sentiment among Wizards fans (and maybe even the coach) that the team needs a backup PG to replace or supplement Miller. While Miller is a defensive liability, his overall performance (which is what matters) has been solid.

If the team is looking to upgrade for the second half of the season, it wouldn’t hurt to add a third PG for insurance. But, more pressing issues are Seraphin as the backup center, and perhaps a more athletic 3&D type to backup Beal.

Wizards Update: Successful Trip, But Concerns Remain

While fans worried during Washington’s three-game losing streak over the past week, the Wizards completed a successful road trip against Western Conference opponents with wins over Houston and New Orleans. Entering the trip as decided underdogs in all five contests, the Wizards were competitive in all but the Dallas game — which came the night after a gritty win against the Rockets.

Upon completion of the trip, I updated my “who’s gonna win” calculator and projected the Wizards’ final record. At the Washington Post this week, columnist Thomas Boswell did a nice job explaining why the Wizards aren’t as good as their record. Everything Boswell wrote is valid and correct, but…being in the Eastern Conference this season is incredibly fortunate for a middle-of-the-pack team like the Wizards.

Based on season performance through last night’s games, I estimate Washington will finish with 51-54 wins — the best season for the franchise since the mid-1970s.

My biggest concerns for the Wizards going forward are these:

  • Age — Many seem to think this is a young team, but it’s not. They have the league’s 7th oldest rotation, and they’re reliant on 30+ year olds in key roles — including the 38-year old Andre Miller and the 37-year old Paul Pierce. And there’s Nenê, whose play has declined the past couple years as he’s suffered through a series of nagging injuries.
  • No elite producers — I can hear the screens breaking all over the DC area. What about John Wall?! He’s an All-Star, a top five PG, and you wrote last week that he’s the league’s best defensive PG. Well, some of that is true. But, good as Wall has been this season, he’s still well behind the game’s elite players when it comes to doing things that cause a team to win. As I’ve pointed out previously, Wall does a lot of good things when he’s on the floor, but…he also does a lot of things that hurt — specifically turnovers, missed shots and poor shot selection. To become an elite team, the Wizards need him to play even better than he already has.
  • Kevin Seraphin – The coaches keep playing him, and in games against weaker opponents he doesn’t hurt too much. Against better teams, it hurts to have Seraphin in the lineup. That was apparent in the loss against Oklahoma City. In a game the Wizards lost by seven, they were -11 when Seraphin was on the floor. For those who don’t want to do the math, that means Washington was +7 when he was on the bench.
  • Lack of Progress from the youngsters — I’m a big fan of Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, but both guys have been pretty average so far. Beal’s 102 PPA (see below) is a modest improvement, but is below average for a starter (125). Porter has been okay as a backup, and is performing at a level similar to that of players with similar collegiate production. Neither guy has demonstrated they should be considered foundational players for the Wizards. And, I think Washington will need one of the two (preferably Beal) to make that leap this season if they hope to reach the conference Finals…or more.
  • Coaching – Encouraged by head coach Randy Wittman, the Wizards continue to take too many two-point jumpers. Sometimes they’re necessary, but the math is abundantly clear that they’re bad shots — exactly the ones the defense wants them to take.

Weekly Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (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.

PLAYER GMS MPG 11/10 11/18 11/24 12/03 12/08 12/17 12/23 12/29 PPA
John Wall 29 35.6 185 180 180 168 167 175 171 171 167
Marcin Gortat 29 29.6 181 186 170 175 179 178 178 173 158
Paul Pierce 28 26.4 140 138 165 134 134 154 142 143 148
Kris Humphries 28 21.7 46 87 90 82 109 100 88 109 103
Bradley Beal 20 33.2 122 63 69 94 90 98 102
Nene Hilario 22 24.2 108 102 68 67 83 94 96 97 101
Rasual Butler 25 22.6 60 131 116 128 155 140 134 123 99
Andre Miller 29 12.8 72 69 92 103 102 101 89 85 97
Otto Porter 28 18.7 97 106 101 95 84 81 84 82 85
Garrett Temple 25 14.0 121 112 96 100 98 91 90 75 73
Kevin Seraphin 28 15.4 38 13 17 12 28 34 45 36 35
Drew Gooden 18 13.1 42 40 59 78 64 47 47 44 32
DeJuan Blair 9 5.0 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46 -34 2
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111 -111 -110
Martell Webster 2 10.0 -150

No major surprises considering the team went 2-3 over the past week. Wall took over the top spot in the team’s PPA rankings because Gortat’s play dropped further.

Rasual Butler’s anticipated reversion to the mean is in progress. Hopefully, Beal’s play will improve as Butler’s dips.

Seraphin held steady…below replacement level.

For the first time in weeks, the Wizards dusted off DeJuan Blair, and he moved his PPA out of negative territory.

Martell Webster looked terrible in his return from back surgery.

Wizards Update: About to Be Tested

At 21-8, the Wizards are off to the second best start in franchise history. Check out the very bottom of the table in that link and note that Washington had its worst start in franchise history just two seasons ago. The front office’s strategic shift to proven veterans combined with a historically weak Eastern Conference to bring about an abrupt about-face in the team’s record.

While the Wizards have enjoyed the league’s easiest schedule so far, things are about to change. To this point in the season, Washington’s opponents have been 1.32 points per game worse than average. Over the next 19 games, their competition will be about a point per game better than average.

To say it another way, Washington’s average opponent so far this season has been the equivalent of a 37-win team — a lottery squad in either conference most years. Over the next quarter of the season, their opponents will be the quality of a 44-win team — a near-lock for the playoffs in either conference.

The next five games will likely be the toughest stretch of the regular season. Over the next week, Washington has road games against Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and New Orleans — and the schedule includes two sets of back-to-back contests.

The Wizards will be underdogs in all five games, and their average competition this week will be equivalent to a 50-win squad. It won’t be easy.

I ran the numbers in my “who’s gonna win?” machine. The machine projects Washington to go 9-10 over the next month, including a five-game skid starting tonight. This will likely test the faith of Wizards fans, but I think reality for Washington is that they’re a solid team in a weak conference.

Based on how teams have performed to this point in the season, The Machine predicts Washington will go 33-20 over their remaining games to finish the year 54-28. This would be tied with the 1978-79 Bullets for the third best mark in franchise history. Fans my age might recall that the 78-79 team went to the NBA Finals where they lost to Seattle. I suspect fans of any age would be ecstatic if this year’s team reached the Finals and got thumped by a top-shelf Western Conference opponent.

Weekly Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (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.

PLAYER GMS MPG 10-Nov 18-Nov 24-Nov 3-Dec 8-Dec 17-Dec 23-Dec PPA
Marcin Gortat 29 29.7 181 186 170 175 179 178 178 173
John Wall 29 35.8 185 180 180 168 167 175 171 171
Paul Pierce 28 27.0 140 138 165 134 134 154 142 143
Rasual Butler 25 22.8 60 131 116 128 155 140 134 123
Kris Humphries 28 21.9 46 87 90 82 109 100 88 109
Bradley Beal 20 33.0 122 63 69 94 90 98
Nene Hilario 22 24.2 108 102 68 67 83 94 96 97
Andre Miller 29 12.4 72 69 92 103 102 101 89 85
Otto Porter 28 19.0 97 106 101 95 84 81 84 82
Garrett Temple 25 14.4 121 112 96 100 98 91 90 75
Drew Gooden 18 13.3 42 40 59 78 64 47 47 44
Kevin Seraphin 28 15.3 38 13 17 12 28 34 45 36
DeJuan Blair 9 4.6 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46 -34
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111 -111

Plenty of stability in this update as several players seem to have established their performance levels.

Humphries went back into “above average” territory with two outstanding games off the bench this week.

Butler’s production seems to be coming back to earth after preposterously torrid shooting for the first 20 games of the season. Hopefully, whatever’s lost from his return to norms will be offset by improvement from Beal.

After improving his PPA in three consecutive updates, Seraphin spent the past week Seraphining. Over his past three games, Seraphin played 40 minutes. During those minutes on the floor, he scored 20 points (yay points!) while getting three rebounds, one assist, no steals or blocks, but four turnovers and seven fouls.

He did shoot 10-20 over those three games, but he got to the free throw line just once (he missed). His 50% shooting isn’t bad — league average efg is .499. But, add in the turnovers, the lack of offensive rebounds and the inability to get to the free throw line, and his offensive rating (points produced per individual possession x 100) was just 81 — 25 points below league average, and nearly 27 points below the Wizards’ average over the past three games.

With the schedule getting tougher, it’s time for the Seraphin experiment to end.

Wizards Update: Best Start In Franchise History

These are strange and enjoyable days for Wizards fans. The team is 19-7, tied for the best start in franchise history, and metaphysically certain to make another trip to the playoffs. They’re in a tight race with the Atlanta Hawks for first in the Southeast Division. And John Wall is probably going to make his second All-Star game appearance in February.

The team is fairly deep in terms of solid players, though Wall and Pierce (the team’s top producers) still fall short of the game’s elite. The Wizards have benefited so far from playing the league’s easiest schedule. That’ll change somewhat when they make their trips to the West, but they’re in the Eastern Conference so their competition isn’t going to get much more challenging.

That said, the Wizards have no control over the schedule or the state of other teams. Their job is to beat whoever’s in the other color jersey, and they’re doing a good job of that so far this season.

Weekly Player Production Average Update

Player Production Average (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.

PLAYER GMS MPG 10-Nov 18-Nov 24-Nov 3-Dec 8-Dec 17-Dec PPA
Marcin Gortat 26 29.5 181 186 170 175 179 178 178
John Wall 26 36.1 185 180 180 168 167 175 171
Paul Pierce 25 27.4 140 138 165 134 134 154 142
Rasual Butler 22 22.3 60 131 116 128 155 140 134
Nene Hilario 19 24.6 108 102 68 67 83 94 96
Bradley Beal 23 32.9 122 63 69 94 90
Garrett Temple 17 15.6 121 112 96 100 98 91 90
Andre Miller 26 12.2 72 69 92 103 102 101 89
Kris Humphries 25 21.5 46 87 90 82 109 100 88
Otto Porter 25 19.6 97 106 101 95 84 81 84
Drew Gooden 16 14.8 42 40 59 78 64 47 47
Kevin Seraphin 25 15.6 38 13 17 12 28 34 45
DeJuan Blair 8 4.6 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111

Production rates are stabilizing for many on the team. This week, most of the ratings edged down slightly — that was the case for Wall, Pierce, Butler, Beal, Miller, Temple, and Humphries. Nenê and Porter edged up a bit.

The biggest improver was Kevin Seraphin, whose rating for the season rose to replacement level.

How Important Is Wizards Record When Holding Opponents Under 100 Points?

Wilt 100

So, I keep seeing the nugget that the Wizards are 15-0 when holding opponent under 100 points. This is true, but…

  1. The average team is scoring 100.2 points per game. By definition, the break point for winning and losing is going to be around 100.
  2. Three other teams are unbeaten when opponent scores less than 100 — GSW (15-0), ATL (14-0), TOR (12-0). Sorta interesting that three of the four unbeatens are in the East.
  3. Four teams have losing records when opponent scores less than 100 — CHO (3-5), NYK (5-9), DET (4-9), PHI (1-7). Hmm, all in the East.
  4. Two teams are .500 — ORL (8-8) and UTA (5-5). Another team in the East and one of the really bad teams in the West.
  5. League record when opponent scores less than 100 points — 261-103, a .717 winning percentage.
  6. OKC leads league in holding opponent under 100. They’ve done it 19 times and are 11-8 in those games. Of course, they’ve missed Durant and Westbrook (aka their offense) for many of those games.
  7. The Lakers are 5-2 when holding opponent under 100.
  8. Wizards are tied with GSW, MEM, MIA, and BRK for 4th most games holding opponent under 100. OKC (19), POR (17), HOU (17) and ORL (16) are the top four.

This statoid isn’t as meaningful as we’d like it to be.

But, as friend of the blog fishercob noted, “Expect to see it mentioned repeatedly during CSN’s broadcast.”

The Seraphin Problem

Fifth year center Kevin Seraphin has consistently gotten playing time as Washington’s backup center. I’ve written many times about why this is a bad idea, but it hasn’t cost the team much. Yet. There still seems to be a sentiment that Seraphin has improved, but…well…let’s look at the numbers.

Here’s Seraphin’s PPA for each game this season:

Date   Opp MP PPA
10/29/2014 @ MIA 7.7 -182
10/30/2014 @ ORL 1.9 -903
11/4/2014 @ NYK 22.1 166
11/5/2014 IND 13.9 -75
11/7/2014 @ TOR 18.1 58
11/8/2014 @ IND 19.5 126
11/12/2014 DET 16.7 -62
11/15/2014 ORL 16.1 -32
11/19/2014 DAL 10.6 -33
11/21/2014 CLE 23.4 75
11/22/2014 @ MIL 13.1 -26
11/25/2014 ATL 14.8 -11
11/26/2014 @ CLE 22.7 -15
11/29/2014 NOP 6.7 -26
12/1/2014 MIA 19.6 19
12/3/2014 LAL 14.1 13
12/5/2014 DEN 22.5 156
12/7/2014 @ BOS 10.2 171
12/8/2014 BOS 16.4 257
12/10/2014 @ ORL 12.1 74
12/12/2014 LAC 15.4 -56
12/14/2014 UTA 16.0 -54
12/16/2014 MIN 17.1 52

For three straight games in December, it looked like maybe Seraphin had suddenly deciphered the league, but he followed it up with four not-so-good performances. Okay, that was generous. Two of those games were horrific, and one was downright awful.

Here’s a breakdown of his season so far:

QUAL               COUNT                     %
Average or better 5 22%
Replacement level or worse 14 61%
Negative 12 52%

For those keeping score at home, Seraphin has played 23 games this season. He’s been an average or better producer in five of those contests — 22%. He’s been replacement level or worse in 14 of 23 — 61%. He’s been a net negative (bad plays have outweighed the good) 12 of 23 — 52%.

He has been better in December with two very good games and one great one. But, in the nine games so far this month, there are still four that rate below replacement level (two of which were net negatives), and a fifth that was just barely above replacement level (the most recent). Net for the month, a PPA of 70 in which 94% of his production came in just three games.

When I look at his total credits, 84% of his season production has been in December — 79% in that single three-game stretch.

So far this season, 56 players identified as centers by Basketball-Reference have played at least 150 minutes. Of those players, Seraphin ranks is tied for 51st in total production credits. In PPA (the per possession stat I usually publish), he’s third from the bottom. Only Kendrick Perkins and Jason Smith have been less productive per minute.

Here’s where Seraphin ranks among centers in various statistical categories:

STAT KS RANK
mpg 45
ortg 48
usg 11
pts 12
efg 26
ft% 38
oreb 43
dreb 36
reb 40
ast 12
tov 52
stl 56
blk 37
pf 54
def 54

The non-efficiency stats are in production per 100 possessions. What I see here is a guy who uses a lot of possessions, but not efficiently. His shooting is okay and he has become a willing passer, but his turnovers are a big problem. Also, he’s a sub-par rebounder and a very poor defender. (See that last entry — Seraphin ranks as the league’s third worst defensive center, according to the defense part of my metric. Only Jason Smith and Alex Ajinca rate worse so far this season.)

As I mentioned earlier, the Wizards schedule has been easy enough, and the starters have been good enough, that they haven’t been hurt much by giving Seraphin a steady diet of minutes. But, when competition gets tougher, the Seraphin problem will arise.

For now, it’s probably okay to continue playing him in the hopes that whatever fell into place December 5-8 will fall again and that Seraphin will become a solid reserve. Barring that unlikely event, the time is coming when the experiment will need to end. To that end, the Wizards might be wise to find minutes for DeJuan Blair, and to plan for the time when their PF/C rotation will be Marcin Gortat, Nenê, Kris Humphries and Paul Pierce.