Wizards Slouching Toward the Playoffs

The numbers in the table below are this week’s Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is a metric I developed that credits players for things that contribute to winning and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. PPA is pace adjusted, accounts for defense and includes a degree of difficulty factor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and 45 = replacement level. PPA is a per minute stat.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Marcin Gortat 77 32.9 150 153
Trevor Ariza 73 35.7 151 143
John Wall 78 36.6 141 138
Trevor Booker 68 21.4 115 119
Drew Gooden 20 18.6 127 114
Nene Hilario 50 29.9 101 100
Andre Miller 24 14.4 104 91
Bradley Beal 69 34.7 89 89
Martell Webster 74 28.1 82 80
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 68 68
Kevin Seraphin 50 11.4 35 37
Chris Singleton 24 10.4 34 32
Garrett Temple 71 8.9 25 25
Glen Rice 11 9.9 20 20
Otto Porter 33 8.2 13 19
Al Harrington 30 14.9 13 8
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8

Rough week for the Wizards, which is reflected in the individual numbers. On the positive side were Marcin Gorat, (who continues to have a good season), Trevor Booker (who many fans want removed from the rotation), and Otto Porter (who performed better, but still rates well below replacement level).

Even with a bad week, Trevor Ariza is having a career season. He gets a bit of a pass for the last few games — he’s been beset with the flu, and really shouldn’t have even been on the floor.

John Wall’s production fell for a third straight week. It’s been fashionable to celebrate Wall’s improvement and his ascendancy to All-Star status, but it’s worth noting that his 138 PPA this season is virtually identical to the 139 he posted last year.

Here’s a visualization of each player’s PPA through the season. Since this is basically a weekly rolling season average, the larger fluctuations at the beginning followed by a flatter line toward the end is to be expected. Note the fairly steady climb of Gortat’s PPA — he’s been playing better as the season has progressed. The production slip from Wall the past three weeks is also apparent.

Check out the steady production from Booker. Webster’s season-long decline is apparent in his graph.

Drew Gooden’s production has fallen steeply after a hot start. He may not be the godsend Wizards fans had hoped for. Andre Miller’s play has been up and down, but at least sorta trending up.

ppa trend

Should the Wizards Tank for 7th?

Could 7 be a lucky number for the Wizards?

Could 7 be a lucky number for the Wizards?

Last week, I estimated the Wizards’ odds of winning a seven-game series against the teams most likely to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was a useful exercise in seeing how Washington stacks up against possible opponents, but it used numbers from the full season, which means my approach didn’t necessarily capture team form lately.

And, the performance of the other seven teams in the playoffs has changed markedly in some cases since the All-Star break. The biggest shift has been the Indiana Pacers meltdown. After opening the season with a 40-12 record, Indy has gone just 13-13 after the All-Star break. More worrisome for the Pacers: they’ve had a negative efficiency differential over the past 26 games — despite an easy schedule.

Let me say that another way: since the All-Star break, the Pacers have been outscored by their opponents. The only other Eastern Conference playoff team to do that — the New York Knicks.

The decline has been an across the board failure for Indiana. Both their offense and defense have gotten worse, neither is showing much sign of improvement, and it may create an “upset” opportunity for whoever gets that seventh seed.

Using team stats since the All-Star break, the Pacers have the scoring differential of a 32-win team (over an 82-game schedule). That’s the weakest performance of any Eastern Conference team by eight games. Next closest is New York, which has played like a 40-win team. Over the same stretch, the Wizards have played like a 47-win team.

So, what’s wrong with Indiana? First, there may have been some significant overrating based on last year’s playoffs. In 2012-13, the Pacers were good-but-not-great during the regular season. Then they went on a strong playoff run. Before this season, the guys over at Boxscore Geeks cautioned that many were overreacting to those playoffs, and projected Indy as a sub-.500 team. That prediction wasn’t so great either — even with their crummy post-All-Star break performance, Indy has 53 wins, but the Boxscore Geeks made a critical point — the Pacers were being crowned as championship contenders without top-end talent, without a season’s worth of sustained excellence — without demonstrating they could consistently play at a championship level.

Early in the season, Indy looked like it would be a worthy rival for the Heat, but that’s old news. Why? There are few “big” things that jump out. Their offensive decline has been significant, but it seems to be an accumulation of little things — a slight decline in their shooting and a narrower rebounding margin.

What’s really making them vulnerable has been the drop in their defensive efficiency. The numbers practically leap off the screen. There are four key categories that define who wins basketball games — shooting, ball handling (turnovers), rebounds, and getting to the free throw line. The Pacers have been worse at all four on defense since the All-Star break. The most significant drop has been in the most important category: shooting.

To make this even simpler, since the All-Star break Indiana has shot worse, has allowed their opponent to shoot significantly better, has grabbed fewer defensive rebounds, and has forced fewer turnovers. While none of the changes is major (except defensive efg), the across-the-board declines add up.

Looking at the individual players suggests that there’s plenty of “blame” to go around. Roy Hibbert is probably first in line — his production (as measured by my stat, Player Production Average (PPA) — where 100 = average, higher is better, and replacement level = 45) is a shade below league average. His PPA of 98 is down 32 from last season, and 57 from two seasons ago. But, David West’s PPA is down 25, and George Hill’s is down by 20.

Paul George and Lance Stephenson are both improved from last season (George from a 133 to a 164; Stephenson from a 94 to a 121), BUT both are down significantly from pre-All-Star production levels. Through the first 25-30 games, George was posting an All-NBA level 200+ PPA. Stephenson was in the 150 range, which is roughly All-Star level.

And oh yeah, the team has also been hurt by roster decisions that weakened their bench. Specifically, they let Tyler Hansbrough (PPA: 82) depart, and replaced him by trading for Luis Scola (PPA: 43). Ian Mahinimi continues to be terrible. And, the trade for Evan Turner has been a predictable debacle.

All of this is a fairly long way of saying that the Wizards might be smart to position themselves as the seventh seed in the East. The Pacers could pull things back together and play as they did earlier in the season, but their recent performances don’t indicate that’s likely. If recent performance levels continue into the playoffs, Indiana could be in for a short, embarrassing 2014 postseason — no matter who they face.

Wizards Weekly: Playoffs Clinched

wall past carmelo

Since the Wizards cemented a spot in this year’s playoffs, I’m going to focus more on the stellar play of Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, and sorta gloss over the things that bug me a bit in this week’s numbers.

Some positives:

  • Al Harrington had a good enough week that he no longer rates as the league’s least productive power forward. That honor belongs to Brandon Davies.
  • Marcin Gortat’s PPA rose to 150 — the highest its been since December 11.
  • I missed it last week, but the Wizards have no one with a negative PPA. The team’s least productive player is Eric Maynor, but he’s not in the NBA after being released by Philadelphia.
  • Otto Porter scored nine points in five minutes, and added 10 points to his PPA.

Below is this week’s Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is a metric I developed that credits players for things that contribute to winning and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. PPA is pace adjusted, accounts for defense and includes a degree of difficulty factor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and 45 = replacement level. PPA is a per minute stat.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 70 35.7 151 151
Marcin Gortat 74 32.7 145 150
John Wall 75 36.6 144 141
Drew Gooden 17 18.9 148 127
Trevor Booker 65 21.0 116 115
Andre Miller 21 14.8 81 104
Nene Hilario 49 30.1 101 101
Bradley Beal 66 34.5 90 89
Martell Webster 71 28.2 81 82
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 68 68
Kevin Seraphin 49 11.5 36 35
Chris Singleton 23 10.7 40 34
Garrett Temple 69 9.1 22 25
Glen Rice 11 9.9 20 20
Al Harrington 28 15.5 1 13
Otto Porter 32 8.2 3 13
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8

Okay, I can’t help myself — now for the stuff that worries me:

  • Wall’s PPA is down to 141. That’s a good score, but his PPA last season was 139. And his offensive efficiency has slipped back below average.
  • Gooden’s PPA dropped sharply this week. His efficiency numbers are still insanely good — heck, all his numbers are, except for defense. There are way too many defensive breakdowns when he’s on the floor, and he continues to lose points in the defense portion of PPA.
  • Beal and Webster both rate solidly below average. This isn’t a surprise — Beal’s still a kid trying to figure out his spot in the league, and Webster is basically regressing to his mean this season. But, it does mean the Wizards aren’t getting a ton of production from their SG — and both rate as below average defenders.

 

Wizards in the Playoffs?! What Are the Odds?

randy_wittman_john_wall

With last night’s 118-92 thumping of the Boston Celtics, the Wizards clinched a playoff spot for the first since 2008. After a hearty “Woo hoo!” and a few moments of basking in the return to the best basketball tournament on the planet, I immediately started wondering — what are the Wizards chances of advancing?

The answer, of course, depends on the opponent. So, I broke out the odds estimator, and ran the numbers for the Eastern Conference teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (April 3, 2014). I’ll update when the season ends.

SEED TEAM ODDS
1 MIA 19%
2 IND 21%
3 TOR 32%
4 CHI 42%
5 BRK 56%
6 WAS
7 CHA 66%
8 NYK 69%

The “odds” column shows what I estimate the likelihood that the Wizards will defeat that opponent in a seven-game series. So, Washington has a 19% chance of beating the Heat, 21% chance of toppling the Pacers, and so on down the list.

Their most likely first round opponent is either Toronto or Chicago. Between the two, the numbers suggest the Bulls are the more favorable match-up — the Wizards have a 42% chance of beating them in the first round, but only a 32% chance against the Raptors.

The Wizards do NOT want to slip to the seventh or eighth seed to face Miami or Indiana where their chances plummet.

What’s most likely to happen? Well, I ran my odds calculator on the remaining schedules for the Wizards, Raptors, Bulls, Nets and Hornets. Here’s a handy table showing their projected record in their remaining games, their projected final records, and their projected seeds:

  REMAINING GAMES FINAL RECORD PROJECTED SEED
  W L W L  
TOR 7 0 50 32 3
BRK 7 1 47 35 4
CHI 3 4 46 36 5
WAS 5 2 44 38 6
CHA 5 2 42 40 7

Chicago has the toughest remaining schedule, but everyone else gets a few games against Eastern Conference bottom feeders. Based on what’s left of the NBA season, it’s tough to see Washington climbing to fourth or fifth. They’d pretty much have to go 7-0 and hope Chicago and/or Brooklyn falter. And, the Wizards will need to close the season strong to avoid getting caught by Charlotte, which would mean a first round series against the Pacers.

The Briefest of Wizards Updates

In keeping with established Wizards traditions, Al Harrington is currently the NBA's least productive PF.

In keeping with established Wizards traditions, Al Harrington is currently the NBA’s least productive PF.

Don’t have a ton of time for fancy prose — not with friend of the blog Ben Becker inviting himself to be a guest blogger next week and filling my inbox with questions.

So…here’s this week’s Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is a metric I developed that credits players for things that contribute to winning and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. PPA is pace adjusted, accounts for defense and includes a degree of difficulty factor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and 45 = replacement level. PPA is a per minute stat.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 66 36.0 154 151
Drew Gooden 13 17.5 152 148
Marcin Gortat 70 32.9 147 145
John Wall 71 36.8 146 144
Trevor Booker 61 21.1 116 116
Nene Hilario 49 30.1 103 101
Bradley Beal 62 34.4 88 90
Andre Miller 17 14.3 75 81
Martell Webster 67 28.4 84 81
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 69 68
Chris Singleton 22 11.0 40 40
Kevin Seraphin 47 11.8 40 36
Garrett Temple 66 9.4 23 22
Glen Rice 11 9.9 21 20
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8
Otto Porter 31 8.3 3 3
Al Harrington 24 15.0 -2 1

Unsurprisingly given the team’s record during their recent series against the Western Conference, the production of their top players was down a little across the board. Nothing major — just…the kind of thing to be expected when they face some tougher competition than they get in the East.

I don’t know how much Martell Webster’s back is bothering him, but his production is way down this season. Last season, he posted a career-best PPA of 114. This season, he’s back down at his career level. This is cause for concern.

Also, I’ve heard/seen folks in a variety of places refer to the Wizards as a “young team.” But….not so. They’re right at the league average in age, but their rotation at this point is older. I’ll probably look at this in greater detail next week, but consider this:

  • The team’s plan was “build through the draft,” but only three of their rotation players (Wall, Beal and Booker) were selected by the Wizards.
  • Those same three players are the team’s only rotation players younger than league average.
  • Once Nenê returns they’ll have more rotation guys age 30 or older (four) than they do under age 26 (three).

The team does have young players on the roster, but they’ve been decidedly unproductive this season — for much of their careers for most of them.

In keeping with Wizards tradition, Al Harrington currently rates as the NBA’s least productive PF (minimum 300 minutes). Last season, that title was held by Jan Vesely.

Wizards Update: The NCAA Tournament Edition

gooden celebrates

With the sporting world mostly focused on The High Holy Weekend of NCAA basketball, last night I took in the Wizards game. I enjoy college hoop…to a point…but, truth is that I’d rather watch a regular season NBA game than an NCAA tourney game.

Yes, I’m serious.

The tournament is fun with its single elimination format, but the level of play just isn’t there. Think about it like this: let’s say you want to hear a musical performance tonight. And let’s say you have a choice between say Beyonce (or fill the name of your favorite singer/band) or the best kid at your local college. Which one would you choose (assuming both are free)?

That said, I still love the NCAA tournament because of all the randomness. I estimated Duke as a roughly 75% favorite against Mercer, yet the Blue Devils are going home and Coach K was on the bench with that “holy crap I’m gonna get clobbered in the press for this” look on his face.

But, I’m way off topic.

The Wizards are en route to their first playoff berth in a few years, and their best season since they had guys like Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. All season, I’ve been bothered by the significant quality difference between the NBA’s conferences. Washington is a solid playoff team in the East, but would be on the outside looking in if they were in the West.

Here’s a quick look at that difference:

OPPONENT WINS LOSSES W% W82
vs. EAST 562 457 .553 45.3
vs. WEST 455 564 .448 36.7

Pretty straightforward. When teams play against an Eastern Conference opponent, they win 55% of the time. When they play against a Western Conference opponent, they win about 45% of the time. That W82 is wins per 82 games. A perfectly average team playing against Eastern Conference opponents could expect to win 45 games over an 82-game season. That same team would win roughly 37 against Western Conference opponents.

Only four teams this season have a better winning percentage against Western Conference opponents than they do against the East — the Clippers, Miami, Brooklyn and Cleveland.

The Wizards have the league’s fifth highest East vs. West differential. Against the East, their winning percentage is .610. Against the West, it’s .370. The teams with bigger differentials: Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Portland. Against opponents in the East, Washington plays like a 50-win team. Against the West: 30. That’s significant. In other words, Washington is fortunate to be in the East this year.

By the way, I’m not saying the Wizards need to apologize for their schedule. All they can do is play who’s on the calendar for that day, and they don’t have control over opponent incompetence or organizational tanking decisions. Even if the league seeded the playoffs without regard to conference affiliation, Washington would make the post-season (as the 15 seed, but still).

Here’s this week’s Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is a metric I developed that credits players for things that contribute to winning and debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. PPA is pace adjusted, accounts for defense and includes a degree of difficulty factor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and 45 = replacement level. PPA is a per minute stat.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 63 36.0 159 154
Drew Gooden 10 17.1 149 152
Marcin Gortat 67 32.9 149 147
John Wall 68 36.8 144 146
Trevor Booker 58 21.2 114 116
Nene Hilario 49 30.1 103 103
Bradley Beal 59 34.3 94 88
Martell Webster 64 28.6 90 84
Andre Miller 14 13.9 96 75
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 69 69
Chris Singleton 22 11.0 45 40
Kevin Seraphin 45 12.2 42 40
Garrett Temple 63 9.9 21 23
Glen Rice 11 9.9 21 21
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8
Otto Porter 30 8.6 3 3
Al Harrington 21 14.7 -6 -2

Drew Gooden has been an excellent scrap heap pickup for the Wizards. He’s played just 171 minutes so far, but those minutes have been at a borderline All-Star level. Very bad things have been happening defensively when he’s in the game, which bears watching. Bad defense has been a rap on him throughout his career.

The Wizards saw production dips this week from Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Andre Miller. Al Harrington continues to get minutes, and continues to play very badly. I’d hope that the Harrington experiment ends when Nenê returns.

If the big man comes back healthy and ready to play, head coach Randy Wittman will have a nine-man rotation of Wall and Miller at PG, Beal and Webster at SG, Ariza and Webster at SF, Nenê, Gooden and Booker at PF, and Gortat, Nenê and Gooden at C. That still probably won’t be enough to win a first round series, but it should be good enough to at least make things competitive and fun to watch.

Upon Further Review: Grunfeld Still Not Good At His Job

grunfeld

I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. Especially when there’s evidence to offer correction. Last week, Mike Wise sought to convince readers not just that Washington Wizards president would receive a contract extension after the season, but that he deserves one.

I didn’t find Wise’s argument convincing, but your mileage may vary. Today, Scott Cacciola, writing for the New York Times (where Wise wrote for 10 years), has a piece that echoes much of what Wise wrote. My first thoughts were along the same lines as my response to Wise. But, this is two articles in two weeks, and the Wizards are better this season, and Ted Leonsis seems pretty happy with Grunfeld, and Leonsis is a smart guy who’s made a few bucketfuls of money…

So, maybe I’m just being hard-headed. Maybe Grunfeld has been doing a just spiffy job and I’ve…missed it. Perhaps I’ve permitted bias to creep into my thinking and I’ve been unfair in my analysis of the Wizards and of Grunfeld’s work. So, using Cacciola’s article as a launch point, I’m going to take as objective a look as I can at the claims he makes in support of Grunfeld.

First up:

After so much futility, after so much losing and after so much false hope, the Wizards have finally reinvented themselves as a relevant team — thriving, even, with an energetic nucleus that features Beal and John Wall, 23, a first-time All-Star whose ability to run the court is virtually unmatched in the N.B.A.

The Wizards were 33-31 after Wednesday’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, in solid position for a playoff berth.

The first difficulty in analyzing this passage is the use of glittery words that don’t have real meaning. “Relevant team” means what? There’s little doubt the Wizards will make the playoffs this season, but does anyone think they have a shot against either the Heat or the Pacers? Does anyone believe the Wizards would currently be sitting sixth in the West? They’re reasonably fun to watch, and it’ll be great to see them back in the postseason. But, relevant? Depends on what folks want it to mean, I guess.

Cacciola identifies the “energetic nucleus” as being Bradley Beal and John Wall, which is something Wise did as well. To me, “nucleus” would suggest players who are currently the primary causes for the team winning. Wall fits that description, even if his production still falls well short of league elite status.

But Beal? Maybe next year he’ll reach “nucleus” status. Perhaps the year after. This season, he’s fourth in total production (using the Player Production Average metric I developed), but the clear “nucleus” of the team this season is comprised of Wall, Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat.

Perhaps Cacciola means that Beal and Wall will be the nucleus in the future, but that’s not what he wrote. The word “thriving” indicates something ongoing — something happening in the here and now.

Cacciola writes:

Patience is not a word frequently used in professional sports. Fans are impatient. Owners are impatient. Yet the quest to win now, and win by any means necessary, often turns out to be an ill-conceived approach, one that strips the team of long-term stability.

This is kind of a logic trap because it asserts a problem and a conclusion without offering supporting evidence. People are impatient. Impatience is bad because it strips the team of long-term stability. Cacciola offers up the Knicks as an example, but there are some problems. First, an anecdote isn’t evidence. Second, even if he’d cited two or three examples, the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “evidence.” And third, he hasn’t shown that the Knicks’ problem is impatience. I’d argue it’s been incompetence.

Cacciola seems to share Leonsis’s belief in The Continuity Theorem.  The logic of the Theorem is this: hire a team (management, coaches, players), keep them together, give them time, and…voila…winner. The foundation of the Continuity Theorem is that continuity causes success. I think it’s wrong, though. Or, at least that it’s stated the wrong way around. That is to say: continuity doesn’t cause success, but rather success causes continuity.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine assembling a team of say Eric Maynor, Nick Young, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Garrett Temple, Jordan Crawford, Cartier Martin, Trevor Booker, and Jason Collins. Let’s say that squad is coached by Randy Wittman. How long should we keep this group together to produce a winner? How long until it makes the playoffs? Wins a series? Reaches the Finals?

The reason good teams have continuity is that they’re good. When a team has good players, it doesn’t want to make major personnel changes except for age, injury and expense. When a team has bad players, there must be turnover because the way to improve is to replace bad players with good ones. Now, if you have young players you believe in — AND they work hard — those players can transform themselves into good players. That’s the hope with Beal, Wall and Otto Porter. But, they don’t get better because they’ve been kept together, they get better because they work hard and smart and they mature.

So, back to the Wizards and Grunfeld and this notion of the team being patient so as not to strip itself of “long-term stability.” Grunfeld has been in his position since the 2003-04 season. During that span, the Wizards have the league’s third worst winning percentage. They’re 13 games behind Sacramento for fourth worst. Washington’s best team (so far) in the Grunfeld era: 45-37 — tied for 123rd “best.”

It’s been 17 seasons since the Spurs had a season that bad.

I think it’s fair to say that Wizards fans have been patient.

More from Cacciola:

Grunfeld, 58, declined to discuss his tenure with the Knicks, preferring instead to talk about the Wizards, whom he joined in 2003. The Wizards made four straight playoff appearances starting in 2004-5, but then came the lean seasons — 19 wins in 2008-9, for example — as the team coped with injuries, off-the-court problems and an ownership change. Still, Grunfeld survived when many others would have been fired.

All fair points. The Wizards have had injuries (especially the ones that effectively ended the career of Gilbert Arenas), off-court “issues” and a change in ownership. The off-court issues were at least in part of management’s making. They picked guys known to lack maturity (Nick Young, Javale McGee, Andray Blatche, Jordan Crawford, Javaris Crittenton, Arenas), and then contributed to a lax atmosphere that a former assistant coach described as “Romper Room.”

As for the ownership “change,” I’m not convinced it’s a major factor in Grunfeld’s execution of his responsibilities. Former owner Abe Pollin gave Grunfeld a “win now” instruction. He didn’t instruct Grunfeld to trade the fifth pick in the draft for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and then let both walk as free agents. Pollin didn’t tell Grunfeld which players to draft or which free agents to pursue. He told Grunfeld to win. It was up to Grunfeld to figure out how to do it. What happened? Over a season and a half, they went 36-96 before saying “uncle” and trading away high-priced veterans.

But hey, stability is good, right?

Writes Cacciola:

Ted Leonsis, who became the majority owner in June 2010, told Grunfeld to rebuild the team through the draft, a goal that Leonsis knew would take time to achieve. Time is not an especially valued commodity in professional sports, but Leonsis was committed to using some.

“From Day 1, he said, ‘This is what we’re going to do, and it’s going to be painful at first,’ ” Grunfeld recalled. “ ‘But we’ll see the results as we move forward.’ And I think we’re starting to see it now. It’s still a process. We still have things we want to accomplish. But we feel like we have a very solid core.”

The process, as Grunfeld described it, started with Wall, a high-energy point guard who was the top overall pick in the 2010 draft. While Wall would be the team’s centerpiece, Grunfeld said he knew he needed to surround him with perimeter scorers who could space the floor.

With that in mind, Grunfeld went through free agency to sign Martell Webster, a dependable 3-point shooter. Grunfeld also acquired center Nene in a three-way trade that sent Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers and JaVale McGee to the Denver Nuggets. Four months later, the Wizards drafted Beal.

This is a curious mix of building on the unsupported Continuity Theorem, and selective omission of relevant information. Notice that there’s a key date missing — an entire year, in fact. That year: 2011, also known as a time when Washington was building through the draft and Grunfeld chose Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack.

As many have written countless times, after careful evaluation, analysis and thought, Grunfeld picked Vesely ahead of Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried, chose Singleton over Faried; and then plucked Mack before Chandler Parsons and Isaiah Thomas. That’s not retroactive 20/20 hindsight stuff — there was an array of fans using publicly available information who said the Wizards were making mistakes at the time.

What’s happened? Last season, Vesely was the league’s least productive PF. This season he’s better than that, but still not much above replacement level. And he’s in Denver, dealt there as part of the deal to bring in a 37-year old backup PG. Last season, Singleton was one of the NBA’s five least productive PFs. This year, he’s right at replacement level. Mack wasn’t anything outstanding, but a) was the most productive player the Wizards selected in 2011; and b) was showing some signs that he could become an acceptable (and cheap) backup PG. So, of course the Wizards cut him twice to keep less productive players.

A previous draft analysis I did using PER suggested that Grunfeld was roughly average as a drafter. I’m planning a more extensive analysis later this year using PPA (which does a better job than PER of determining who wins and who loses in the NBA) — if I can find the time between responding to “All Hail Grunfeld!” articles.

More from Cacciola:

Today, the only players who remain from the team’s 23-win season in 2010-11 are Wall, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin, who are all young and productive and understand their roles.

This one is a puzzler. Wall and Booker can both be described as “young and productive,” but “productive” doesn’t work with Seraphin. Last season, Seraphin was the league’s least productive center. This year, he’s not quite as bad, but he’s still below replacement level. His strength is supposed to be scoring, but he’s had exactly one season with even average efficiency. He’s sort of a poor man’s Eddy Curry — the ball goes in the basket at a decent rate when he manages to shoot, but he’s a terrible passer and a turnover machine. He can be doubled with impunity because he’s more than twice as likely to turn it over than to assist a teammate. And he rebounds like a small forward.

Cacciola finishes up with this:

Grunfeld said he would continue to take a measured approach. He cited the slow upward arc of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who struggled to make much noise in Kevin Durant’s first few seasons in the league.

Durant developed, and the Thunder picked up important pieces to supplement his skills. There was never any panic, only patience.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Grunfeld said.

If I was in Grunfeld’s position, I don’t think I’d invite comparisons to what Oklahoma City has done, but…

Wall was the obvious pick at number one in 2010 just as Durant was the obvious pick at two (since Portland had already selected Greg Oden). Neither pick is indicative of basketball acumen — nearly anyone would have made the same choices.

But, I’m puzzled by this assertion about the Thunder’s “…slow upward arc.” Here’s a quick comparison of the first four seasons of Durant and Wall (and their teams):

SEASON DURANT PPA OKC WINS WALL PPA WAS WINS
1 88 20 93 23
2 146 23 110 23*
3 201 50 139 29
4 172 55 144 42**
Avg. 154 37 119 29

* — That was the year of the NBA’s labor dispute, which shortened the season. The Wizards won 20 games that season, but I’ve extrapolated to an 82-game season.

** — So far this season the Wizards have 33 wins. Their current winning percentage multiplied by 82 games comes to 42. Their scoring differential is that of a 42-43 win team.

What I see in the table is that Wall was a tad better than Durant as a rookie, but that Durant improved much faster. Perhaps not coincidentally, Oklahoma City’s wins went up faster well. The first two seasons were similarly terrible for both teams, but then the Thunder jumped to 50 wins in Durant’s third season while the Wizards managed just 29 in Wall’s.

Of course, Wall was injured for a significant chunk of his third season, but with him they were a game under .500. I won’t argue if folks prefer to claim 40-42 wins for that third season. The basic point still stands — namely, that OKC’s arc wasn’t “slow.” It was horizontal for two seasons and then turned sharply up. From Durant’s second season to his third, they more than doubled their win total. The Wizards’ arc has been slow, however.

Since the Wizards were attempting to emulate the Thunder’s approach (building through the draft), it’s worth comparing what the teams did with their picks. In the three drafts following Durant’s, OKC added Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in 2008, and James Harden in 2009. Their 2010 draft was a bust — they traded multiple first rounders and got essentially nothing in return.

In the years following the selection of Wall, Seraphin and Booker, Grunfeld picked Vesely and Singleton in 2011, Beal in 2012, and Porter in 2013. Washington’s 2011 draft class will never be what the 2008 draft was for OKC. Beal’s first two seasons are a flatter version of Harden’s. The Wizards youngster had a rookie PPA of 92 and he’s currently at 94 in year two. Harden’s rookie season of 73 grew into a 101 (league average is 100) in his second year and jumped to 142 in his third. It’s way premature to make a call on Porter. The early returns don’t look favorable.

That’s seven first round picks for the Wizards since 2010. Wall is good. Booker is solid. Beal will probably be well above average. Let’s give Porter an incomplete. What I see is a clear reason why the team has shifted from building through the draft to making trades for established veterans: the failed 2011 draft. It seems odd to tout the team’s young “core” while ignoring that they’ve been forced to trade for starters and construct a geriatric bench because they’ve drafted so badly.

And, Cacciola omitted another piece of relevant information when assessing Grunfeld’s performance: the egregious free agent signing of Eric Maynor, who was given the full biannual exception and a player option on a second season despite four seasons of sub-par play in the NBA. Maynor, of course, was so bad in Washington that he had to be traded (along with Vesely AND a future second round pick) for the 37-year old Andre Miller.

So, after careful reivew, I remain unpersuaded that Grunfeld has done a good job running the Washington Wizards. Maybe next week someone from the New York Post can try to convince me.