Wizards Update: Bouncing Back?

sessions

After a lengthy stretch of losing basketball, the Wizards have won four of their last six. Have they shaken off their mid-season swoon? Are they poised to win like it’s November or December?

No, and not likely.

While the Wizards have played better over the past six games, their offense has remained below average, and their defense has been unsustainably fantabulous. During this 4-2 stretch, Washington has allowed its opponents just 96.5 points per 100 possessions. If they managed to do that over a full season, they’d be one of the 15 best defenses since 1973-74 when the league began collecting the stats necessary to calculate defensive rating. For the season, the Wizards are allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions.

Another factor: they’ve had the good fortune of meeting injury-depleted teams. And even then, the results have been mixed. They lost to Chicago, which was missing Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson. They eked out a two-point victory against Miami, which didn’t have Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade or Luol Deng. And, they beat the snot out of Memphis, which lacked Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — also known as the Grizzlies’ four best players.

I know Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld have said the Wizards just need to play better on defense and work harder. I respectfully disagree. Their defense — even during the period of sustained losing — wasn’t bad. The decline has been on offense, and it still needs to be fixed.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-03-13 -- wiz ppa

My apologies for the format. The spreadsheet has reached a width that WordPress struggles to accommodate.

Good weeks for Gortat, Wall, Pierce and Gooden. Not so good for Beal, Temple, Porter and Butler.

Ramon Sessions provided hope with a couple decent games.

Martell Webster isn’t able to physically compete at an NBA level, presumably because of his back.

I’ve thought all season that DeJuan Blair should have been playing ahead of Kevin Seraphin, but Blair looks unable to compete physically at an NBA level because of too much eating and insufficient exercise.

Wizards to Sign Underwhelming Murry

murry shoots

Media reports say the Washington Wizards are close to signing D-League guard Toure’ Murry to a 10-day contract. While the Wizards could use some backcourt help because of injuries to Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple and Martell Webster, regression from Rasual Butler, and crummy play from newly-acquired Ramon Sessions, it’s unlikely Murry will offer much help.

There are positives in Murry’s game, of course. He has good size and athleticism, and judging by the numbers, he’s active and plays hard. So far this season, he’s averaging 20.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 2.5 assists per 100 possessions with two different D-League teams.

Yet, his Player Production Average (PPA) for the season is just 89. Yes, despite those impressive per 100 possession numbers, he still rates below average in the D-League this year. He’s been a bit better with Rio Grande, but even then he rates right about average (PPA: 98).

(For those who might not be regular readers: 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 and higher is better.)

So what’s the problem? Points, rebounds, assists and steals are all on the “plus” side of the player evaluation ledger. Unfortunately, Murry also has high numbers on the “minus” side. This includes poor shooting and lots of turnovers.

Here’s a comparison of Murry’s shooting to the rest of the D-League this year:

Stat Murry D-League
efg .452 .518
2pt% .475 .512
3pt% .254 .354

If there’s a reason to think he’ll shoot better in the NBA than he has in the D-League, I’d love to see it. In the minors this season, Murry shoots more frequently than average per 100 possessions, but scores less. His assists are nice, but are offset by high turnovers. Overall this season, his offensive rating is 102 points per 100 possessions in a league that has an offensive rating of 110. Even if we ignore his less-good stint with Idaho, his offensive rating is still just 105, which is well below average.

Murry is a good defender, according to the defense part of PPA. He generates steals, which could be good depending on how (meaning: does he steal the ball by being in good position and having great anticipation, or is he disrupting the team concept by gambling in passing lanes?), and he’s aggressive on the defensive glass. Both his teams this season have been terrible defensively — more than five points per 100 possessions worse than average. It’s hard to blame him for that considering he has just 670 total D-League minutes this year. Overall, my approach suggests he’s an above average defender.

This is fine, but…in basketball, situational substitutions are difficult to make. Teams have to take the whole player — good and bad. What matters is a player’s overall impact. And Murry’s is decidedly average. D-League average. Given what’s been ailing the Wizards lately, if they were going to skew toward one end of the court, offense would seem more logical. In my analysis, it’s unlikely Murry will help much. Barring a Butler-like hot streak, Murry will be a deficit on offense who might hold his own defensively.

Could the Wizards have done better? Well, there are several guards in the D-League who have been more productive. This includes the tiny Tim Frazier, who was terrible in six games with Philadelphia last month. Other guys who look more promising in the numbers:

  • David Stockton, Reno – Small (just 5-11), but efficient. His offensive rating is 119 so far this season. Excellent shooter with impressive assist numbers. His team has been terrible defensively, but he rates as having an average defensive impact. Came to training camp with Washington, so maybe they’ve already seen enough to conclude they don’t want him. D-League PPA: 162
  • Seth Curry, Erie – Doesn’t have a well-rounded game, BUT he’s an adequate defender who shoots like a Curry. PPA: 152.
  • Elliott Williams, Santa Cruz – A 6-5 SG type who’s a willing passer and has shot the ball well this season. Decent defender on a good defensive team. PPA: 147.
  • D.J. Seeley, Delaware – A 6-4 SG and willing passer who has shot well this season (.435 on 186 3pt attempts). Too many turnovers for my liking. And he rates a shade below average defensively. PPA: 133.
  • Aaron Craft, Santa Cruz – Small, quick, strong and tough-as-graphene. Craft was one of the best collegiate defenders I ever saw, and that’s showing up in his D-League numbers as well. Still a suspect three-point shooter, but he’s a good passer, doesn’t commit turnovers, and seems to know a thing or two about running a team. PPA: 122.
  • Vander Blue, Los Angeles — A 6-4 SG out of Marquette, which means he plays hard and defends. He’s not really a PG, but he’s a much improved shooter — .421 from 3pt range on 126 attempts. PPA: 119.

None of these guys are guaranteed producers, of course. All have their “warts,” as does Murry. If the Wizards wanted a 3&D type, Williams, Seeley and Blue would seem to be better options. Stockton and Craft are “pure PGs” and the front office may imagine they have that backup role covered with Ramon Sessions.

Signing Murry isn’t a disaster. But, he doesn’t match what the Wizards need, and he isn’t much of a prospect for the future. In that sense, it is something of a missed opportunity.

EDIT — Since publishing, Nick Bilka asked on Twitter about Chris Babb. He looks like a better option as well. Babb is a 6-5 SG who rebounds decently, defends adequately and shoots the three well. PPA: 141.

Wizards Update: Death Spiral

wall wtf

When the NBA entered its annual All-Star break, I started work on a piece intended to look at how teams similar to this year’s Wizards throughout league history fared when they reached the playoffs. At the time, Washington was 33-21, and their Simple Rating System (SRS) — a measure of team strength that combines scoring differential with strength of schedule — was +1.67 per game.

In the six games they’ve played since the break, they faced opponents with a combined scoring differential of -1.15. Even an average team would have been expected to win four of the six. The Wizards went 1-5 and were outscored by a whopping 86 points. That’s 14.3 points per game. Even if I throw out the 38-point loss to Cleveland as an aberration, Washington lost the other five by 9.6 points per game. Their SRS now stands at -0.02.

All season, I’ve been writing variations on the theme of “The Wizards Just Ain’t That Good,” but I’m still surprised by their catastrophic collapse since the All-Star break. What’s scary: their remaining 22 games don’t look as easy as they did just a few weeks ago.

Fourteen of their remaining contests are against likely playoff teams. And, the key statistical indicators of team strength I watch are all dipping. This recent stretch of horrific basketball could merely be a rough patch for an average team, but it could also be a signal of an aging group that’s about to flat line.

When I run the numbers through my “who’s gonna win” machine, the results are…well…bad. In a worst-case scenario, the Wizards would limp into the playoffs with just seven wins over their last 22. I think they’ll be better than that, but it’s hard to find more than 11 wins the rest of the way (which, by the way, would give them a final record of 45-37, which happens to be what I projected for them back in October). Barring a miracle about-face, those dreams of a 50-win season will remain just that.

As long as I’m fretting, here’s another reason for Wizards fans to be concerned: this interview of team president Ernie Grunfeld by radio guy Dave Johnson. Presented with respectful softball questions by Johnson, Grunfeld offered his thoughts on how his team could pull out of its skid — and thoroughly misdiagnosed what’s wrong.

In the interview, Grunfeld suggested the team’s biggest problem has been a decline in their defense. He said their results will improve when they play better defense, get out on the fast break and “compete” on a nightly basis.

Here’s a look at the Wizards pre- and post-All-Star break:

TIME PACE ORTG DRTG
Pre-ASB 93.5 105.4 102.9
Post-ASB 96.7 93.4 108.3
CHANGE 3.2 -11.9 -5.4

What the numbers show is that the Wizards have played faster since the All-Star break, but have been worse. Grunfeld gets partial credit on the “play better defense” portion of his prescription since that would be a good thing to do. However, The drop in offensive efficiency is more than double their change in defensive efficiency. That means the team’s struggles are first and foremost because of its offense.

In case you were wondering, forgetting the debacle against Cleveland doesn’t change the analysis. Their defense the past three games has been excellent and yet they lost two because their offense was a horror show. If the Wizards want to start winning, they do need to get better on both ends, but their most important fix will be on offense.

There’s another issue with Grunfeld’s prescription — the data show the team’s offensive and defensive efficiency are uncorrelated. I’ve been tracking offensive and defensive efficiency by pace for years now, and this season’s result is the same as every other year. Good defense doesn’t cause good offense. Good offense doesn’t cause good defense. It’s almost as if offense and defense occur at different ends of the floor.

This season, if the numbers suggest anything it’s the Wizards show a very slight tendency to play better defense when they’re worse on offense. In terms of pace effects, Washington has a very slight tendency to play worse on offense in faster-paced games. But these “effects” are so small they’re basically meaningless.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-03-03 -- wiz ppa

My apologies for the format. The spreadsheet has reached a width that WordPress struggles to accommodate.

Early returns on the Andre Miller for Ramon Sessions trade aren’t good. As the table above shows, Miller had a PPA of 80 with the Wizards; Sessions has managed a Maynor-esque 13 so far. Meanwhile, Miller’s PPA with the Kings is a robust 90 (good for a backup PG). Sessions in Sacramento posted a 16 PPA.

Unsurprisingly for a team that barely ended a five-game losing streak, production for most guys was down. The biggest decliner was John Wall, but he was hardly alone. The team also saw drop-offs from Nenê, Garrett Temple, Rasual Butler, and Kevin Seraphin.

Perhaps the Wizards can turn things around, but it’s an old team that doesn’t have a ton of upside. Over the season’s final 22 contests, Wall will likely play more like he did earlier in the season, but it’s not realistic to think any of the team’s older players have much room for improvement. Maybe Beal or Porter can play better to close out the season, but neither looks ready to provide a surge in production.

Realistically speaking, if the Wizards can go .500 the rest of the way, I’d call it a success. But, winning just seven or eight of their remaining 22 is a realistic possibility as well. That would leave them with 41 or 42 wins, which would almost certainly relegate them to the sixth seed. Where they’d probably draw Cleveland and get bounced from the playoffs in the first round.

So. Wizards.

Wizards Update: Designed to Piss Off Charles Barkley

Drew Gooden celebrates being the biggest improver in this week's Player Production Average update.

Drew Gooden celebrates being the biggest improver in this week’s Player Production Average update.

Charles Barkley doesn’t like analytics. His argument works out to this: “I don’t know anything about analytics and I never will. Also, you stat people never played the game and couldn’t get girls in high school.”

Partial credit to the new number one on my list of people I’d like to meet at a poker table — I didn’t “get girls” in high school, perhaps because I was too busy playing basketball.

Of course, if we apply Barkley’s fatuous logic that only people who have played the game are qualified to offer opinions about the game, then only people who have done analytics would be qualified to offer opinions about analytics. Which means, by Barkley’s own Rules of Living, we should all shut the hell up — on a lot of things. Hmm, maybe he’s on to something.

Despite Barkley’s assertion that “analytics don’t work,” the facts are that in recent years, top teams have made extensive use of analytics to improve their teams. Of course, there are crappy teams that use analytics, but the same was true when teams were built by Men Who Stared At Players.

Analytics are not an end to themselves, and they’re not intended to eliminate people from decision-making. They’re tools to help inform decisions — sorta like being able to estimate odds in poker. You’re playing both the cards and the people across the table, but it’s a sucker who wagers without a good sense for their chances of winning. Which reminds me that Barkley really sucks at gambling.

Speaking of analytics, the Wizards could use some help. Despite dominating wins over sad-sack Brooklyn and Orlando, there’s a pervasive sense of gloom about the team lately. Since starting the season 22-8, they’re 11-13. The struggles weren’t a shock — it was the toughest part of the team’s schedule.

Heading into the All-Star break, areas for concern are much the same as they were when I wrote about them more than a month ago:

  • Age — Production has dropped significantly over the past month for the team’s oldest players, Paul Pierce and Andre Miller. Nenê has been doing better, but remains below average for a starter. The team has been terrific with him on the floor, however. And, in the “no shock” category, Rasual Butler’s production has dropped.
  • No Elite Producers – No, not even Wall, at least not on a per minute basis. His PPA (see below) is 166. That would rank fourth on the Atlanta Hawks behind Al Horford (203), Jeff Teague (190), and Paul Millsap (175). Among players with at least 500 minutes this season, Wall ranks 30th in per minute production. He’s 11th in total production, so I’ll take that as an argument in favor of “elite” status, even though he’s played the second most minutes in the league this year, and seven of the 10 ahead of him have played significantly fewer minutes. Wall IS playing well. But, I think there’s still major room for improvement.
  • Kevin Seraphin — He was better in January, but seems to have flattened out in February. Overall, he continues to rate right around replacement level. I think the team can get by with him against bad teams, but will need better play off the bench when they face tougher competition.
  • Lack of Progress From The Youngsters – Bradley Beal’s PPA has been hovering in the average range; Porter’s in the below-average-but-still-useful range. But, neither guy has taken a significant step forward, and now Beal is sidelined for a third time with a “stress reaction” in his leg.
  • Health — Beal with the stress reaction. Webster recovering from back surgery. Wall with the migraines and the (maybe) Achilles soreness, and/or ankle soreness. Humphries with the back. Nothing major yet, but these bumps and bruises can affect productivity, and there are always injury concerns with older players.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-02-12 -- Wizards PPA update

My apologies on the format, but I was running out of space for the full week-by-week PPA table. By the end of the season, we’ll all need a magnifying glass to read it.

A lot of consistency at this point. Most of the guys seem to have found their levels. My biggest worries are with the old guys, who seem to be wearing down as the season progresses. Hopefully they’ll be rejuvenated by this year’s extra-long All-Star break.

Wizards Update: The Losing Streak

gortat shaved mohawk

So little time today, but I want to get the numbers up and address one topic: the (apparently) Official Wizards Fan Talking Point that the the Wizards are a “good” team going through a tough stretch.

While there’s a certain appeal to that position, and its supporters could point to the team’s record as evidence, the numbers simply don’t agree. The key stat to understand relative team strength is scoring differential — even more than record. The guys at Basketball-Reference created a robust team strength measure they call Simple Rating System (SRS), which combines scoring differential and strength of schedule.

In SRS, the WIzards have bounced around a bit this season, climbing into the top 10 for a week early on, but steadily sliding since then. Now emerging from the toughest part of their schedule, Washington ranks 16th in SRS — now behind Milwaukee. Consider that the Bucks and Wizards have played schedules of identical difficulty (0.63 points per game worse than average), but the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 1.96 points per game — the Wizards 1.66. A small difference to be sure, but it’s meaningful over the course of the marathon NBA season.

The data says that Washington isn’t a bad team, but it’s not good either. It’s a little better than average with a record made superficially better by the woeful state of the Eastern Conference. Because of the weak conference, the Wizards still have a decent shot at a top three seed, and a reasonable chance of advancing past the first round.

But, the problem isn’t that they’ve “just gotten out of sync” or that they’re not playing hard enough. It’s that they’re just not that good. Their margin for success each night is slender, and on nights when they’re not playing at something close to their best, they’re vulnerable.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

PLAYER GMS MPG 11/10 11/18 11/24 12/3 12/8 12/17 12/23 12/29 1/6 1/14 1/23 PPA
John Wall 50 35.9 185 180 180 168 167 175 171 171 167 172 167 168
Marcin Gortat 50 29.5 181 186 170 175 179 178 178 173 158 157 160 144
Paul Pierce 47 26.9 140 138 165 134 134 154 142 143 148 144 141 138
Nene Hilario 42 25.5 108 102 68 67 83 94 96 97 101 112 124 109
Bradley Beal 41 34.0 122 63 69 94 90 98 102 106 108 101
Kris Humphries 49 22.0 46 87 90 82 109 100 88 109 103 98 101 110
Rasual Butler 46 20.8 60 131 116 128 155 140 134 123 99 101 89 77
Andre Miller 48 12.2 72 69 92 103 102 101 89 85 97 94 84 81
Otto Porter 45 18.0 97 106 101 95 84 81 84 82 85 82 78 72
Garrett Temple 38 11.7 121 112 96 100 98 91 90 75 73 68 78 74
Kevin Seraphin 49 15.6 38 13 17 12 28 34 45 36 35 44 48 47
Drew Gooden 23 12.0 42 40 59 78 64 47 47 44 32 22 23 29
DeJuan Blair 14 4.6 -41 -40 -40 -74 -56 -47 -46 -34 2 16 19 19
Martell Webster 13 10.0 -150 -44 -67 3
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117 -114 -113 -111 -111 -110 -110 -110 -109

No big surprises here. As would be expected for a team in a four-game losing streak, production has dipped for several players. Biggest decliners: the old guys — Gortat, Nenê, and Butler. The only real “improver” was Humphries. For the Seraphin watchers, the big fella stabilized right around replacement level since the last update.

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.