USA Basketball’s 28-man player pool for international tournaments in 2014 and 2016 got leaked to ESPN yesterday. Wizards fans were pleased to see the name of Bradley Beal on the “newcomers” list, but many were puzzled by the omission of PG John Wall.
SBNation’s Matthew Tynan put Wall atop his list of “snubs” — a list that included Greg Monroe and Chandler Parsons. Around the web and in private conversations, the reaction from Wizards fans runs the gamut from “Wall’s been disrespected” to “well, he didn’t play all that well in that USA Basketball camp last year” to “his game isn’t well-suited to international hoops.”
The discussion of Wall and the international team goes hand-in-hand with the question posed in this RealGM message board thread: Is Wall A Top 5 PG? The answer to that question goes to the heart of player evaluation. In my rating system (called Player Production Average — PPA for short), Wall is the number two PG in the East, but ranks just 10th in the league in doing the things that cause teams to win.
This result puzzles many fans, who watch the games and see the basic (and not very useful) stats presented during game broadcasts. It’s easy to understand why “watchers” hold Wall in such high esteem — he’s an active, dynamic player who does lots of stuff during the course of a game. And those per game stats are good too.
What’s the disconnect? Some fans (and perhaps some talent evaluators as well) pay attention to the good stuff a player does while discounting (or ignoring completely) the negatives. For an example, look at last night’s overtime loss to the Boston Celtics. Wall posted a triple-double — 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and he added 3 steals to boot. The storyline from the game: Wall’s triple-double wasn’t enough because…fill in the blank (the Wizards bench was bad; Nenê isn’t what he used to be; Randy Wittman is a bad coach; Beal is still on his minutes limit).
What’s being left out is that Wall’s triple-double included 20 missed FGA, 6 turnovers, and 5 fouls. In a game where the Wizards produced an offensive rating (points per possession x 100) of 101, Wall’s offensive rating was a dismal 87. And he used nearly 40% of the team’s possessions while on the floor.
To further illustrate, I made up a couple new stats: Good Plays Only (GPO) and Bad Plays Only (BPO). The formulas:
- GPO = fgm + 0.5 x ftm + reb + ast + stl + blk
- BPO = missed fg + 0.5 x missed ft + tov + pf
Looking at total GPO, Wall is the number two PG in the league (behind only Stephen Curry) and ranks 12th overall. If we use per minute GPO, Wall drops to 5th among PGs (Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Curry and Michael Carter-Williams are ahead of him) and 27th overall. Hey, top 5 right?
So, Wall does a lot of “good stuff” out there — something that likely explains why he’s so highly regarded among fans, media members and league talent evaluators. Except…these categories aren’t weighted based on what they contribute to team wins, and they don’t include negative side of the ledger. It would be akin to evaluating personal wealth by adding up our paychecks without considering bills that have to be paid.
Turning to the “bills” part of the good/bad equation, Wall has the third highest total BPO (Bad Plays Only) among PGs (Curry and Monta Ellis have higher totals), and the 8th most among all players. In per minute BPO, Wall is 5th highest among PGs (behind Westbrook, Carter-Williams, Curry, and Kyrie Irving), and 15th overall in the league.
GPO shows that Wall makes a lot of good plays. BPO shows he makes a lot of bad ones. In financial terms, he earns a lot of money, but he spends a lot too. That “spending” reduces the “balance” (so to speak) and limits his positive impact for the Wizards. He’s a good player, but he could help his team win more by reducing those negative plays (missed shots and turnovers).
One final point with this GPO/BPO stat — call it Net Good & Bad Plays (NGBP). The formula is simple: GPO – BPO. In TOTAL NGBP, Wall ranks 4th among PGs (behind Paul, Ricky Rubio, and Ty Lawson) and 29th overall. On a per minute basis, Wall ranks 5th among PGs (behind Paul, Rubio, Lawson and Westbrook), but 66th overall.
Keep in mind — there’s no weighting done on these categories based on how these stats contribute to winning and losing. In PPA, which has that weighting, Wall ranks 5th in total production among PGs and 24th in the league (high-minute players logically lead in total production). On a per minute basis, he ranks 10th among PGs and 51st in the league. That’s good, but it’s not elite. And no, it doesn’t warrant being chosen for the U.S. national team.
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