Month: February 2014

Wizards Playing the Odds Without Nenê

The Wizards will miss the injured Nenê for the next six weeks, but it’s an open question how much. The on/off data would say “a lot.” The team has performed better when he’s been on the floor. Other statistical data is more equivocal. Nenê’s individual production has slid to about average, which suggests the Wizards may be more able to replace him than some may think.

Still, the remaining games offer an opportunity for a minor experiment. So, I estimated the Wizards odds of winning each game for the rest of the season (assuming Nenê misses the remainder of the regular season) using their full season averages, and then using their averages when Nenê has been off the floor.

If those off-court numbers hold up, Nenê being out reduces the team’s chances of winning by approximately 6% in each game. For example, in tonight’s matchup with Toronto, I estimate that a full-strength Wizards team would have about a 40% chance of winning. Without Nenê, the odds drop to about 34%.

So anyway, here are the projected records if each game played out according to today’s odds:

REMAINING GAMES FINAL RECORD
SPLIT W L W L
Season 16 9 45 37
w/o Nenê 8 17 37 45

If the Wizards continued to perform at their established full-season level, they’d be favored to win 16 of their remaining 25 games. If that played out exactly as estimated, they’d finish the season 45-37.

If, on the other hand, they play to the level they have when Nenê has been out of the game, they’d be favored in only eight of the remaining games. Again, if the season played out exactly as estimated, they’d finish up 37-45.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. My expectation? I think Nenê’s production is replaceable. His absence will cost them some on defense, but will be a net benefit on offense. On balance, I think they won’t miss him much.

I’ll update regularly during Nenê’s absence to see how things change the rest of the way.

Andre Miller Is A Big Upgrade

wall dribbles

No time for anything in-depth today, but I wanted to get the numbers up. The Andre Miller trade is paying off already. In his first three games (and 44 minutes), Miller has been a bit more than four times as productive as Garrett Temple on a per minute basis.

John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat had good weeks. Trevor Booker did not. Martell Webster’s production declined for a seventh consecutive update.

The table below shows the just about weekly results of my metric: Player Production Average (PPA). PPA 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.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 52 35.7 148 155
John Wall 57 36.8 140 147
Marcin Gortat 57 32.4 139 144
Trevor Booker 47 20.1 118 112
Nene Hilario 49 30.1 103 103
Bradley Beal 48 33.5 90 94
Martell Webster 55 28.8 91 89
Andre Miller 3 14.7 88
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 69 69
Chris Singleton 15 10.9 60 53
Kevin Seraphin 43 12.2 44 43
Glen Rice 11 9.9 21 21
Garrett Temple 54 11.2 20 20
Al Harrington 10 15.1 6 12
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8
Otto Porter 24 8.9 -4 -6

Wizards Trade for Backcourt Upgrade

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors

The Wizards made a deal at the trade deadline, swapping Eric Maynor, Jan Vesely and a second round pick in 2015 in a three-team trade that landed 37-year old Nuggets PG Andre Miller. The trade provides Washington with a much-needed reserve guard, and costs the team little in the long-term.

For their stated goal of making the playoffs, this is a good trade. Miller has declined some in his NBA dotage, but is still productive in his 15th season. Regular readers are likely familiar with my Player Production Average metric (PPA), which credits players for things that contribute to wins, debits them for things that don’t — each in proper proportion. PPA is pace-neutral, accounts for defense and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor. In PPA, 100 = average and higher is better.

Miller’s PPA this season: 94. Last season it was a 96. The previous season: 84. This is a significant dropoff from the 140-range PPAs he posted in his early 30s, but it’s still more than adequate for a third guard. For comparison, Temple’s PPA this season: 20. Maynor’s: 8.

Acquiring Miller doesn’t affect Washington’s cap situation going forward. Vesely’s contract is up at the end of the season. Maynor had another year at $2.1 million, but only $2 million of Miller’s salary for next season is guaranteed. If the Wizards decide to bring him back, it would be the equivalent of signing a free agent PG for $2.525 million. The money they owed Maynor is a sunk cost they would have had to pay regardless.

And yet, I’m ambivalent about the trade. First, I don’t like giving up that second round pick. Some object based on the likelihood of it being a high second rounder. I really don’t care where it falls. In my analysis, second round picks are grossly undervalued by many teams, including the Wizards. They’re opportunities to take chances on guys with ability, but with a “wart” or two. They’re opportunities to obtain inexpensive talent to fill roles — or perhaps more. If it was me, I’d want lots of second round picks to have more shots at finding the next Gilbert Arenas or Carlos Boozer or Chase Budinger or Isaiah Thomas or Marc Gasol or Marcin Gortat or Nikola Pekovic or DeJuan Blair or DeAndre Jordan or Ersan Ilyasvoa or Amir Johnson or etc., etc., etc.

Remember, second rounders typically sign non-guaranteed contracts — if they get a contract at all. They can be sent to the D-League, seasoned overseas, or simply straight out released if they don’t work. Low-risk investment with the possibility of a significant reward. Even if only half your second rounders turn into rotation players, they’re still providing valuable production at bargain price. But I digress.

The second reason I’m ambivalent is that it highlights a long series of mistakes and mismanagement by Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards front office. It’s nice they could acquire Miller, but they shipped out Maynor — the free agent prize, who just six months ago was supposed to be their upgrade at backup PG. Now they’re paying a second round pick to dump him. Vesely, of course, was the sixth overall pick in the draft (chosen ahead of Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried), who has totaled almost as many turnovers plus fouls as he did rebounds or points.

Over the past few seasons, the Wizards have managed to turn near-max cap space, future 1st and 2nd round picks, a 6th overall pick, and a BAE into Gortat, Ariza and Miller. All of whom have expiring contracts.

And third, I look back with some frustration on the ones that got away. In particular, I think of Shelvin Mack — a guy the Wizards cut twice to keep less productive players — who’s having a solid year in Atlanta.

But, Miller does improve the team’s bench. He should give Randy Wittman lineup options at the end of games, and his success sharing the backcourt with Ty Lawson in Denver bodes well for a partnership with Wall in DC. He’s an experience, efficient pro, who will help the Wizards make the playoffs, even if they still figure to be a first-round out. In that sense, the trade is fine. But it’s a shame the deal was even necessary.

Should the Wizards Fire Randy Wittman?

USP NBA: WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT DETROIT PISTONS S BKN USA MI

I was all set to write a piece arguing that it would be pointless to fire Randy Wittman. Yeah, he’s not a good coach, but in my view the team is performing about as I expected. The Wizards are neither good nor bad. They’re mediocre. Or, looked at another way, the Wizards are BOTH good and bad. Which is merely another way of saying the same thing: this is an average team.

They are what their talent says they are. I don’t believe that any coach could come in and transmogrify this roster into a…well…what exactly? a contender for the third seed? Blech.

What would “fix” the Wizards? Fewer two-point jumpers? More screen/roll with John Wall and Marcin Gortat? Better defined roles? A rotation that somehow includes developmental minutes for Otto Porter? A more solid defensive scheme? More consistent effort? Sure, any or all.

Some of that could be influenced by the coach, some not. My position has been that Wittman is a problem, not The Problem. And, “The Problem” is that the team doesn’t have enough talent, which is a result of a series of bad decisions by the front office. My thinking has been this: Don’t let Ernie Grunfeld off the hook. Make him live with the success or failure of the team he assembled — players AND coaches.

Except, let’s look at reality. Owner Ted Leonsis set the franchise goal for the season: Make the playoffs. In very large part because of a historically weak Eastern Conference, the Wizards will almost certainly accomplish that goal. While they’d be roughly the 11th best team in the West, they’re 5th or 6th best in the East. It would take a catastrophic collapse over their final 29 games to miss the postseason.

Assuming Leonsis is a man of his word, Grunfeld will be retained in the offseason. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Washington makes the playoffs and Leonsis doesn’t bring back Grunfeld and The Coach.

I use “The Coach” intentionally, because the question for Wizards fans is whether you want to root for a team that’s stuck with Grunfeld and Wittman or a team that’s stuck with Grunfeld and Someone Else. My feeling is that Someone Else — whether it’s an interim coach who’s replaced by a “permanent” hire after the season or whether it’s an interim coach who “succeeds” and keeps the job — will be a better long-term option for the Wizards than Wittman.

So, even though Wittman has been saddled with a roster that doesn’t include a single player that ranks among the league’s 40 most productive players (Trevor Ariza is the highest rated Wizards player at 44), count me among the fans who’d like to see a new coach. Now.

Moving on to the update…  The table below presents results from my Player Production Average (PPA) metric. PPA 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.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 48 35.8 152 148
John Wall 53 37.1 149 140
Marcin Gortat 53 32.4 139 139
Trevor Booker 43 20.2 125 118
Nene Hilario 46 30.3 103 103
Martell Webster 51 29.1 94 91
Bradley Beal 44 33.2 86 90
Jan Vesely 32 14.7 72 69
Chris Singleton 14 10.6 60 60
Kevin Seraphin 40 11.8 32 44
Glen Rice 11 9.9 21 21
Garrett Temple 51 11.5 13 20
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8
Al Harrington 7 18.6 6 6
Otto Porter 23 9.3 4 -4

When looking at these numbers, keep in mind that PPA scores in the 140-150 range (like Ariza and Wall) are nowhere near elite levels of production. A typical MVP-quality season would have a PPA of 230 or better. This season’s MVP is likely to be Kevin Durant with a PPA of 261 (so far). Last season, Lebr0n James posted the best PPA in my database with a 284.

Wall had a feel-good All-Star weekend winning the dunk contest and playing well in the game. But, if he played in the West, he wouldn’t have been part of the All-Star discussion. He continues to have All-World potential, but his actual production is good — not great.

Biggest improvers in this update were Kevin Seraphin and Garrett Temple. Seraphin is now at replacement level. Temple continues to be among the league’s weakest PGs, but is at least a little less bad than he’d been.

Wall’s performance slumped leading into the All-Star break. Perhaps he was distracted by the coming festivities? Nenê’s production continues to hover around league average. Martell Webster’s play declined for a sixth consecutive update.

Weekly Wizards Check-Up: The Over .500 Edition

seraphin dunks

Wanted to get this up before tonight’s match-up with the San Antonio Spurs — a team the Wizards haven’t beaten since 2005. For those keeping score at home, that’s 15 consecutive losses to the Spurs. But, I’m digressing (in the lede, no less). The point is to celebrate that the Wizards are a game over .500 for the first time in four years.

When I told my 17-year old the other night, he said (and this is an exact quote): “Wow. Is the East really that bad this year?”

When I tried to tell my 14-year old, I’d gotten to “…for the first time in…” He finished the sentence with, “…my lifetime?”

Wiseass.

Although, now that I reflect on it, I’m not sure he was joking. The team has been bad enough for long enough that it’s probably a reasonable question for a less-than-casual follower of the team. Put another way, it’s been nearly 29% of my 14-year old’s life since the Wizards had a record over .500.

Anyway, not much time for this week’s update. The table below presents results from my Player Production Average (PPA) metric. PPA 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.

A few quick observations:

  • Biggest improvers this week were Kevin Seraphin and Garrett Temple. John Wall had a good week, and Marcin Gortat wasn’t bad either. Trevor Ariza maintained at a high level of production.
  • In consecutive games against Oklahoma City and Portland, Seraphin had single-game PPA scores of 179 and 178. If he could somehow manage that kind of play over a full season, it would put him among the league’s 10-12 most productive centers — in a general grouping with Joakim Noah, Nikola Pekovic and DeAndre Jordan. I do not expect this kind of performance to continue for long.
  • Martell Webster’s PPA slipped for a fifth consecutive update. His production for the season is now slightly below average. His shooting continues to be excellent, but he’s very low usage (about 14% of the team’s possessions when he’s in the game), and he doesn’t rebound or assist much. His defense rates as a little below average in my analysis.
  • Nenê’s production continues to hover around league average. The trajectory of his production is looking scarily like a fairly typical NBA aging curve. The team continues to be better when he’s on the floor, but the dip in his overall production has to be a concern — especially since he’s due $13 million for two more seasons after this one.
  • Eric Maynor didn’t exactly give a good example of staying ready. After getting DNP-CD for a month, Maynor finally got a shot. In just 6:37 of playing time, Maynor was bad enough to lower his PPA for the season by five points. When it comes to Maynor, keep in mind this quote from Ernie Grunfeld on the eve of training camp:

We wanted to upgrade our backup point guard position and Eric [Maynor] has been with us now, three weeks in a row. He’s very solid, very steady. He brings a little poise to the game. He knows how to play. So we feel we’ve upgraded that position.

PLAYER GMS MPG LW PPA
Trevor Ariza 42 35.2 151 152
John Wall 47 36.9 143 149
Marcin Gortat 47 32.6 136 139
Trevor Booker 37 21.2 136 125
Nene Hilario 40 29.6 104 103
Martell Webster 45 30.0 100 94
Bradley Beal 38 32.8 89 86
Jan Vesely 29 15.7 72 72
Chris Singleton 14 10.6 60 60
Kevin Seraphin 34 10.8 17 32
Glen Rice 11 9.9 21 21
Garrett Temple 45 11.5 3 13
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 13 8
Al Harrington 7 18.6 6 6
Otto Porter 22 9.4 4 4