Month: January 2015

Wizards Update: Just the Stats

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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.