As a sorta codicil to my Wizards preview at Vice Sports, here’s some background on why the Wizards new “pace & space” offense may not provide as much of a boost to the record as those of us pushing for it might have hoped. And no, this has nothing to do with the house-building performance in the opener at Orlando.
Last season, the Wizards took lots of what Randy Wittman called “good shots.” Wittman’s “good” shots were what us analysts called “the worst shots in the game.” In other words: two-point jumpers. As chronicled in many places around the Internets, the best shots are at-rim, threes, and free throws.
How much better could Washington’s offense have been last season? As economist (and creator of the Wins Produced metric) David Berri might write, with a bit of math I estimated they could have added as much as 1.5 points per 100 possessions merely by having league average shot selection. That may not sound like much, but it translates to 3-4 wins, assuming their defense was the same. In other words, 49-50 wins instead of 46.
So, why am I projecting 42 wins this year instead of 45 or 46? The issue is RELATIVE advantage. Many teams around the league are going to variations of the pace and space. Many teams want to play faster and change their shot mix to emphasize at-rim and three-point attempts.
Improvement from the Wizards offense may be counter-balanced by efficiency improvements in the offenses of other teams, and by the emergence of better defensive strategies as more teams adopt similar offensive playing styles. While the Wizards may be more efficient, other team are likely to be more efficient too — at least until defenses start figuring things out. At which point games will come down to overall talent, execution and as yet undetermined strategic innovations.
Your mileage may vary, but I don’t have much faith in Randy Wittman and his coaching staff to lead the next innovation. That means we’re back to base talent, and the Wizards are about middle of the pack in that area. At least until they sign Kevin Durant next summer.