Wizards Must Try Not To Let Success Go To Their Heads

Seen on Twitter the past few days is the heady news that the Washington Wizards went .500 in November — tied for the franchise’s third best winning percentage for month in the past 30 years. Forgive me if I don’t join the parade. For a team like the San Antonio Spurs — a good team that competes for championships — the same record would be their ninth worst in the same time span.

A .500 record for a month is not cause for celebration. The Wizards have a good starting group, but an awful bench. The net result: precisely average. The team is improved, but that’s not the same thing as being good. In a weak East where several teams are tanking, even a meh team can make the playoffs.

All that said, let me reiterate — the Wizards are improved. John Wall is the best PG in the East, and currently ranks 7th overall at his position. The team is getting well-above average play from Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Nene. The team’s depth makes any success feel tenuous, but they have a core of good players for this season.

One common thread of Wizards discussion I’d like to address before posting the weekly PPA update is this notion that PG Eric Maynor was at some point “good” and that he’s abruptly and inexplicably gotten worse in Washington.

The facts are that Maynor has been a sub-par player throughout his career. That people believed otherwise is testament to attributing to Maynor that which should have been attributed to his teammates. In other words, folks believed Maynor was causing (or contributing) teammates to be better when, in fact, those other players were producing on their own.

The reason I’m addressing this topic is that asserting that Maynor was at some point “good” or “serviceable” is to let the Wizards’ front office off the hook. In reality, signing Maynor was a terrible waste of resources, and evidence that Ernie Grunfeld and his team still haven’t figured out how to evaluate players. They thought they were getting a steal. Instead, they were getting a lemon. And what’s head-bangingly frustrating is that fairly rudimentary look at the numbers would have told them so.

With that out of the way, here’s the weekly Player Production Average update. PPA is a player rating stat I developed. It 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.

John Wall 17 37.6 158 169
Martell Webster 17 33.6 144 156
Marcin Gortat 17 34.4 139 152
Trevor Ariza 12 35.6 123 146
Nene 14 33.3 127 133
Trevor Booker 9 14.0 102 96
Bradley Beal 13 40.2 82 81
Jan Vesely 11 17.9 81 75
Chris Singleton 3 8.7 51
Eric Maynor 16 10.5 50 35
Al Harrington 7 18.6 7 6
Glen Rice Jr. 6 6.3 -5 -10
Garrett Temple 15 11.5 -18 -14
Kevin Seraphin 13 8.5 -39 -27

What jumps out? On the plus side, the team has a good group of starters. Wall appears to be doing what I predicted at the start of the season — making The Leap to becoming a top-shelf PG. Webster, Gortat, Ariza and Nene round out a quality lineup.

On the down side, there’s the rest of the team. Booker has dipped below average for the first time this season on scant playing time. So far this season, the team falls apart on defense when Booker is on the floor.

Vesely appears to be the beneficiary of lowered expectations from fans. He was so inept last season that anything positive gets exaggerated. He is better than last season in that his play hasn’t been a total train wreck. But, he remains well below average.

Some fans (and perhaps the Wizards as well) hoped that Singleton would provide some kind of significant contribution when he returned from a foot injury. Thus far…not so much. Very small sample size, however.

Maynor’s production has slipped below replacement level. Seriously, the Wizards would do better (or at least do no worse) giving his minutes to someone from the D-League. What’s scary: as bad as he’s been, Harrington, Rice, Temple and Seraphin have been worse.

The Wizards will need to either a) get some level of production from The Bench That Grunfeld Built, or b) bolster the bench with a trade or from the D-League. Without radical improvement from its reserves, this team seems perfectly constructed for a first-round playoff ouster — regardless of the opponent.


Wizards Reward For Best Week: Brutal Schedule

The Wizards just had their best week of the season, going 3-1 and seeing PG John Wall receive the NBA’s Player of the Week award. Their reward? Four games in five nights with travel between each of the games. Yikes!

The uptick in Wall’s production was as welcome as it was abrupt. His shooting had been atrocious, but became deadly, and he continued doing a first-rate job of finding teammates for open shots at the basket. His play was similar in quality to his transcendent March — when he performed like one of the game’s top five players.

In other good news for the team, Wall wasn’t the only player who improved. Martell Webster enjoyed his return to the starting lineup, and Marcin Gortat and Nene also seemed to settle into their roles. Bradley Beal boosted his production a bit as well, though the youngster still has a ways to go.

The upcoming week will be a challenge for the depth-starved Wizards. They have the makings for a solid top seven, but everything after that remains a major question mark.

Here’s the weekly Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is a player rating stat I put together that credits players for things they do that contribute to winning and debits them for things that hurt the cause (each in regression-analyzed proper proportion). PPA includes defense, is pace-adjusted, and incorporates a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the strength of the opposing lineup. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

John Wall 13 37.8 111 158
Martell Webster 13 31.4 110 144
Marcin Gortat 13 33.5 116 139
Nene Hilario 11 32.5 118 127
Trevor Ariza 8 35.1 123 123
Trevor Booker 8 12.6 110 102
Bradley Beal 13 40.2 71 82
Jan Vesely 7 17.3 95 81
Eric Maynor 12 10.4 66 50
Al Harrington 7 18.6 6 7
Glen Rice 5 6.8 -5 -5
Garrett Temple 11 9.2 -36 -18
Kevin Seraphin 10 8.7 -33 -39

As Captain Obvious said, “The bench remains a major weakness.” Jan Vesely’s effectiveness declined as his playing time increased. Trevor Booker’s individual numbers are good, but the defense is a catastrophic failure thus far when he’s on the floor. Al Harrington was awful before he sat with knee trouble. Kevin Seraphin has been even worse than last season — and last season he was the league’s least productive center.

Guard depth is scary as well. Eric Maynor is drawing ire for his crummy play, but what he’s doing is exactly what fans should have expected from him. His PPA this season: 50. His career PPA before this season: 49. His peak PPA for a season was 57. This is his normal level of play. What’s scary: Temple has been worse.

For now, I don’t envy the options head coach Randy Wittman has. The team desperately needs at least two someones from the bench to step up production — one big and one guard. Unfortunately, the roster assembled by Ernie Grunfeld isn’t jammed with “good bets” on a guy or two who might suddenly start playing better.

I’ve been suggesting since offseason that the team’s best option for depth may be to use SF Trevor Ariza at PF (as a stretch four), especially if injured rookie Otto Porter can give them productive minutes at SF. Ariza is likely to be more productive as an S4 than Harrington has been, and he may provide the opposition with challenging match-ups at that spot.

No matter how I look at the various lineup permutations, the team’s rotation is skimpy — at best. With reasonable health for its rotation, the Wizards should be a playoff team. Lose anyone from the top seven or eight, and the playoffs are dicier, even in the East. And, I don’t think can sustain an extended absence from Wall, Nene or Gortat, however.

Wizards Consistent In Futility

In an era characterized by rapid change, it’s good to be able to count on things. When it comes to losing, when it comes to ineptitude, when it comes to futility — Wizards fans have been able to count on the team and its management. Since Ernie Grunfeld took control of the team’s direction in 2003-04, the Wizards have the league’s third worst winning percentage. This season — Grunfeld’s 11th with the team — they’re tied for the league’s fourth worst winning percentage through nine games. Maybe owner Ted Leonsis deems that progress.

How typical is the bad start? Over the past 11 seasons, the Wizards’ record in their first nine games is 30-69. The average start by Washington teams built by Grunfeld 2.7-6.3. That’s a .303 winning percentage. Which is bad. As in, about a 25-win team over the course of an 82-game season.

It’s still early in the season, and I expect the team to improve and make a run at the playoffs, but as the numbers below demonstrate — the team is being hurt by lack of depth and by lack of production from the players who are supposed to be its stars. I’ll get to the “stars” in a moment, but the team’s lack of quality players on its bench was both foreseeable and fixable during the offseason.

Re-litigating the bungled offseason isn’t useful at this point except as a reminder — the roster is the product of front office decisions. Eric Maynor and Al Harrington (the team’s free agent acquisitions) are Wizards instead of DeJuan Blair. The team holds the rights to Tomas Satoransky instead of the production of Jae Crowder, Kyle O’Quinn or Orlando Johnson. They have Glen Rice rather than Nate Wolters.

And this isn’t even going back to 2011, which included gems like picking Jan Vesely AND Chris Singleton ahead of Kenneth Faried.

Trying to look at the bright side, the numbers suggest that the team is getting a bit better than average production from its starters. Bradley Beal is the lone exception — he’s had some good games sprinkled into some real clunkers (about what should be expected from a youngster in his second season).

The problem? The production from John Wall, Nene and Marcin Gortat is perilously close to average. The Wizards need significant production from all three, especially Wall, if they’re going to be a decent team this year. Last March, Wall played like a potential MVP candidate. So far this season, he’s playing like a run-of-the-mill starter.

So, to the first Player Production Average (PPA) update of the season. PPA is a player rating stat I put together that credits players for things they do that contribute to winning and debits them for things that hurt the cause (each in regression-analyzed proper proportion). PPA includes defense, is pace-adjusted, and incorporates a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the strength of the opposing lineup. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

Trevor Ariza 8 35.1 123
Nene Hilario 7 30.6 118
Marcin Gortat 9 33.8 116
John Wall 9 36.9 111
Trevor Booker 5 16.4 110
Martell Webster 9 27.6 110
Jan Vesely 3 15.3 95
Bradley Beal 9 40.1 71
Eric Maynor 8 11.9 66
Al Harrington 7 18.6 6
Glen Rice 3 10.0 -5
Kevin Seraphin 9 8.8 -33
Garrett Temple 7 4.7 -36

Back to bright side stuff for a moment — Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor are each out-performing their pre-season projections and their level of play last season.

It’s tempting to brand Ariza’s play as the standard contract-year surge, except that it’s largely in line with his career norms except for a slight uptick in field goal attempts.

In scant playing time, Vesely has done just about everything the team could hope he’d provide. His offense is abysmal, but he does contribute offensive rebounds, which help. He’s also helping on the defensive glass. I anticipate his PPA to decline as he gets more playing time.

Maynor’s PPA is deceptively high. He had an outstanding 14 minutes against Miami — about 15% of his total minutes to date. The rest of his minutes have been bad. Keep in mind that back in September, Grunfeld had this to say about Maynor (h/t to Matt Kremnitzer’s superior Google search skills for the link):

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.

Basically, that the PPA table is saying is that when the Wizards top players are on the floor, they’re slightly better than average — something borne out by the on/off data. But there’s a big drop-off when they go to the bench. Big drop-offs to the bench aren’t atypical — lots of teams see major production drops when they use reserves. There are often very good reasons why guys are reserves. But, good teams have their starters outplay the opposing starters.

The Wizards starters hold their own, but the team falls apart when they use the bench. That’s not a recipe to reach the playoffs. It’s the recipe for 2-7. It’s the right mix for consistent futility.

And here’s a truly terrifying question for Wizards fans: How bad would this team be if they weren’t in “win now” mode?

Projection: Wizards Will Win 43 and Make Playoffs This Season

Will John Wall make The Leap to All-Star status this season?

NBA preseason doesn’t mean an awful lot. It’s perhaps a bit more important for a team like the Wizards — a bad team trying to get into the playoffs for the first time in awhile. But even then the information it provides isn’t all that…informative.

The regular season Wizards will get a significant boost from the preseason Wizards because of their move last Friday to acquire center Marcin Gortat. The veteran takes the spot vacated by the injured Emeka Okafor, who was sent to Phoenix (along with a first round pick).

I’ll get to my projection/prediction for the season in a moment, but first, a look at the preseason numbers. I’m not wasting time with the team-level stuff. The Wizards were terrible on offense and excellent on defense during the exhibition games. That’s theoretically a way to win games — a 68-65 win counts as much in the standings as one that’s 114-111. Still, being good on both ends would be preferable. If there’s any takeaway from the team-level preseason numbers it’s that the team was similar to the one they had last year (not surprising considering their few personnel changes), which was characterized by terrible offense and excellent defense.

Looking at the individuals, I’d conclude that most of the roster underwhelmed. Bradley Beal and Trevor Booker played well; Nene was okay, but not performing at the level he’s maintained throughout his career; and the rest…pretty bad. John Wall, the guy they’re building around, was awful. He shot badly from everywhere (.415 from two-point range; .118 from three-point range; just .727 from the free throw line), and committing 4.4 turnovers per 36 minutes.

Below is a table showing an “estimated” Player Production Average (PPA) for each player. I say “estimated” because PPA is based on league average season by season. That average is fairly consistent year to year, but there are fluctuations. Since it’s preseason, there isn’t enough data to calculate a true league “average” so I use an approximation of league average. Also, full PPA adjusts for pace, accounts for individual defense and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor — none of which I’m including in looking at the preseason numbers. In PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

Bradley Beal 7 30.3 146 92
Trevor Booker 6 20.5 144 96
Nene 5 22.2 118 119
Glen Rice 6 14.0 70
Jan Vesely 7 20.3 67 19
Trevor Ariza 7 23.4 52 108
Martell Webster 6 23.5 49 114
Al Harrington 5 16.6 43  81
Eric Maynor 6 21.0 38 32
Kevin Seraphin 7 25.9 27 22
Garrett Temple 5 15.6 25 60
John Wall 7 28.1 12 139

That last column is the player’s PPA in 2012-13. Except for Al Harrington, who missed most of last season with a staph infection.

Again, don’t read too much into the preseason numbers. The play of Beal and Booker are hopeful signs. Also good to see Jan Vesely doing something positive on the floor — he actually led the team in rebounding in preseason.

I’m not overly worried about Wall’s poor play, although it would have been nice to see him pick up where he left off at the end of last season.

If you’re thinking you’ll see better play from Eric Maynor once the season begins, stop it. At best the Wizards are likely get replacement level production from him.

Other potential cautions: Martell Webster and Kevin Seraphin were bad. Webster’s play is potentially worrisome because he hasn’t established himself to the point where his production level is a given. Last year, he had a terrific preseason, and it translated into a solid regular season. This year? Hard to say.

Seraphin’s preseason performance, is unfortunately matches up with most of the data on him. He was inefficient, turnover prone and rebounded like a SF.

Ariza’s preseason stats don’t mean a whole lot. He’s well-established and fairly consistent. He’ll provide the team with another season of stellar defense and meh offense, which will grade out to about average.

2013-14 Projection

Given the team’s offseason moves, it was clear that the team’s fortunes this season rested on the health of three players: Wall, Nene and Okafor. Now that they’ve traded for Gortat, their fortunes rest on the health of three players: Wall, Nene and Gortat. They don’t have quality depth behind any of these three.

While my projection relies on statistical data, there’s a fair amount of guesswork in divvying up minutes. The table below shows my estimates of games played, minutes played, and PPA. The estimates for games and minutes are a combination of player history, analysis of similar players in the NBA record, and logic. PPA estimates incorporate each player’s individual performance history, analysis of historical similars, and aging effects.

POS  Player  G MPG LS 2013-14
PG John Wall 66 35.8 139 160
PG Eric Maynor 75 13.0 32 34
G Garrett Temple 60 10.9 60 45
SG Glen Rice 42 11.4 75
SG Bradley Beal 68 34.0 92 108
SF Otto Porter 41 20.0 75
SF Trevor Ariza 61 29.6 108 105
SF Martell Webster 60 24.6 114 97
PF Nene 62 29.1 119 146
PF Chris Singleton 34 10.0 24 43
PF Jan Veseley 60 10.0 19 51
PF Al Harrington 66 18.0 81 78
PF Trevor Booker 58 19.7 96 106
C Marcin Gortat 74 29.0 125 146
C Kevin Seraphin 69 18.2 22 46

LS = last season, except for Harrington.

My approach projects Wall making The Leap to All-Star level production, whether he makes the team or not. It also projects significant improvement from Beal, although it suggests he’s another year from making The Leap himself. I’m also expecting bounce-back years in per minute production from Nene and Gortat.

I’m expecting regression from Webster both in terms of overall production and in health.

I crunched the numbers on several different scenarios. In a best-case situation that assumes near perfect health, the Wizards could win 48 games. My worst case projection has them at 34 wins.

Final prediction: 43-39, and the Wizards get the 7th seed in the playoffs.

For those who are curious, here’s how the projections looked with the various possibilities between Okafor, Gortat and neither.

  • Current roster (with Gortat): 43-39
  • With healthy Okafor: 42-40
  • Without Gortat or Okafor (no trade): 38-44

Gortat Trade Is Culmination of Series of Bad Moves for Wizards

Late Friday afternoon, news emerged that the Washington Wizards had traded injured center Emeka Okafor and a first round pick to the Phoenix Suns for center Marcin Gortat and salary cap ballast. While Gortat is a good player who will help the Wizards more games than they would have with Okafor sidelined, it’s a terrible move for a rebuilding franchise.

Unfortunately for fans who had hoped to see Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld construct a team that could contend for championships in the near future, it’s merely another example of the team squandering opportunities and mismanaging its assets. In the summer of 2012, for example, the Wizards could have amnestied Andray Blatche and released Rashard Lewis — moves that would have carved out enough cap space to acquire a quality front court player, sign good young players to mid-priced contracts, AND preserved future cap space for possible future free agents.

Instead, they traded for Okafor and Trevor Ariza — both of whom figured to be two-year rentals, at best. While the rebuilding Wizards added a 30-year old Okafor to pair up front with the 31-year old Nene, rebuilding New Orleans used the cap space they’d obtained from the Wizards to acquire Ryan Anderson — a productive 24-year old power forward.

This offseason was even worse. After last season, the team’s biggest need was obvious: front court depth. Okafor and Nene were reasonably effective, but both were 30-plus years old — an age at which NBA players typically see declines in productivity and increases in time missed due to injury.

So, they went into the offseason stocked with these assets:

  • Promising starters in the backcourt (John Wall and Bradley Beal)
  • A solid SF in the final year of his contract (Ariza)
  • The third overall pick in the draft
  • Two second round picks
  • The Bi-Annual Exception (BAE)
  • The Mid-Level Exception (MLE)

They used that draft pick on SF Otto Porter, who should be a good professional player once he’s healthy. In my pre-draft analysis, I had Porter rated in a tie for fourth overall, so picking him third wasn’t much of a stretch. And, the difference between Porter and at least two of the guys I had ahead of him (Cody Zeller and Nerlens Noel) was small enough that reasonable minds could differ on which of the three projected to be the best pro.

They swapped their 2nd round picks to move up a spot and take Glen Rice Jr., which might work out as a decent move. My analysis of his D-League performance suggests Rice may have been worth a mid-first round selection — he could turn out to be a terrific value as a 2nd rounder.

But here’s where things got puzzling. On the first day of free agency, they spent their BAE to sign reserve PG Eric Maynor — a consistently crummy NBA player. Guys who performed like Maynor are ones teams invite to training camp on non-guaranteed minimum salary contracts. The Wizards acted like they were getting a steal.

Weirder yet, they never made an offer to their incumbent backup PG, A.J. Price, who was a) better last season than Maynor has ever been as a pro, and b) would have been happy to get the minimum salary for another year.

Then, with Ariza coming back for another year, having drafted Porter third overall, and having dealt to get Rice (a SG/SF type), Grunfeld gave the full MLE to bring back Webster — yet another SF. Now, Webster did play well last season, and his three-point shooting and heady play was certainly valuable to the team. But, having spent their draft picks on swing men and their BAE on a scrub PG, they still had gaping holes up front, and no way to fill them other than trading or signing minimum salary free agents.

They flirted with San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair, but presented with competing minimum salary offers, Blair chose Dallas. They did manage to sign Al Harrington — one of the more overrated players of the past decade, who was available at a deep discount because he’s 32 years old, coming off the worst season of his career (due to illness), and working his way back into shape after recovering from that illness.

And oh yeah, burning that BAE on Maynor knocked them out of the running for good reserve guards like Nate Robinson and Darren Collison — each of whom signed for the BAE or less.

Taken together, the Wizards spent all of their offseason assets without addressing their single biggest need: depth up front. In effect, they were gambling on the health and productivity of 30-plus year olds, and the insanity of that gamble became evident when Okafor herniated a disk in his neck. With an uncertain timetable for recovery, the Wizards were stuck. The team’s stated goal was to reach the playoffs — something that just wasn’t going to happen if they had to rely on Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely, who were two of league’s least productive players last season.

And so, staring into the maw of yet another 30-win season, Grunfeld and Leonsis blinked. They swapped Okafor (who may not play this season) and a first round pick for Gortat, who played at borderline All-NBA caliber a couple years ago. Make no mistake: Gortat is a good player. But here’s the problem — the Wizards spent a future asset on a guy they’re hoping will be on the team for just one year. See, during the summer, Leonsis talked openly about signing a “brand name” free agent. That’s something they’ll need cap room to accomplish, and the only way they’ll have cap space is if they let Gortat depart.

Perhaps the most prevalent counterargument in favor of this trade is that the pick is top 12 protected in 2014 and that good players aren’t usually picked that late in the draft. This is unpersuasive to me because it ignores the reality that in every NBA draft, quality players are selected 13th or lower. Sure, a GM like Grunfeld has a lower probability of finding a good player later in the draft, but that’s a point in favor of keeping picks and acquiring extras, if possible. More picks increase the odds of getting a quality player. Now that’s not even an option.

Another line of argument is that the Wizards could re-sign Gortat, which would make the trade look better for the team. The problem with this thinking is that it would mean the team struck out in free agency (or decided not to even take a swing). Gortat is good, but he’s most certainly not a “brand name” free agent. Plus, Gortat turns 30 next spring, which means he’s more likely to be in the expensive decline portion of his career than he is to remain productive.

It seems like such a classically Wizards transaction. Presented with opportunities to build a potential title contender, the owner and the GM opted to pursue short-term goals that don’t mean much. I find it cynical and disappointing. Makes we wonder why I’m still following this team. But that’s a topic for another day.

What Else Would They Be?

Eric Maynor is supposed to be an upgrade at backup PG. Unfortunately, he's not.

Mike Lee offered up this piece about Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, Coach Randy Wittman optimistic about upcoming season. Leaving aside the “well, of course, what else would they be?” factor, there were some tidbits that are worth a little scrutiny.

Grunfeld on expectations for upcoming season: ”We’re excited about the upcoming season. We finished last year off strong. Obviously, our young players have worked hard in the offseason. They’ve shown improvement and we want to build on what we started to establish last year. Obviously, our initial goal is to be a playoff contender and ultimately, by the end of the year, make the playoffs.

Standard GM babble that doesn’t mean much of anything. The first sentence that catches my eye is that one about young players working hard in the offseason. This is a story being repeated right now in every NBA city by owners, executives, coaches, players, journalists, pundits and fans alike. It sounds and feels good, but if every team’s young players are working hard and getting better…how much advantage does one team get over another?

In reality, a large number of those stories are chicken manure. Some guys worked hard; others didn’t. Some guys used their time well and improved their games; others didn’t.

And there’s yet another thing to consider — let’s say for the sake of discussion that Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton all put in a ton of work this offseason and really, truly, genuinely got better. How much will it make a difference? These guys were among the league’s least productive players last season. They’re each coming from such a low level that they could make major improvements and still be bad.

Wittman on his expectations for Kevin Seraphin: “I have high expectations for all of our guys coming in. Do I have expectations for Kevin to have a better year than he did last year? Yes. … Kevin…his confidence level now, and how he holds himself now, being here pretty much all summer working on his game to make that next step. Yeah, I expect that from our young guys to continue that growth. I think we saw it with Jan. Jan had a good summer, whether it was just with us in the summer league or what he did, playing with his national team. You know, those are positive things and you hope that now they can carry that over into the season.”

The team is still prepping for training camp so they’re still peddling optimism. You’re not going to hear a coach saying something like, “Seraphin was really bad last season and we’ll have to see if he’s improved before we’ll count on him as a part of the rotation.”

It would surely be nice if Seraphin could somehow regain the form he showed at the end of the season before last. That guy was at least a competent NBA player. Last season, he was awful — the league’s least productive center, according to my analysis. Seraphin is a weird bundle of contradictions. He has a massive, muscle-bound frame (he says he currently weighs 277 and has a body fat percentage 0f 9.5%), but he rebounds like a small forward. He has a smooth looking post-up game, but those smooth-looking shots miss more often than they hit. And he’s a turnover machine.

Confidence is wonderful, but it needs to come with competence. After his terrible play last season, I’m skeptical about whether he’ll ever be a useful NBA player. By all means give him a chance in training camp to show he’s improved. But I wouldn’t count on him as part of the rotation.

Grunfeld on meeting offseason goals: “I think we had some goals of what we wanted to accomplish. 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. We wanted to get a stretch four and Al [Harrington] will provide that for us. And we also wanted to make sure our young players continue to develop. Our young players, like Seraphin and Vesely, as Randy just spoke about, and Bradley Beal. I think one of the things that Brad also did was improve his ball handling, and try to play better in the pick and roll. He worked on his body and is outstanding shape. As all of our young players are. So, we wanted to see improvement from within and we wanted also address some of the positional needs that we felt like we had and I think we have. And I feel like the continuity of having 11 players back from last year’s roster will also help us.”

Here, Grunfeld is making the same assertion I’ve been seeing all summer — the Wizards have upgraded at backup PG by signing Eric Maynor. Maybe Grunfeld and “everyone” will turn out to be correct, but I don’t think so. My analysis reveals Maynor as unproductive throughout his career — both before and after his knee injury.

Last season, A.J. Price was better. Per 36 minutes, Maynor generated exactly one assist more than Price. But, Price shot better from the floor and the free throw line, got nearly twice as many rebounds, and had 1.2 fewer turnovers per 36 minutes.

For what (in my analysis) is actually a DOWNgrade at backup PG, the Wizards spent their biannual exception. On the first of day of free agency. Which meant that they didn’t have the BAE to spend later when they could have signed other reserve PGs who would have been upgrades over Price, or when they could have signed a reserve big man like DeJuan Blair. But, hey, who needs depth in the frontcourt when you have Seraphin and Jan Vesely?

Wittman on maintaining continuity: “We’re going, as a coaching staff, the last two or three weeks, evaluating how we want to conduct camp, and it’s so much easier when you’ve got … 11 that understand why we’re doing things, how we’re going to do things. That makes it a lot easier in my mind, in terms of evaluating how much you throw at them and how they handle it and all that. So that’s a positive. We established ourselves from a standpoint defensively, and that’s not going to change. That’s got to be first and foremost as we head into camp, that foundation that we built and that they built. They bought into this system and that system won’t change. They know what that system is already compared to last year with as many new faces as we had, that you had to teach that new system. That’s always a positive.”

The team has been selling “continuity” as part of its plan since they made the trade to get Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. As I’ve written in other places, I think they have the “let’s keep everyone together” part too early in their plan. Continuity is outcome, not a goal. When a team starts winning, it makes sense to keep it together. When a team loses, it’s nuts to say, “We’ll start winning if we keep these guys together.”

No, teams are bad because the players are unproductive. The GM of a bad team shouldn’t be thinking about continuity, he should be thinking about how he get rid of dead weight on his roster and bringing in better players.

Then of course there’s consideration given to what the team’s goals are. In this case, their goal is to compete for a playoff spot. When you’re 178 games under .500 over the past decade (by some weird coincidence, the number of years Grunfeld has been at the helm), I guess that qualifies as a stretch goal. And, they have a realistic goal of achieving it, especially if Okafor’s neck heals. Still, it might have been wise to get another big man (not a SF masquerading as a PF like Al Harrington) in case something happened to one of the team’s 30+ year old bigs.

Speaking of Harrington — while it made Wall (and some fans) happy to sign an officially designated “stretch four” (a power forward who shoots jump shots and doesn’t rebound much), Harrington’s biggest contribution will be to keep Vesely, Singleton and (possibly) Seraphin off the floor. Each of that group landed among the league’s 15 least productive players last season, and it’ll be a net gain if some combination of Harrington and Trevor Booker can consume some of the 3,246 minutes they played last season.

Think about that a sec. Three of the 15 least productive players in the game last season were on the floor for 16.3% of the team’s minutes. Wow.

So, Harrington can help just by playing reasonably competent basketball (which he’s done in the past) and keeping those three on the bench. That said, I continue to think that the team’s best stretch four is Trevor Ariza — a tough-as-nails competitor who can shoot the three.