Jordan Crawford

How Can the Wizards Improve? Shoot Better

wall jumper

Writing at Grantland, Kirk Goldsberry introduced a new metric he dubbed “ShotScore.” Basically, the idea is to compare a player’s shooting from various locations on the floor to the league average from that spot. Effectively, it adds a degree of difficulty component to NBA shooting stats.

I could do without his strawman stuff about field goal percentage — the problems with FG% are why stat goobers switched to effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the effect of the 3pt shot — but Goldsberry’s work is both good and flawed. Want a more in-depth look at what’s wrong with it, check out Tom Ziller’s piece. To summarize: ShotScore is way complex, and it rewards players for shooting better than average from anywhere on the floor — even if it’s just a low-percentage shot, period. Also, it doesn’t account for a valuable way players produce points: shooting free throws.

Let me illustrate. Let’s say that the league average on long two-point attempts is 40%. If a player came along and shot nothing but long twos (and lots of them), and shot 45%, ShotScore would say that player was a good shooter — +100 points compared to the league average taking those same shots.

Except, that player would actually be taking a low value shot. The league’s eFG (which accounts for the 3pt shot) was .496 last season, which means that given 1,000 FGA, we’d expect the league to produce (on average) 992 points — 92 more than the “good” shooter.

To further illustrate, let’s say Mr. Long Two has a teammate who by some weird design shoots only three-pointers (and lots of them), but shoots just league average. Archaic FG% would say Long Two is the better shooter, .450 to .359. ShotScore would agree. Long Two produced 100 points more than the league average shooter would have produced on the same number of long two-point attempts.

Both would be wrong. Because that average three-point shooter would have produced 992 points on his 1,000 FGA — 92 points more than the “better” shooter taking long two-point attempts. Any coach with a bit of sense would want an average 3pt shooter over a “better than average” shooter on long twos.

In his article, Ziller introduces some simpler metrics that actually do a better job of determining which players shoot the best. His “simpler” approach uses a bit of logic and stats that are already publicly available. I’m not going to waste time explaining — if you’re interested in the details, click over to Ziller’s article.

Using my spreadsheets, I pointed Ziller’s formulas at the Wizards last season. And, it’s not a pretty sight. Using Ziller’s “Extra Field Points” metric, only three Wizards last season were a net positive: Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza and Jan Vesely.

Now, before you throw out the stat because of Vesely, keep in mind that he had an efg of .500 last season — league average was .496. Given Vesely’s number of shot attempts, the league would have scored 113 points — Vesely generated 114 points off his field goal attempts, a net of +1.

Here’s a quick table from last season:

PLAYER Extra Field Points
Martell Webster 70
Trevor Ariza 4
Jan Vesely 1
Cartier Martin 0
Trevor Booker -2
Shelvin Mack -4
Jason Collins -4
Earl Barron -11
Jannero Pargo -13
Shaun Livingston -18
A.J. Price -18
Nene Hilario -20
Garrett Temple -20
Jordan Crawford -23
Emeka Okafor -26
Bradley Beal -27
Chris Singleton -48
Kevin Seraphin -51
John Wall -70

This table tells us why the Wizards lost so many games last season. Given the same number of field goal attempts, the league would have produced 6,645 points from the field. The Wizards produced 6,365 — a deficit of 280 points. The team’s overall scoring deficit last season: 208. At the bottom of the list is a stark reminder of what John Wall’s poor shooting AND poor shot selection costs the team.

Washington was better from the free throw line, but still below the league standard. For the season, the team’s free throw shooting cost them 36 points. That works out to about 0.4 points per game — one extra loss over an 82-game schedule.

Here’s a look at the team’s free throw shooting:

PLAYER Extra FT Points
Martell Webster 19
John Wall 16
Jordan Crawford 7
Trevor Ariza 6
Bradley Beal 5
Shaun Livingston 4
A.J. Price 2
Jason Collins 0
Jannero Pargo 0
Shelvin Mack -1
Cartier Martin -1
Earl Barron -2
Garrett Temple -2
Kevin Seraphin -5
Nene Hilario -7
Chris Singleton -13
Trevor Booker -14
Jan Vesely -17
Emeka Okafor -35

This table shows Wall regaining some ground from the FT line that he gives up with his bad shooting from the floor. Some, but not all.

One last table looking strictly at shooting — this one combining extra field goal points (EFPT) with extra free throw points (EFTP) into a unified Extra Points (EPTS). Hmm, I guess if we’re talking Wizards, it could “in-EPTS” couldn’t it?

PLAYER EFGP EFTP EPTS
Martell Webster 70 19 88
Trevor Ariza 4 6 11
Cartier Martin 0 -1 -1
Jason Collins -4 0 -3
Shelvin Mack -4 -1 -4
Jannero Pargo -13 0 -12
Earl Barron -11 -2 -12
Shaun Livingston -18 4 -14
A.J. Price -18 2 -16
Jordan Crawford -23 7 -16
Jan Vesely 1 -17 -17
Trevor Booker -2 -14 -17
Bradley Beal -27 5 -22
Garrett Temple -20 -2 -22
Nene Hilario -20 -7 -26
John Wall -70 16 -54
Kevin Seraphin -51 -5 -56
Emeka Okafor -26 -35 -61
Chris Singleton -48 -13 -61

The numbers may not add exactly because of rounding, but it’s good enough for my purposes today. Note that only two players were net positives when they shot the ball: Webster and Ariza — both of whom shot less than their inaccurate teammates.

Wall, for example, led the team in per minute true shooting attempts, but was the team’s fourth worst shooter overall. Seraphin was third in usage (behind Wall and Jordan Crawford), and third worst shooting the ball. The team needs to either redistribute its shot attempts or get significant improvement from the guys pulling the trigger.

So, while all this is good, it’s still focused only on shooting. Players contribute in other ways offensively that show up in the box score — getting offensive boards, assisting, avoiding turnovers.

Using Ziller’s principle and my own revised version of Dean Oliver’s individual offensive rating formula (expressed as points produced per 100 individual possessions), I calculated an expected points produced based on the number of possessions a player used. So, finding Additional Points Produced (APTS) is EPP – PROD (that’s expected points produced minus points produced).

Let’s take Webster as our example. Last year, through FGA, FTA, turnovers, offensive rebounds and assists, Webster used 681 possessions. The league’s offensive rating was 105.8 points per 100 possessions, so the “expected points produced” for those 681 possessions was 721. Webster produced 797, meaning that (with rounding) Webster produced 77 Additional Points.

Note: points produced is NOT the same thing as points scored. Points produced includes non-scoring contributions to the offense (offensive rebounds, assists, turnovers) and shares credit with teammates.

PLAYER APTS
Martell Webster 77
Trevor Booker 11
A.J. Price 1
John Wall 0
Jason Collins -3
Shelvin Mack -4
Shaun Livingston -11
Jannero Pargo -13
Earl Barron -14
Jan Vesely -14
Trevor Ariza -14
Nene Hilario -17
Cartier Martin -25
Bradley Beal -28
Garrett Temple -30
Jordan Crawford -36
Emeka Okafor -39
Chris Singleton -54
Kevin Seraphin -127

Unsurprisingly, Webster is still at the top. He shot the ball extremely well last season and committed few turnovers. But check out number four on the list — Wall. It’s a net zero, which means that the PG produced an average number of points given the possessions he used. What impresses me, however, is the value of his non-shooting contributions. Remember, Wall’s shooting from the floor was a net -70 points. His overall shooting (free throws and field goals combined) was a net -54. Even so, his overall impact was average. If he ever really learns how to shoot…

At the bottom of the list we see the heavy cost of Kevin Seraphin’s terrible shooting, few offensive boards, no assists, and abundant turnovers. Chris Singleton’s -54 is bizarrely impressive given the forward’s low usage and fairly low minutes.

Assuming they’re able to maintain the defense, the team must get better on offense to reach the playoffs. Some of that is possible (likely even) by individual improvement. Bradley Beal had a rough start to his rookie year, but was significantly more efficient as the season wore on. And he’s looked good in preseason.

Nene has long been one of the league’s more efficient offensive players, but hampered by injuries, he had his least efficient full season since he was a rookie — in 2002-03. Will Nene be able to get back to his career norms (offensive rating of about 112 vs. 103 last season), or was last year a sign of the inevitable age-related decline?

No matter how they do it, the Wizards must get better on offense if they hope to make the playoffs — especially with the possibility of an extended absence from defensive stalwart Emeka Okafor.

Watching the Wizards Is Apparently A Fate Worse Than Death

Rafe Bartholomew writing for Grantland has this piece up about forcing himself to sit through the Wizards only win of the season. Why would an otherwise sane person (meaning not a fan of either the Wizards or the Raptors) subject themselves to watching this game?

Wrote Bartholomew:

It’s not because we want to mock bad teams and their fan bases. It’s about sharing the pain and finding slivers of joy in otherwise ugly basketball.

Bartholomew captures the stunning ineptitude and depression that sets in when watching the Wizards play. Even a win can’t be enjoyed for long because of nagging worries that the team might somehow win just enough to screw up its chances of getting a difference-making player in the draft.

Some Bartholomew gems:

Washington rookie Chris Singleton made a move to the elbow, picked up his dribble, and got stuck. First, he looked to shoot, but he reconsidered when it became clear that the only way to get the shot off would be to launch a turnaround fadeaway. Unfortunately, while Singleton held the ball and looked for an open teammate, none of the other four Wizards on the floor moved to get open. Maybe they were thinking, Take the shot! That’s what I’d do! It was only their ninth game of the season, but the Wizards seemed to have already internalized the lesson that once a teammate started attacking the basket, moving without the ball was not worth the effort. Singleton eventually passed to Wall, who had about two seconds left on the shot clock to launch a contested 3. The ball bounced off the top of the backboard, followed by a close-up of Flip Saunders’ aneurysm face.

And

In the second quarter, Raptors analyst Jack Armstrong went in on Blatche. It started late in the first, actually, when Blatche threw the ball to Nick Young. “He passed the ball,” Armstrong said. “Wow.” I don’t think I’d ever made myself watch a full Blatche game before Tuesday night. If you’re like me, you probably wondered if all the things people wrote about his shot selection and near-total refusal to pass were exaggerated. Well, they weren’t. Within minutes, I had scribbled “Blatche hole?” in my notebook, and not once in the game did I feel the need to revise or amend that description.

And

At the beginning of the third quarter, the Wizards led 46-34, DeRozan was shooting 10 percent from the field, and Wall wasn’t doing much better. I started stress eating a two-pack of YoGo Tuxedo Cakes I bought at Walgreen’s before the game. My notes became vague and occasionally illegible. The second half was a blur of Toronto turnovers — some created by Washington’s length and activity — and easy transition baskets for the Wizards.

And

I calculated the number of calories in one Tuxedo Cake — 340, in a three-ounce pastry — and vowed not to eat more than one. It took a JaVale McGee moment to rouse me from my corn syrup-and-Raptors-induced torpor. On offense, McGee — who is nothing if not adventurous — attempted to slash in from the wing and swing the ball past a reaching help defender. There aren’t a lot of NBA centers who can pull off a move like this, and although McGee is extremely agile and quick for his size, he still isn’t one of them. But he comes close, and McGee seems to gain some satisfaction from almost executing euro-steps and dunks from the free throw line, even though his near-misses typically cost his team buckets at the other end. So after a Raptors defender stripped McGee of the ball and passed it ahead to start the break, McGee didn’t give up on the play. He had coughed up the ball, and he decided to get it back. McGee dashed after Rasual Butler and caught him just in time to goaltend a layup attempt after Butler drew a foul, giving Butler an unearned opportunity for a 3-point play.

And

Over the years, several players have been called “coach killers” for feuding with and eventually getting their coaches fired. McGee, with his talent, his boundless but frequently wanton enthusiasm, and his apparent disconnect with reality, may literally kill a coach someday by attempting some foolish play at the worst possible moment that leads to a sideline stroke or heart attack.

Yes — this is what it’s like to be a Wizards fan these days.

Now Do More

Wizards latest acquisition about to dunk on Lebron in a pickup game. Really.

My latest at the Washington Post, this one analyzing the Hinrich to the Hawks deal.  I also suggest that the Wizards should attempt to accomplish three objectives before the trade deadline — trade Blatche (addition by subtraction), get value for Young, and get value for the newly acquired Bibby.

The lede:

Yesterday’s deal sending Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to Atlanta for Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round pick was a smart trade for the Wizards. Now is no time to rest however — GM Ernie Grunfeld should push to make additional trades before today’s 3 p.m. deadline.

Read the rest.