Toure’ Murry

Wizards Update: The Home Stretch

sessions ramon

There’s a temptation to note the Wizards have won four in a row and five of their last six and conclude they’re headed for the playoffs in good form. I don’t share that optimism, however. This is a stretch of games where Washington was expected to win with four games against three of the league’s weakest teams — Charlotte (21st in Simple Rating System — a power ranking published by Basketball-Reference.com that combines scoring differential with strength of schedule), New York (30th) and Philadelphia (29th) twice.

Failing to win at least four of the six would have been cause for real concern. Getting an “extra” win against Memphis was encouraging, although it’s worth noting the Grizzlies were coming off a hard-fought win against Oklahoma City the previous night while the Wizards coasted to an easy (and restful — the only starter to play more than 30 minutes was Bradley Beal) over the hapless Knicks.

The Wizards aren’t “fixed,” they’re playing bad opponents. It’s good that they’re beating those teams, but that’s not the same as saying they’re in good shape. Realistically speaking, they continue to look how they’ve looked all season — a slightly better than average team that feasts on the 99-pound weaklings in the East and can sometimes summon the game to challenge (and even beat) a good team if stuff goes right for them and wrong for the other side.

The preceding is talking about the team’s big picture. The overall. They’re excellent on defense, and have been since the end of January. Unfortunately, their offense has been terrible during the same time frame. Since the playoffs are about to start, we’re about to hear a bunch of the old maxim that defense wins in the postseason. Like a lot of truisms, it’s half true. Unless the Wizards are able to operate with some level of offensive efficiency against higher-quality opponents, they’re not going deep in the playoffs.

I’ll get more into postseason matchups when the regular season concludes, but it does help that Washington is in the East. First, because they’ll be in the playoffs at all. Out West, they’d at best be scrapping for the eighth seed. In their actual conference, they’ll have a punchers chance in the first round against Toronto or Chicago.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-04-09 -- wiz ppaSearching for encouragement as the playoffs approach? Look at Gortat and Wall — both of whom have been consistently good all season. Beal has played better the past few weeks, as have Sessions, Porter and Gooden.

On the other hand, Nenê and Pierce have struggled. The hope is that they’re recharging for the playoffs. But, they’re also the team’s oldest players, and they could be wearing down from the long season.

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Wizards Update: Bouncing Back?

sessions

After a lengthy stretch of losing basketball, the Wizards have won four of their last six. Have they shaken off their mid-season swoon? Are they poised to win like it’s November or December?

No, and not likely.

While the Wizards have played better over the past six games, their offense has remained below average, and their defense has been unsustainably fantabulous. During this 4-2 stretch, Washington has allowed its opponents just 96.5 points per 100 possessions. If they managed to do that over a full season, they’d be one of the 15 best defenses since 1973-74 when the league began collecting the stats necessary to calculate defensive rating. For the season, the Wizards are allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions.

Another factor: they’ve had the good fortune of meeting injury-depleted teams. And even then, the results have been mixed. They lost to Chicago, which was missing Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson. They eked out a two-point victory against Miami, which didn’t have Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade or Luol Deng. And, they beat the snot out of Memphis, which lacked Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — also known as the Grizzlies’ four best players.

I know Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld have said the Wizards just need to play better on defense and work harder. I respectfully disagree. Their defense — even during the period of sustained losing — wasn’t bad. The decline has been on offense, and it still needs to be fixed.

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.

The numbers under each date represent the player’s PPA for the entire season to that date. The number in the far right column (labeled PPA) is the player’s current PPA through games played last night. For a look at how players on other teams rate, visit here.

2015-03-13 -- wiz ppa

My apologies for the format. The spreadsheet has reached a width that WordPress struggles to accommodate.

Good weeks for Gortat, Wall, Pierce and Gooden. Not so good for Beal, Temple, Porter and Butler.

Ramon Sessions provided hope with a couple decent games.

Martell Webster isn’t able to physically compete at an NBA level, presumably because of his back.

I’ve thought all season that DeJuan Blair should have been playing ahead of Kevin Seraphin, but Blair looks unable to compete physically at an NBA level because of too much eating and insufficient exercise.

Wizards to Sign Underwhelming Murry

murry shoots

Media reports say the Washington Wizards are close to signing D-League guard Toure’ Murry to a 10-day contract. While the Wizards could use some backcourt help because of injuries to Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple and Martell Webster, regression from Rasual Butler, and crummy play from newly-acquired Ramon Sessions, it’s unlikely Murry will offer much help.

There are positives in Murry’s game, of course. He has good size and athleticism, and judging by the numbers, he’s active and plays hard. So far this season, he’s averaging 20.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 2.5 assists per 100 possessions with two different D-League teams.

Yet, his Player Production Average (PPA) for the season is just 89. Yes, despite those impressive per 100 possession numbers, he still rates below average in the D-League this year. He’s been a bit better with Rio Grande, but even then he rates right about average (PPA: 98).

(For those who might not be regular readers: 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 and higher is better.)

So what’s the problem? Points, rebounds, assists and steals are all on the “plus” side of the player evaluation ledger. Unfortunately, Murry also has high numbers on the “minus” side. This includes poor shooting and lots of turnovers.

Here’s a comparison of Murry’s shooting to the rest of the D-League this year:

Stat Murry D-League
efg .452 .518
2pt% .475 .512
3pt% .254 .354

If there’s a reason to think he’ll shoot better in the NBA than he has in the D-League, I’d love to see it. In the minors this season, Murry shoots more frequently than average per 100 possessions, but scores less. His assists are nice, but are offset by high turnovers. Overall this season, his offensive rating is 102 points per 100 possessions in a league that has an offensive rating of 110. Even if we ignore his less-good stint with Idaho, his offensive rating is still just 105, which is well below average.

Murry is a good defender, according to the defense part of PPA. He generates steals, which could be good depending on how (meaning: does he steal the ball by being in good position and having great anticipation, or is he disrupting the team concept by gambling in passing lanes?), and he’s aggressive on the defensive glass. Both his teams this season have been terrible defensively — more than five points per 100 possessions worse than average. It’s hard to blame him for that considering he has just 670 total D-League minutes this year. Overall, my approach suggests he’s an above average defender.

This is fine, but…in basketball, situational substitutions are difficult to make. Teams have to take the whole player — good and bad. What matters is a player’s overall impact. And Murry’s is decidedly average. D-League average. Given what’s been ailing the Wizards lately, if they were going to skew toward one end of the court, offense would seem more logical. In my analysis, it’s unlikely Murry will help much. Barring a Butler-like hot streak, Murry will be a deficit on offense who might hold his own defensively.

Could the Wizards have done better? Well, there are several guards in the D-League who have been more productive. This includes the tiny Tim Frazier, who was terrible in six games with Philadelphia last month. Other guys who look more promising in the numbers:

  • David Stockton, Reno — Small (just 5-11), but efficient. His offensive rating is 119 so far this season. Excellent shooter with impressive assist numbers. His team has been terrible defensively, but he rates as having an average defensive impact. Came to training camp with Washington, so maybe they’ve already seen enough to conclude they don’t want him. D-League PPA: 162
  • Seth Curry, Erie — Doesn’t have a well-rounded game, BUT he’s an adequate defender who shoots like a Curry. PPA: 152.
  • Elliott Williams, Santa Cruz — A 6-5 SG type who’s a willing passer and has shot the ball well this season. Decent defender on a good defensive team. PPA: 147.
  • D.J. Seeley, Delaware — A 6-4 SG and willing passer who has shot well this season (.435 on 186 3pt attempts). Too many turnovers for my liking. And he rates a shade below average defensively. PPA: 133.
  • Aaron Craft, Santa Cruz — Small, quick, strong and tough-as-graphene. Craft was one of the best collegiate defenders I ever saw, and that’s showing up in his D-League numbers as well. Still a suspect three-point shooter, but he’s a good passer, doesn’t commit turnovers, and seems to know a thing or two about running a team. PPA: 122.
  • Vander Blue, Los Angeles — A 6-4 SG out of Marquette, which means he plays hard and defends. He’s not really a PG, but he’s a much improved shooter — .421 from 3pt range on 126 attempts. PPA: 119.

None of these guys are guaranteed producers, of course. All have their “warts,” as does Murry. If the Wizards wanted a 3&D type, Williams, Seeley and Blue would seem to be better options. Stockton and Craft are “pure PGs” and the front office may imagine they have that backup role covered with Ramon Sessions.

Signing Murry isn’t a disaster. But, he doesn’t match what the Wizards need, and he isn’t much of a prospect for the future. In that sense, it is something of a missed opportunity.

EDIT — Since publishing, Nick Bilka asked on Twitter about Chris Babb. He looks like a better option as well. Babb is a 6-5 SG who rebounds decently, defends adequately and shoots the three well. PPA: 141.