When A Newspaper Editorial Board Doesn’t Understand the First Amendment

The Kansas City Star editorial board published an editorial that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of what the First Amendment does and doesn’t do.

The lede: “Here’s a brief refresher course on the First Amendment we all studied in the seventh grade: Individuals in America are free to express their opinions and beliefs.”

The problem? They left out a key concept. Among several rights, the First Amendment gives individuals the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs without government restriction.

As the editorial points out, this includes making political statements and declaring support for elected officials, including Donald Trump. But, this is simply wrong:

“…no matter what you think of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra or policies, you don’t have the right to belittle or attack someone on the other end of the political spectrum.”

The truth is that the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about individuals voicing their political opinions or belittling someone on the other end of the political spectrum. It might be rude or insulting, but just as one individual is free to state their support of Trump, others are free to say they don’t like it.

This is not to pick sides in any particular case. The point here is that the First Amendment bars government control of speech, but it does not absolve individuals from consequences or from responses from other individuals.


Wizards Roll With NBA’s Worst Bench

Wizards bench.

With an average starting unit and the NBA’s worst bench, the Wizards are lurching toward an inevitable appointment with the 2017 draft lottery — assuming team president Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t trade the pick for the next Markieff Morris in an all-out dash for 9th or 10th.

The disastrous bench was in the works at least a couple years, as the franchise’s top strategists laid plans to have loads of cap space for an offseason in which almost half the league would be able to sign a maximum salary free agent. Their subsequent moves to restock the roster seem to reflect one of the defining characteristics of the Grunfeld era: an elite ability to misdiagnose the source of the team’s problems.

Missing the playoffs in 2015-16, according to public statements by Grunfeld and team owner Ted Leonsis, was due to injuries, a bad bench and poor chemistry caused by having so many players in the final year of their contracts. And they shoveled some blame on the coaching as well.

In reality, the Wizards were affected less by injuries last season than most teams in the league, and their bench was about average. I’ll defer to those closer to the team on the cause of whatever chemistry problems existed, although it’s worth noting that multi-year contracts haven’t seemed to fix the issue.

What’s happening this year? Their starters are (like last year) about average, but their bench is a worst in the league catastrophe. They’re the Secretariat of bad benches.

So far this season, the Wizards starters — Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris and Gortat — have a minutes weighted Player Production Average (PPA) of 135. In PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45. That’s slightly better than the league average starting group (PPA: 132 so far), and ranks 12th. Not elite, but not terrible either.

The bench’s minutes weighted PPA: 28. The average bench: 66. The second worst bench belongs to Memphis, and its PPA is 44. These are the only two teams with benches that rate below replacement level. To put this in perspective, Trey Burke’s PPA this season is 28. Kevin Seraphin, who ended his Wizards career with PPA scores of 35 and 38 would be an upgrade. Kwame Brown was never this bad in Washington. Even Ike Austin (remember him?) managed a 35 with the Bullets.

The gap between Washington’s starters and bench is the third largest, behind the Clippers who have the second best starting unit and fourth worst bench, and Golden State, which has the best starters and the sixth best bench. How good are the Warriors? They’re starting five has a PPA of 211 — 32 points better than Washington’s best player.

This is the team built by Grunfeld and Leonsis, and their cherished Plan. It’s a disaster — not because of injuries or bad luck, but because of a series of poor decisions.

Player Production Average

There is some good news. Wall is having the best season of his career, Porter is producing at an All-Star level, and Beal is healthy and productive.

Marcin Gortat’s production is down, but I don’t think it’s related to aging (I’ll write about this next time). Morris has been worse than expected. To the numbers…

Otto Porter 20 34.4 173 177 179
John Wall 18 35.9 168 167 171
Bradley Beal 17 34.7 66 92 131
Marcin Gortat 20 35.4 135 146 130
Danuel House 1 1.0 119 116
Sheldon McClellan 7 11.1 478 88 81
Markieff Morris 20 31.7 67 78 59
Marcus Thornton 19 19.5 31 41 50
Kelly Oubre 19 15.5 18 17 41
Tomas Satoransky 18 16.6 18 43 29
Trey Burke 16 11.6 -48 28 28
Andrew Nicholson 14 10.1 33 35 9
Jason Smith 19 11.6 -93 -42 -23
Ian Mahinmi 1 14.0 -98
Daniel Ochefu 3 2.7 -181 -119 -117

Wizards Stagger Continues

grunfeld & leonsis

No time for major analysis the next couple weeks, but…here’s the Player Production Average update. It’s not pretty.

Otto Porter 12 35.3 173 177
John Wall 10 33.1 168 167
Marcin Gortat 12 34.8 135 146
Danuel House 1 1.0 119
Bradley Beal 9 32.1 66 92
Sheldon McClellan 6 12.7 478 88
Markieff Morris 12 31.0 67 78
Tomas Satoransky 12 19.3 18 43
Marcus Thornton 12 21.4 31 41
Andrew Nicholson 9 11.1 33 35
Trey Burke 10 13.0 -48 28
Kelly Oubre 11 13.5 18 17
Jason Smith 11 10.9 -93 -42
Daniel Ochefu 3 2.7 -181 -119

The NBA is still mostly in Small Sample Size Theater, but they’re closing in on the “it’s real” portion of the early season.

Good news: Otto Porter and John Wall have been outstanding, though I remain concerned with Wall’s stratospheric turnover rate. Marcin Gortat has been good despite a radical drop in his usage rate vs. his career norms. The other starters (Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris) both rate below average, but at least improved since the first update.

The bad news: every other player in the rotation rates at or below replacement level.

The team actually has played a difficult schedule (about 1.09 points per game tougher than average). Unfortunately, they’ve been outscored by 3.42 points per game, suggesting the Wizards have been 2.33 points per game worse than average. Overall, they’ve played at about the level of a 32-win team over an 82-game season — just a little behind the 34.5* wins per season they’ve averaged under the leadership of Ernie Grunfeld.

* This includes pro-rating 2011-12, the lockout-shortened 66-game season, to an 82-game schedule.

Wizards Remain Mediocre and Will Miss Playoffs for Second Straight Season

Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

Yeah, I know the season is underway. Many teams have three games in the books; the Spurs already have four. This still serves as my Wizards preview, because while I’ve watched their first two contests (both losses), I’ve used nothing from those games in the projection.

The approach this year is similar to the one I used for previous seasons: every player gets run through my statistical doppelganger machine, which spits out similar players from my historical database (similar production at similar age). There’s a process to weed out players with dissimilar career patterns — it makes no sense to compare a guy who stunk four years and suddenly had a terrific season to a guy like John Wall (for example) who’s been consistently quite good.

Once the list of “similars” is assembled, the system looks at the future of those players as a guide to the potential performance of the players being projected for the upcoming season. When the predicted performance (expressed in terms of Player Production Average — PPA for short) for each individual player has been completed, I estimate minutes (using an approach that must be similar to Kevin Pelton’s since the results were so similar). That gets translated into individual wins, which are totaled to team wins. Wins league-wide are capped at the number of wins available in a season (1230).

What’s new this year? Volume. For the first time, I projected the top 10-12 rotation players of every team. In previous seasons, I ran numbers for only the Wizards. This year — in a never-ending quest to make wrong predictions — I looked at everyone.

The Wizards

The Wizards spent two years hording cap space for an offseason in which nearly half the league would have sufficient room under the cap to pursue free agents with a maximum salary offer. The big prize was hometown hero Kevin Durant, who declined to even meet with the team. The team’s braintrust went after Al Horford (who signed in Boston) before managing to get Ian Mahinmi — a guy who is generously called a “backup” coming off a career year who’s about to turn 30.

Their other roster moves were less inspiring: free agent deals for Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith, and a trade for Trey Burke. They did manage to sign international guard Tomas Satoransky to a reasonable contract.

Here’s a quick look at what my projection system had to say about this year’s roster:

  • John Wall — Good news: Wall’s similars were a collection of very good players (albeit with a penchant for reputations that were better than their production). Bad news: half of the 10 most similar reached their career peak before age 26. More than half saw production declines following their age 25 season. Last season, Wall finished with a PPA of 144. Projected PPA: 130.
  • Bradley Beal — Beal’s persistent injury troubles overshadow what may be a bigger problem: his consistently mediocre play when he’s been on the floor. His PPA by season (average is 100 and higher is better): 92, 96, 99, 98. Players like Beal tended to peak at “decent starter,” not All-Star or All-NBA. The Wizards awarded him a max contract. Projected PPA: 108.
  • Otto Porter — Porter has improved during his career, and his future looks terrific (projected peak PPA would put him at All-Star level). But, the exercise in projecting the performance of individual players makes clear that it’s unwise to assume a young player will a) improve at all, b) that improvement will be linear, and c) that he’ll ever achieve imagined potential. Similar were useful defensive SF types who were also efficient on offense. But, there was no pattern of improvement after seasons most similar to Porter’s last year. So, Porter projects “about the same” as last year. Projected PPA: 127.
  • Markieff Morris — Last season, Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis swapped their first round pick in 2016 for Morris, who was deeply unhappy in Phoenix. What they got was a career mediocrity with little chance of getting better. The average peak of players like Morris (in Washington) last season was fairly low (acceptable starter level), and came (on average) at age 25.9. Morris is 27. Projected PPA: 95.
  • Marcin Gortat — The big man has been very good and consistent in Washington. He defied the decline I predicted for last season, and will have to do the same this year. At age 32, a drop in performance is probable — eight of the ten players most similar to Gortat declined the following season, and a ninth maintained. One oldster (Robert Parish) actually improved significantly in his age 35 season. I don’t anticipate something similar in Gortat’s age 32 season. Projected PPA: 147.
  • Trey Burke — The Wizards got him for next to nothing, which was the right price to pay. Burke started his career well below average, and has been less productive each year since. His comps were mostly backups who had short NBA careers. Surprisingly, Eric Maynor didn’t make the list. I’m actually predicting a modest improvement for Burke, although he’s unlikely to be close to what Ramon Sessions provided. Projected PPA: 67.
  • Tomas Satoransky — No comps for Satoransky since he didn’t play in the NBA last season. Although he has experience overseas, the NBA is the world’s most competitive sports league, and most players struggle to make the transition. Projected PPA: 65.
  • Kelly Oubre — The second year swingman seems to have abundant potential despite a horrific rookie season. Unfortunately, the history of players who performed like Oubre isn’t a pleasant one. Improvement was surprisingly modest (I double-checked the spreadsheet cells to make sure they were calculating correctly), and peaks were depressingly low. It’s worth mention that the same was true after Porter’s rookie year, although Porter had an injury. Projected PPA: 37.
  • Andrew Nicholson — The PF is coming off his best season (PPA: 81), which could mean he’s figured things out and is ready to become a useful backup, or…it could be the best he’ll ever play and he’ll recede to previous levels. His comps are useful backup types, and my projection suggests the latter. Projected PPA: 86.
  • Ian Mahinmi — When the Wizards whiffed on their other free agent targets, they turned to Mahinmi. It’s not exactly a bad contract under the league’s new financial realities, but it’s a #SoWizards kinda move. Mahinmi was a career backup who finally got a chance to start and responded with a career year. That’s good, right? Sure, except a) he’s going back to the bench in Washington (the team’s most productive player per possession the past few years (Gortat) plays the same position), and b) he’s about to turn 30. His “most similar” list is mostly journeyman centers. Some had high peaks, but few sustained it. What’s most likely is that he’ll be decent, but not nearly as good as he was last year. Projected PPA: 112.
  • Jason Smith — The decision to give Smith a multi-year deal was puzzling. He has a career PPA of 59, posted a 57 last season, and is 30 years old. It’s another #SoWizards move: no chance of meaningful contributions and no upside. It’s a nice lotto payout for Smith, though. Projected PPA: 50.

A potential wildcard: new head coach Scott Brooks. Previous coach Randy Wittman had his strengths, but would have ranked in the bottom third in the NBA. Brooks figures to be better, but the relevant research suggests the differences between professional coaches is pretty small. The exceptions are the very best and very worst coaches, but there’s a broad middle ground where coaches help a little or hurt a little, but don’t fundamentally alter their teams’ trajectories. While I think Brooks is an upgrade from Wittman, I also think they both occupy that middle ground.


As I projected the entire league, I found that my process tended to push each team back towards the middle. The gap between the strongest team (Golden State) and the weakest (Phoenix) was about 26.7 wins. In recent years, the difference has been almost double that amount. So, I came up with an alternate method that ranked every team by their projected production, and then applied the average win total for that rank over the past five seasons.

The Wizards project to be ninth team in the East, and 19th in the NBA. Don’t go betting the mortgage, because my approach produced some results that are at odds with my gut and with predictions made by others I respect, such as:

  • My system likes Chicago and thinks the Bulls could finish as a top four team in the East.
  • Orlando projects to make the playoffs (7th seed).
  • Milwaukee and Atlanta both project to be worse than the Wizards.
  • In the West, my system likes Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Utah and Houston more than Portland.

For the Wizards, the win total from my projection system: 41.0. From the average record by league rank approach: 37.5. Take your pick.

My prediction: 41 wins and 9th place in the East.

Wizards Turn To Plan B


After spending two years carefully clearing cap space for an offseason in which nearly half the league would be able to have room to add a maximum salary free agency, the Washington Wizards top free agent target (Kevin Durant) declined to meet with them, forcing the team to turn to plan B.

Plan B could take a variety of forms as the front office tries to make the best of a disappointing situation. The primary options:

  1. Build the Bench: They have a theoretical starting five on the roster, and they’ve told reporters they’re happy with that group. So, the team could eschew upper-shelf free agents to focus on mid-level guys who could give the team depth.
  2. Reach for (Near) Stars — Durant being gone doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare. The team still has sufficient money to land a maximum-salary free agent, and possibly a significant role player. They’d then be left with the room exception (about $2.9 million) to fill out the bench.
  3. Wait ’til Next Year — They’ve spent the past two offseasons avoiding long-term contracts. Not even getting an at-bat with Durant, the team could opt for lather-rinse-repeat and sign players to one-year contracts. Then they could enter the 2017 free agent market with $30+ million in cap space. Of course, if they strike out with top free agents next season, then what? At some point a team has to commit to trying to build the best roster possible. Right?

There are perils with each approach. The first seems to be the one they’re going to pursue, and it’s the least realistic way to build a contending team. Their problem this season wasn’t a bad bench or depth, it was a lack of elite talent. They could get some good luck and see significant development from Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter or John Wall, but more likely they’ll end up “contending” for the playoffs.

The other two are somewhat compatible. They could pursue an upper-level free agent, and then fall back to a Plan C of “Wait ’til Next year” if they whiff.

In my analysis, the Wizards could use upgrades in the starting lineup at shooting guard and power forward. They’ve publicly committed themselves to re-signing Beal, and have spent some time congratulating themselves on using their draft pick to acquire Markieff Morris, but those are the actual needs. Wall is a very good point guard, Marcin Gortat is a solid center, and Otto Porter is a criminally underrated small forward.

Here’s how I’d prioritize the team needs:

  • starting PF
  • starting SG
  • starting SF
  • backups at every position

So, who are some potential free agent targets? I identified some who are worth the money, likely bargains, and likely cap albatrosses over at Vice. But, here are some free agents who intrigue me for the Wizards.

  • Al Horford — the PF/C is entering his age 30 season, and I’m normally hesitant to commit significant money to players past 30. But, the bigs tend to age a little better than guards, and Horford’s game is likely to age reasonably well (as was the case for his historical comps). In my analysis, Horford has a good chance of having 2-3 All-Star level seasons. The fourth year he’s sure to get is much iffier, though. A maximum salary offer would be a very modest overpay in the first year, but it gets more reasonable with the cap surging even higher next season. In Washington, he could split time between PF and C, help lead a recommitted defense, and give the team the future option to trade Gortat to fill other positions of need.
  • Jared Sullinger — Just 23 years old, and unpopular with fans in Boston, Sullinger has nonetheless been a productive performer. Whether he stays that way without an actual commitment to physical fitness is questionable. He has offensive skills that would make him a good partner with Wall, and he rebounds well and passes superbly. Plus, he’s likely available for less than the max.
  • Nicolas Batum — I’m not as excited about Batum as others, but he’s skilled, versatile, fairly productive and should be entering his prime. He’s apparently a candidate for a maximum salary, which would be a significant overpay in my analysis. I’d still consider it because he’d be terrific in various combinations with Wall, Beal and Porter. And he’d be insurance for the oft-injured Beal.
  • Mirza Teletovic — The Wizards are reportedly ready to make a major financial offer to stretch four Ryan Anderson. I wanted them to acquire Anderson four years ago, but they traded their cap space to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza (and New Orleans then used said cap space to acquire Anderson from Orlando). But, Anderson hurt his back and endured personal tragedy, and he hasn’t been the same player. Instead of paying $18+ million (in the first year), the Wizards could likely land Teletovic — an even more prolific long-range shooter who rebounds and defends about as poorly as Anderson — for half the money. Teletovic is past 30, but might be obtainable on a shorter contract because of it. I project Anderson adding about four wins next season; Teletovic about three. That difference isn’t worth an additional $9 million per season.
  • The Wizards are going to need a backup PG. My top two — both of whom might be available for the $2.9 million room exception — Donald Sloan and Ramon Sessions. Sloan was just about the definition of average, but he’s good passer (over 10 assists per 100 team possessions last year) and competent, albeit not prolific, three-point shooter. Sessions did a solid job backing up Wall last season, and while similar in effectiveness to Sloan, he was stylistically quite different. Where Sloan is in more of a passing PG mold; Sessions is a penetrator and scorer who makes frequent trips to the free throw line. Both guys were efficient last season. Either could be an adequate backup for Wall next year.
  • The Wizards should also strongly consider bringing back versatile forward Jared Dudley, and using him as PF or SF depending on the matchup. Dudley is probably going to be one of the biggest bargains in free agency this year. He’s a solid player who’s going to end up signing for less than his on-court production deserves.

Predicting deep-discount bargains is a big challenge because there’s so much free agent money available. For example, it’d be fun to take a flyer on Spurs big man Boban Marjanovic. He was wildly productive last season, but in 504 minutes of mostly garbage time. Could he be effective with more playing time? It’s an intriguing question, but it could be an expensive experiment given the ocean of free agent money and the thin free agent talent.

Some possible bargains, according to my Diamond Rating (a metric that attempts to identify players who were productive in limited playing time that might perform well in an expanded role)…

  • Boban Marjanovic, San Antonio
  • Cole Aldrich, LA Clippers
  • Festus Ezeli, Golden State
  • Quincy Acy, Sacramento
  • Dwight Powell, Dallas

You may have noticed those are all big men. The backcourt free agent group looks pretty thin in my analysis. The best “bargain” candidate is Seth Curry, who performed well in just 725 minutes for the Kings. Another intriguing name is Indiana’s Solomon Hill, who might be a tweener without a position, but might also be a small-ball PF.

All this written, I can’t say I’m optimistic about the Wizards and free agency. The Ernie Grunfeld-led front office has shown a propensity for suboptimal moves. My guess is they’ll land Ryan Anderson, and then seek to fill out the bench with veterans. I don’t expect them to pursue the lather-rinse-repeat strategy and try to roll cap space into next offseason. There’s internal pressure to make the playoffs, and I anticipate low-risk moves designed to achieve that modest goal.

A Bit More on the Trade for Markieff Morris


In talking with fans, I’ve pulled up all kinds of information about Markieff Morris. Here are a few observations that came mostly from examining the claims made by folks who support the acquisition:

  • 2014-15 was the best season of Morris career. He posted a Player Production Average (PPA) of 102 (see below for a brief explanation). Among the 81 players identified by Basketball-Reference as PF who received at least 500 minutes, Morris ranked 36th.
  • Morris ranked 17th among PFs in total production last season, which would sound better if I omitted mention that he was second in total minutes played.
  • Last season, among the 27 PFs who played at least 500 minutes and had a usage rate of 20% or higher (I had Morris at 22.0% last season), Morris ranked 24th in offensive efficiency.
  • In the defense part of PPA, Morris rated slightly better than average last season. Not a good defender, but not terrible either.
  • Among those 81 PFs last season, Morris ranked 62nd in rebounds per 100 team possessions. This season, Morris ranks 49th among 66 PFs with at least 500 minutes.
  • While his work on the boards is a weakness, Morris could actually improve Washington’s rebounding by taking minutes from Jared Dudley. It was a bad idea for the team to rely so heavily on Dudley — a poor rebounder at SF — as the team’s PF. Dudley is the worst rebounding PF in the league. He trails second worst Luc Mbah a Moute by more than a rebound per 100 team possessions.
  • Morris has played badly this year. Some trade supporters have mentioned Morris averaging 20.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the month of February. Two primary problems here — first: the “month” is five games so far, which is to say Small Sample Size Theater; and second: Morris has scored more by shooting more. His offensive rating in those five “good” games was a below-average 102 points per 100 possessions, and his rebound rate was below average. Overall, Morris posted a PPA of 86 in February. Better than the season average by a bunch, but still below the league average.
  • There’s a false narrative circulating that Morris saw his production drop last season (2014-15) after the Suns traded away their backcourt. His PPA was 147 15 games into the season. It bounced around in the 120-130 range, but trended down for the next 30 games. His PPA fell below 120 in the 48th game of the season — January 30 — and continued to decline from there. As of the last game BEFORE the trades, his PPA was just 103. With his new teammates the rest of the way, his PPA was 101. He finished the season with a PPA of 102.

markieff 2014-15 rolling ppa

Player Production Average (PPA) is a metric I developed in which players are credited for things they do that help a team win, and debited for things that don’t, each in proportion to what causes teams to win and lose. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes an adjustment based on the level of competition faced when a player is on the floor. In PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

A First Look at the Wizards Trade for Morris


In a trade deadline deal, the Washington Wizards acquired power forward Markieff Morris from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for power forward Kris Humphries, forward/center DeJuan Blair, and a first round pick (protected through the top nine picks).

It’s a surprisingly high price to pay for a player who combines Morris’ lack of production with personality issues. It’s also a signal of the front office’s desperation to make the playoffs.

The issue, of course, is that first round pick. Humphries has been injured and below average this season; Blair apparently forgot how to play basketball when he arrived in DC.

What’s that pick going to be worth? Three or four years ago, I used PER to evaluate the expected value of draft picks. Picks 10-14 (where Washington’s pick is likely to fall when they miss the playoffs) have an average four-year PER of 14.5. Morris’ career PER: 14.8. In PER, average is 15.

According to PER, Morris’ peak (so far) was an 18.4 coming off the bench in 2013-14. He followed that up with a 15.8 last season, and an 11.1 this year. So hey, crummy players and a pick who might turn out to be average for a guy who’s been average and had some personal problems this year. Not bad, right?

Well, in my analysis Morris hasn’t been that good. According to Player Production Average (PPA), the metric I developed, Morris has a well-below average 79 (in PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45). Here’s his year-by-year PPA scores:

  • 2011-12 — 52
  • 2012-13 — 70
  • 2013-14 — 97
  • 2014-15 — 102
  • 2015-16 — 27

What’s behind the difference between PPA and PER? Three key items:

  1. PER rewards players for taking more shots so long as they make about 28% of them; PPA does not.
  2. PPA accounts for defense; PER does not.
  3. PPA includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition faced; PER does not.

What to like about the trade? Morris isn’t old — at 26, he should be entering his prime years. And he’s signed at a flat $8 million per year for the next three seasons after this one. With the cap expected to rise $40 million over the next two seasons, that salary could end up being a relative bargain even with meh production.

What kind of player are the Wizards getting? I ran Morris’ best year (2014-15) through my statistical doppelganger machine — just waving away his crummy play this year. The machine kicked out names like Lamond Murray, Keith Van Horn, Tim Thomas, Morris Peterson, Al Harrington, and Thaddeus Young, with repeat seasons from Thomas and Harrington.

Bucks fans probably remember Grunfeld trading for Thomas, and then awarding him a massive contract — despite thoroughly pedestrian play from Thomas.

Best case scenario, the Wizards get the Morris of 2014-15. He was inefficient on offense and was basically average in the non-scoring part of his game, but he’ll at least be as good as Jared Dudley overall.

Quick addendum: I used PPA to project the Wizards record over their final 31 games assuming they’d get the Morris from 2014-15. That’s a PPA of 102, and represents the best he’s played over a sustained stretch.

For the projection, I assumed perfect health (no one misses any games for any reason), and the following nine-man rotation:

  • Wall 36 mpg
  • Beal 33
  • Porter 32
  • Gortat 32
  • Morris 32
  • Dudley 28
  • Nenê 16
  • Sessions 15
  • Temple 12

After a bit of math, my PPA Wins Projection Machine says Washington will go 16-15 over its final 31 games. That would leave the team with a 39-43 record, and a likely ninth or tenth place finish. Odds are: Phoenix would get the pick in this year’s draft.

NBA Playoffs: PPA Update Through Round Two

Just numbers because…no time. This update includes all playoff games through the completion of round two.

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.

Hoping to have some thoughts up about the Wizards tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Player POS Age Tm G MPG PPA
DeMarre Carroll SF 28 ATL 12 35.2 204
Al Horford C 28 ATL 12 33.8 188
Paul Millsap PF 29 ATL 12 35.4 146
Jeff Teague PG 26 ATL 12 32.3 128
Kyle Korver SG 33 ATL 12 38.1 111
Shelvin Mack PG 24 ATL 7 4.9 97
Mike Muscala PF 23 ATL 6 10.8 94
Mike Scott PF 26 ATL 8 11.1 84
Dennis Schroder PG 21 ATL 12 19.8 51
Pero Antic PF 32 ATL 12 14.7 37
Kent Bazemore SG 25 ATL 12 16.5 34
John Jenkins SG 23 ATL 2 2.5 -85
Elton Brand PF 35 ATL 2 2.0 -212
Jae Crowder SF 24 BOS 4 25.0 126
Jared Sullinger PF 22 BOS 4 20.0 110
Tyler Zeller C 25 BOS 4 22.5 85
Isaiah Thomas PG 25 BOS 4 29.8 67
Marcus Smart PG 20 BOS 4 22.5 57
Evan Turner SG 26 BOS 4 29.5 51
Brandon Bass PF 29 BOS 4 21.5 49
Avery Bradley SG 24 BOS 4 33.3 23
Kelly Olynyk C 23 BOS 4 13.3 20
Jonas Jerebko PF 27 BOS 4 17.0 -13
Gerald Wallace SF 32 BOS 1 4.0 -67
Luigi Datome SF 27 BOS 3 4.7 -86
Phil Pressey PG 23 BOS 2 2.5 -156
Brook Lopez C 26 BRK 6 39.0 166
Alan Anderson SG 32 BRK 6 23.7 122
Joe Johnson SG 33 BRK 6 41.5 103
Jarrett Jack PG 31 BRK 6 25.5 94
Deron Williams PG 30 BRK 6 32.0 87
Markel Brown SG 23 BRK 2 5.0 68
Thaddeus Young PF 26 BRK 6 31.7 55
Bojan Bogdanovic SF 25 BRK 6 34.3 48
Mason Plumlee C 24 BRK 6 8.2 30
Earl Clark PF 27 BRK 2 6.5 -45
Darius Morris PG 24 BRK 1 5.0 -83
Mirza Teletovic PF 29 BRK 3 5.3 -113
Jerome Jordan C 28 BRK 1 5.0 -166
Jimmy Butler SG 25 CHI 12 42.2 183
Pau Gasol PF 34 CHI 10 31.7 174
E’Twaun Moore SG 25 CHI 3 3.0 146
Mike Dunleavy SF 34 CHI 12 32.4 143
Doug McDermott SF 23 CHI 3 3.3 125
Joakim Noah C 29 CHI 12 32.9 116
Derrick Rose PG 26 CHI 12 37.8 111
Taj Gibson PF 29 CHI 12 23.0 95
Nazr Mohammed C 37 CHI 3 4.7 64
Kirk Hinrich SG 34 CHI 10 12.6 53
Nikola Mirotic PF 23 CHI 11 14.9 20
Tony Snell SF 23 CHI 11 12.7 9
Aaron Brooks PG 30 CHI 12 11.0 -11
Kevin Love PF 26 CLE 4 26.8 167
Kyrie Irving PG 22 CLE 10 37.1 158
Tristan Thompson PF 23 CLE 10 32.4 150
LeBron James SF 30 CLE 10 41.7 140
Iman Shumpert SG 24 CLE 10 33.3 137
Timofey Mozgov C 28 CLE 10 25.2 111
J.R. Smith SG 29 CLE 8 27.9 111
Mike Miller SF 34 CLE 3 10.3 73
Shawn Marion SF 36 CLE 3 4.0 48
Matthew Dellavedova SG 24 CLE 10 18.2 40
James Jones SF 34 CLE 10 11.8 32
Kendrick Perkins C 30 CLE 6 4.0 -47
Joe Harris SG 23 CLE 2 2.0 -253
Al-Farouq Aminu SF 24 DAL 5 30.0 176
Tyson Chandler C 32 DAL 5 32.0 160
Charlie Villanueva PF 30 DAL 5 8.6 135
Monta Ellis SG 29 DAL 5 39.4 111
Dirk Nowitzki PF 36 DAL 5 36.2 110
Jose Barea PG 30 DAL 5 30.8 68
Raymond Felton PG 30 DAL 3 12.0 19
Rajon Rondo PG 28 DAL 2 18.5 16
Bernard James C 29 DAL 1 2.0 0
Greg Smith PF 24 DAL 1 1.0 0
Amar’e Stoudemire PF 32 DAL 5 15.0 -2
Devin Harris PG 31 DAL 4 18.5 -13
Richard Jefferson SF 34 DAL 4 12.8 -29
Chandler Parsons SF 26 DAL 1 37.0 -32
Dwight Powell PF 23 DAL 2 1.5 -79
Stephen Curry PG 26 GSW 10 38.7 208
Draymond Green SF 24 GSW 10 37.1 153
Andrew Bogut C 30 GSW 10 25.9 147
James Michael McAdoo PF 22 GSW 3 1.7 141
Klay Thompson SG 24 GSW 10 37.5 133
Harrison Barnes SF 22 GSW 10 32.9 127
Andre Iguodala SG 31 GSW 10 27.6 105
Justin Holiday SG 25 GSW 3 1.7 85
Festus Ezeli C 25 GSW 10 5.4 65
Shaun Livingston PG 29 GSW 10 15.8 61
Leandro Barbosa SG 32 GSW 10 9.7 30
David Lee PF 31 GSW 5 11.0 27
Marreese Speights PF 27 GSW 7 7.3 23
Brandon Rush SG 29 GSW 2 2.0 -145
Dwight Howard C 29 HOU 12 33.3 178
James Harden SG 25 HOU 12 36.4 175
Clint Capela C 20 HOU 12 7.6 97
Josh Smith PF 29 HOU 12 22.6 95
Trevor Ariza SF 29 HOU 12 38.1 95
Terrence Jones PF 23 HOU 12 24.0 88
Jason Terry SG 37 HOU 12 27.6 83
Corey Brewer SF 28 HOU 12 25.5 46
Pablo Prigioni PG 37 HOU 12 19.9 32
Nick Johnson SG 22 HOU 7 4.3 -6
Joey Dorsey PF 31 HOU 6 2.2 -33
Kostas Papanikolaou SF 24 HOU 7 2.4 -188
Chris Paul PG 29 LAC 12 37.1 224
DeAndre Jordan C 26 LAC 14 34.4 188
Blake Griffin PF 25 LAC 14 39.8 183
Spencer Hawes PF 26 LAC 8 7.1 101
Matt Barnes SF 34 LAC 14 29.2 65
J.J. Redick SG 30 LAC 14 38.6 61
Austin Rivers PG 22 LAC 14 17.9 53
Dahntay Jones SF 34 LAC 11 1.6 21
Jamal Crawford SG 34 LAC 14 27.1 21
Lester Hudson SG 30 LAC 7 5.4 17
Glen Davis PF 29 LAC 14 10.3 -4
Hedo Turkoglu SF 35 LAC 11 5.0 -20
Ekpe Udoh PF 27 LAC 4 3.0 -54
Jordan Adams SG 20 MEM 4 2.5 208
Russ Smith PG 23 MEM 2 1.5 184
Marc Gasol C 30 MEM 11 37.8 155
Jon Leuer PF 25 MEM 4 2.3 138
Mike Conley PG 27 MEM 8 30.4 137
Tony Allen SG 33 MEM 10 27.9 134
Courtney Lee SG 29 MEM 11 33.4 133
Kosta Koufos C 25 MEM 11 11.5 132
JaMychal Green PF 24 MEM 5 1.6 93
Vince Carter SG 38 MEM 11 17.8 79
Beno Udrih PG 32 MEM 10 17.5 68
Zach Randolph PF 33 MEM 11 34.7 66
Nick Calathes SG 25 MEM 9 14.0 23
Jeff Green SF 28 MEM 11 27.1 14
Zaza Pachulia C 30 MIL 6 21.5 141
Jared Dudley SG 29 MIL 6 18.3 122
John Henson C 24 MIL 6 25.5 117
Khris Middleton PF 23 MIL 6 38.7 88
Jerryd Bayless PG 26 MIL 6 20.0 53
Tyler Ennis PG 20 MIL 1 16.0 48
Giannis Antetokounmpo SG 20 MIL 6 33.5 48
Michael Carter-Williams PG 23 MIL 6 31.8 44
O.J. Mayo SG 27 MIL 6 26.0 41
Jorge Gutierrez PG 26 MIL 1 12.0 25
Ersan Ilyasova PF 27 MIL 6 23.7 22
Johnny O’Bryant PF 21 MIL 1 12.0 -1
Miles Plumlee C 26 MIL 1 16.0 -65
Alexis Ajinca C 26 NOP 3 3.3 242
Anthony Davis PF 21 NOP 4 43.0 197
Dante Cunningham PF 27 NOP 4 18.8 142
Quincy Pondexter SF 26 NOP 4 31.0 95
Omer Asik C 28 NOP 4 19.8 91
Eric Gordon SG 26 NOP 4 35.8 85
Ryan Anderson PF 26 NOP 4 23.8 81
Jrue Holiday PG 24 NOP 3 18.3 58
Tyreke Evans SF 25 NOP 4 31.3 50
Norris Cole PG 26 NOP 4 26.5 -38
Allen Crabbe SG 22 POR 2 19.5 149
Meyers Leonard C 22 POR 5 21.2 143
Alonzo Gee SF 27 POR 1 3.0 133
Joel Freeland C 27 POR 2 3.5 96
C.J. McCollum SG 23 POR 5 33.2 93
Robin Lopez C 26 POR 5 23.4 89
LaMarcus Aldridge PF 29 POR 5 41.6 80
Nicolas Batum SF 26 POR 5 41.8 67
Chris Kaman C 32 POR 3 12.3 56
Damian Lillard PG 24 POR 5 40.2 54
Steve Blake PG 34 POR 5 8.6 -25
Arron Afflalo SG 29 POR 3 20.0 -128
Tim Frazier PG 24 POR 2 1.5 -309
Tim Duncan PF 38 SAS 7 35.7 213
Kawhi Leonard SF 23 SAS 7 35.7 154
Patrick Mills PG 26 SAS 7 16.0 153
Marco Belinelli SG 28 SAS 7 16.6 136
Boris Diaw PF 32 SAS 7 28.3 96
Danny Green SG 27 SAS 7 29.1 86
Manu Ginobili SG 37 SAS 7 18.7 80
Cory Joseph PG 23 SAS 4 5.5 77
Jeff Ayres PF 27 SAS 3 4.0 44
Tiago Splitter C 30 SAS 7 17.6 23
Tony Parker PG 32 SAS 7 30.0 -17
Aron Baynes C 28 SAS 4 10.0 -51
Matt Bonner PF 34 SAS 7 5.1 -69
Greg Stiemsma C 29 TOR 1 2.0 526
Jonas Valanciunas C 22 TOR 4 26.5 141
Patrick Patterson PF 25 TOR 4 26.5 121
Amir Johnson PF 27 TOR 4 28.0 90
DeMar DeRozan SG 25 TOR 4 39.8 75
Terrence Ross SF 23 TOR 4 26.8 38
Lou Williams SG 28 TOR 4 25.5 26
Greivis Vasquez PG 28 TOR 4 25.3 14
Kyle Lowry PG 28 TOR 4 32.8 -5
Tyler Hansbrough PF 29 TOR 4 12.0 -12
James Johnson PF 27 TOR 2 6.0 -115
Marcin Gortat C 30 WAS 10 30.7 186
Paul Pierce SF 37 WAS 10 29.8 149
John Wall PG 24 WAS 7 39.0 142
Kris Humphries PF 29 WAS 1 5.0 141
Bradley Beal SG 21 WAS 10 41.8 132
Otto Porter SF 21 WAS 10 33.1 120
Nene Hilario PF 32 WAS 10 25.7 73
Drew Gooden PF 33 WAS 10 17.8 62
Ramon Sessions PG 28 WAS 10 21.8 46
Will Bynum SG 32 WAS 3 10.3 44
Martell Webster SF 28 WAS 1 4.0 35
Kevin Seraphin C 25 WAS 6 12.0 34
Garrett Temple SG 28 WAS 4 6.5 -57
Rasual Butler SF 35 WAS 2 3.5 -81

Wizards Update: Just the Numbers


No time today, so straight to the numbers.

Well, sorta. Could we please stop imagining that Kevin Seraphin is a good or even useful NBA player? This is probably as good a defense of Seraphin as could possibly be written, and it’s still woefully misguided and erroneous in its conclusions. Seraphin may have a good hook shot, but he’s not a good scorer. He’s also a bad rebounder and a defensive liability. The Wizards may insist on playing him for some reason, but they’ll be better when they replace him with a decent NBA player.

Below is the Player Production Average (PPA) update. 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 per-minute, 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 10-Nov 18-Nov 24-Nov PPA
Marcin Gortat 16 30.9 181 186 170 175
John Wall 16 35.3 185 180 180 168
Paul Pierce 16 26.9 140 138 165 134
Rasual Butler 12 18.5 60 131 116 128
Andre Miller 16 12.9 72 69 92 103
Garrett Temple 15 22.6 121 112 96 100
Otto Porter 15 23.2 97 106 101 95
Kris Humphries 15 17.8 46 87 90 82
Drew Gooden 11 17.4 42 40 59 78
Nene Hilario 11 27.1 108 102 68 67
Bradley Beal 7 29.4 122 63
Kevin Seraphin 15 15.1 38 13 17 12
DeJuan Blair 5 6.0 -41 -40 -40 -74
Glen Rice 5 8.6 -120 -117 -117 -117

Washington Wizards 2013-14 Wrap-Up

Marcin Gortat honored to hear he led the Wizards in PPA last season.
Marcin Gortat honored to hear he led the Wizards in PPA last season.

In the relentless quest to keep First Draft on the vanguard of current events, I’m going to post my final regular season grades for the Washington Wizards.

Psst — Hey dummy, the season ended in April. The Wizards went to the playoffs, beat the Bulls in round one and then got smacked by the Pacers.

Yeah, but this is incredibly timely in geologic terms.

So…umm…anyway, I’ve been away awhile. It’s been a crazy summer. To go full-on Dad-Brag mode, my son Joe became the first high schooler to reach the semifinals of two international euphonium competitions this year. He made the finals in one — along with four adults who (at minimum) had masters degrees in euphonium performance. While he’d never brag about it, I will. Happily. So how has he celebrated the success? More practice, of course.

Back to the topic of the day — the Wizards. The season has already been hashed and rehashed ad nauseum by now, so I won’t go too deep in the weeds. I’ve gotten a few requests for the final Player Production Average (PPA) numbers, which are below. I’ll have playoff numbers up soon, followed by results from my Statistical Doppelganger Machine, and then maybe even some observations about this year’s draft from Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA).

See: vanguard.

PPA is an overall rating metric I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win, and debits them for things that don’t. It’s a per-minute stat that’s 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 45 = replacement level.

Marcin Gortat 81 32.8 153 154
Trevor Ariza 77 35.4 143 145
John Wall 82 36.3 138 139
Trevor Booker 72 21.6 119 123
Drew Gooden 22 18.0 114 106
Nene Hilario 53 29.4 100 102
Bradley Beal 73 34.7 89 96
Andre Miller 28 14.7 91 86
Martell Webster 78 27.7 80 77
Jan Vesely 33 14.2 68 68
Kevin Seraphin 53 10.9 37 35
Chris Singleton 25 10.0 32 33
Garrett Temple 75 8.5 25 24
Al Harrington 34 15.0 8 24
Glen Rice 11 9.9 20 20
Otto Porter 37 8.6 19 15
Eric Maynor 23 9.3 8 8

I’ll get more into this when I do similarity scores, but it’s worth mentioning that Wall’s PPA last season (2012-13) was the same 139. He accumulated accolades this season, but his actual production wasn’t at an elite level. I’d hoped (and expected) Wall’s production to be in the 160s range, and I’m a little concerned that it was flat (on a per minute basis). Still, aspects of his game improved (especially three-point shooting), and his ability to play nearly 3,000 total minutes was important for a team that bungled the backup PG spot so badly.

Also in the “cause for concern” bucket: Nenê’s production. His on/off numbers remained good (at least on defense), but my analysis suggests he wasn’t necessarily the cause. His overall production was about league average, which means he was below average for a starter (average for starters usually lands between 125 and 130).

I’d hoped for a bit bigger jump from Beal, but his final PPA for the season wasn’t bad for a guy who was still among the league’s youngest players. I continue to think he’s going to have a long and productive career with multiple All-Star appearances.

The Offseason

This offseason, the Wizards front office appeared to have a couple goals:

  1. Maintain.
  2. Preserve cap space for 2016.

With that in mind, they sat out the first round of the draft (because they’d traded the pick for Gortat), and (predictably) sold their 2nd round pick for cash.

They re-signed Gortat to a market deal for a solid big man. I wasn’t thrilled with the fifth year, but it was exactly in line with what I anticipated.

Departing were (in order of importance): Ariza, Booker, Singleton, and Harrington.

Incoming replacements were: Paul Pierce (PPA: 131), Kris Humphries (132), and DeJuan Blair (97).

They also inexplicably retained the services of Seraphin for another year.

The Pierce for Ariza swap is a step back for the Wizards. Pierce is still a pretty good player (and his production was better in the 2nd half of the season), but he’ll be 37 when the season starts, which is an age where production sometimes just falls off a cliff. Plus, older players tend to be injured more frequently, and the injuries can linger. It’s just a fact that older players do two things reliably: get worse and get hurt.

Washington’s need for contributions from Otto Porter, last year’s 1st round pick, are magnified by Ariza’s departure, Pierce’s age, and Webster’s back surgery.

The acquisitions of Humphries and Blair are excellent moves. Both come at bargain prices, and both are productive players. That duo should give the team sufficient frontcourt depth to weather Nenê’s fragility, and enough quality that they won’t miss Booker.

Overall, it was a good offseason for the team. The East doesn’t appear to be much stronger, and the Wizards could be a top four seed if they get significant improvements from any combination of Wall, Beal and Porter.