Wizards Hot Start Benchmarks and Indicators

The Wizards are 4-1 and are enjoying their best start in seven seasons. Important note: Every statistical data point should be viewed with a skeptical eye. Sample sizes are tiny and can fluctuate wildly as teams play more games. What we’re looking for now are pointers and benchmarks – guidance on what the team will be like and benchmarks as to where they are now to get a feel for how things change going forward.

Here’s a quick look at how they rank in key measures of team strength (in parentheses are last year’s rankings):

  • Calendar strength adjust scoring margin: 6th
  • Offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions): 10th
  • Defensive rating (points awarded per 100 possessions): 13th
  • Pace: 17th

In five games, the Wizards’ offense has been in the middle of the field when it comes to shooting, but they’ve done a good job minimizing turnovers and hitting the free throw line. Defensively, they seem to focus on the area that matters most – they are 9th best opponent’s effective field goal percentage, up from 16th last season.

They’re forcing fewer turnovers, but their defensive rebound has been better so far – 8th best defensive rebound percentage from 15th last season. They also clog a little more.

Taken together, these numbers indicate a team focused on maintaining a good defensive position, tough shots and crushing boards to end possessions. It’s actually more than a bit similar to how the team defended themselves last season.

This year they allow the fourth fewest attempts at the rim – last season they were number one. This year they allow the second fewest three-point attempts – last season they allowed the sixth minus.

The change from last season to this one is something that shows on the film – this year’s squad doesn’t scramble as much. They miss rotations and don’t always execute the pattern correctly, but there is a feeling in watching that the players know the principles and their assignments. There is less ball chase and a lot less switches.

In the spirit of looking for indicators, I headed for Stathead.com to take a look at the teams that started the year 4-1. The question I was concerned about was whether a warm start made a lot of sense. Some observations and observations:

  • The range of final records for teams that started 4-1 is wide. At the top of the range are the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors, who finished 67-15 (a 4-1 winning percentage in every five-game streak) and won the championship. On the other side is the Orlando Magic 2020-21 which finished the year 21-51, or the 2017-18 Memphis Grizzlies which finished 22-60.
  • Of the 56 teams that started a 4-1 season, 41 made it to the playoffs.
  • Playoff teams were likely to win in the first round – a 63.4% first-round series winning percentage.
  • Five future champions started a 4-1 season – the 2016-17 Warriors, 2012-13 Miami Heat, 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs, 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers, and 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers. Interesting that three of those teams included Lebron James.
  • The average record of 82 games for teams that started 4-1 was 49-33. Their collective calendar-adjusted rating margin strength was 2.73.

The last Wizards team to start 4-1 was in 2014-15. This team finished 46-36 and had the lowest adjusted scoring margin among teams in that group that made the playoffs. They swept the Toronto Raptors in the first round and lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round after John Wall broke a bone in his hand.

As for the indicators, this is not a bad one. The Wizards probably won’t go on to win 80% of their games, but teams that start 4-1 tend to be pretty good.

The player production average (PPA) metric credits players for the things they do that help a team win (scoring, bouncing, playing, defending) and ringing them out for things that hurt (missed shots , turnovers, bad defense, fouls), each in proportion appropriate to how much he contributes to win or lose.

The PPA is pace neutral, takes defense into account, and includes a ‘degree of difficulty’ factor that rewards guys for playing harder minutes. There is also accounting for the role / position. In PPA, 100 is medium, higher is better, and the replacement level is 45. It usually takes a score of 225 or higher to be part of the MVP conversation.

The PPA score does not say that one player is “better” than another in terms of skill, aptitude, athleticism or replaceability (whether the players have hypothetically changed teams or been placed in a team. hypothetical mean). On the contrary, PPA shows production so far this season in terms of the things that help teams win NBA games.

Wizards PPA through games played on October 28

Isaiah Todd F 1 5.0 263
Spencer dinwiddie g 4 29.0 225
Montrezl Harrell VS 5 30.8 169
Daniel Gafford VS 4 17.5 165
Kentavious Caldwell-Pape F 5 29.6 128
Kyle kuzma F 5 34.6 114
Raul neto g 4 23.0 109
Corey kispert G / F 4 9.0 75
Deni Avdija F 5 19.2 55
Davis bertans F 5 18.8 38
Bradley Beal g 4 34.8 33
Aaron vacation g 5 19.8 27
Joel Ayayi g 1 4.0 0

Some additional thoughts / observations:

  • Remember that the numbers at the start of the season are useful for comparing future changes and trying to discern early indicators.
  • Bradley Beal has been terrible so far this season. Offensive rating of 85 with a 33.8% utilization rate. This should change considerably in the coming weeks.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie has never played so well over a full season. Among players with at least 100 minutes, Dinwiddie currently ranks 6th in my adaptation of Ben Taylor’s creation metric. This is a kind of assist metric more based on tracking and calculating Ben’s numbers. The five ahead of Dinwiddie: Ja Morant, Trae Young, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and LaMelo Ball. Next on the list: Stephen Curry.
  • The Wizards are doing well in the middle – Montrezl Harrell and Daniel Gafford were excellent.
  • Deni Avdija is evaluating just a little above replacement level so far this season. He is average in the defense part of my PPA metric.

The Wizards’ production so far this season turns to 48.0 wins in 82 games. This assumes they continue to play as they have so far, which they probably won’t. Dinwiddie and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will likely be less productive in the next few games. Beal and Davis Bertans will likely be more productive.

I guess Harrell and Gafford will both be less productive in the next few games, although I expect both to be above average.

I think Kyle Kuzma’s overall production will likely stay in the same mid to slightly above-average range, although I think his method of production will change. Specifically, I think his offensive efficiency will improve and his rebound and defensive impact will decrease a bit.

About Michael Bill

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