Worst of the Wizards/Bullets: Shooters Edition
[Shaw Rec. Center – Washington, D.C. – K. Weidie]
In mid-September, ESPN.com contributor Tom Haberstroh made an attempt to determine the five worst players in the franchise history of each NBA team [ESPN Insider]. The requirements, along with the implementation of John Hollinger’s PER, were:
“… a player needed to have played at least 10 minutes per contest over the course of at least 100 career games with the franchise. Furthermore, we’ve added the “Bruce Bowen Corollary” to exempt players who started for championship teams.”
And the list of distinguished gentlemen for the Bullets/Wizards franchise:
And while a standard qualification is necessary to measure across all teams, it’s still subjective. Any of us could find other players just as bad, or worse, using the database of Basketball-Reference.com. Today, I’ll focus on bad shooting players in franchise history.
For instance, for a single season I wanted to find out how many players in franchise history (in BBR’s database ranging from 1946-47 to now) appeared in 70 or more games, averaged 20 or more minutes per game, but with a PER of 10.0 or less.
You’ll see that seven players make this list, one of whom, Charles Jones, also appears on ESPN’s all-time worst list. Jared Jeffries’ PER of 8.7 in 2003-04 is the worst in franchise history for someone playing the aforementioned amount of time. Jarvis Hayes was also pretty bad in that same ’03-04 season, pulling down a PER of 9.4 (5th worst on the list). Jeffries shot 37.7-percent from the field on 5.7 attempts per game; Hayes shot 40-percent on 9.9 FG attempts per game.
Worth noting that when Jeffries was on the court that year, the Wizards’ “defense” allowed four less points per 100 possessions (via 82games.com), and total team rebounding percentage went up 4.1-percent. Effective FG% allowed went down 1.7-percent when Jeffries was on the court. Of course, the Wizards’ team eFG% went down 2.6-percent when Jared was on the court too. So, keep what Jeffries did on the defensive end in mind when you notice that he shot 21.7-percent on any FG attempt beyond six feet from the basket in ’03-04.
Which got me thinking more about shooters …
I wondered which player in franchise history has jacked up the most jumpers in the most futile manner. In this instance, my parameters were: a player who has attempted more than 750 field-goals in a single season and shot 40-percent or less from the field in doing so.
That list includes (in order of “best” sub-40 FG-percent to worst): Kevin Loughery (’66-67 – .398), Larry Hughes (’03-04 – .397), Michael Adams (’91-92 – .393), Gilbert Arenas (’03-04 – .392), DeShawn Stevenson (’07-08 – .386), Woody Sauldsberry (’62-63 – .384), and Slick Leonard (’61-62 – .375).
You’re probably noticing the respective seasons of Hughes and Arenas above and the aforementioned seasons of Jeffries and Hayes made 2003-04 a pretty crappy season. Well, it was the first season after the Michael Jordan era and the first in the Eddie Jordan/Gilbert Arenas era. Arenas only played 55 games that year, missing a large chunk of time due to a lingering abdominal strain; and Hughes only played in 61 games, mostly due to a broken wrist. The Wizards won 25 games that year and shot 42.1-percent as a team.
The only team in franchise history that shot worse than that ’03-04 squad was the ’61-62 Chicago Packers, the first season in franchise history. The Packers shot 41.2-percent and won 18 out of 80 games that season. The aforementioned Slick Leonard attempted 1,128 shots, but only made 423 of them; his average of 16.1 points per game was second on the team to Walt Bellamy’s 31.6 points on 51.9-percent from the field. So Slick, now a radio analyst for the Indiana Pacers, might have had the worst shooting season in franchise history.
But, Volume …
The numbers so far don’t completely consider volume per-game shooters over the course of more than two seasons. So I then checked the BBR database for all players who appeared in at least roughly two seasons with the franchise (160 total games or more) and attempted over 15 field-goals per 36 minutes. Basketball-Reference returned 26 players, the worst of those being Kevin Loughery.
Loughery played 591 games with the franchise (all in Baltimore) and averaged 17.8 attempts per 36 minutes during his time. He only made 41.5-percent of his 9,209 attempted field-goals … which is just slightly above the terribleness experienced during the Mitch Richmond era in D.C. Richmond played 5,525 total minutes with the franchise, attempting 2,356 total shots (15.4 attempts/36) and made just 41.7-percent of them.
Go ahead and think about the Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe trade and smack yourself on the head for good measure.
Finally, Free-Throws …
I’m pretty majorly concerned about the Wizards’ ability to make free-throws this season. No one is underestimating the importance of free-throws, but we are certainly looking past them in terms of how they will affect the outcome of many games, especially on a team with a young, and perhaps fragile, psyche. Free-throw shooting is why my prediction of 34 wins could be a bit auspicious.
As a team, the Wizards were 106-160 (66.3-percent) from the free-throw line in seven preseason games. Again, we know, “preseason” … but the worst free-throw shooting team in franchise history, that ’61-62 Chicago Packers team, managed to make 67.3-percent of their foul shots. Of course, that grind-it-out squad of the early 60s averaged 36.3 free-throw attempts per game in the pre-shot clock era. These fast-paced preseason Wizards averaged 22.9 free-throw attempts over seven meaningless games.
Over the previous 20 franchise seasons out of 49 total (1990-91 to 2009-10), four of those teams finished in the bottom 10 of the franchise’s all-time worst free-throw shooting teams — ’97-98 (0.691 FT%, 26.3 FTA/G); ’98-99 (0.705, 24 FTA/G); ’96-97 (0.707, 24.1 FTA/G); and ’03-04 (0.714, 27 FTA/G).
Through dazzling dunks, alley-oops and blazing quickness, a lot of people will be able to look past speed bumps of youthful growth, such as turnovers and missed shots, during the 2010-11 season. But I have feeling that free-throws, when the clock is stopped and John Wall’s speed is negated, is what will cause Flip Saunders, and fans, to grimace with instances of indigestion and hair loss.
At least it’s something to keep an eye on.