Playoff Shooters: Wizards/Bullets Franchise History | Truth About It.net

Playoff Shooters: Wizards/Bullets Franchise History

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Updated: July 27, 2011


[Emery Rec Center - NW Washington DC - photo: K. Weidie]

I’ve previously used historical statistical analysis in an attempt to determine who were some of the best, and worst, shooters in Wizards/Bullets franchise history.

One post explained that Slick Leonard might have had to worst shooting season in franchise record books. As a member of the ‘61-62 Chicago Packers, Leonard threw up 1,128 shots, second most on the team after Walt Bellamy, but only made 37.5-percent of them. In a nine team league that season 30 players attempted 1,000 or more field-goals, and Slick was the worst of them all.

Others, such as Kevin Loughery and Mitch Richmond, have cemented themselves as some of the worst shooters beyond the window of just one season. Loughery, over 591 career games played with the team in Baltimore, made only 41.5-percent of his 9,209 FG attempts. Richmond, who adeptly bastardized any memories of trading Chris Webber into scorn from fandom toward his aching knees, made just 41.7-percent of the 2,356 shots he took as a Wizard. To note, Loughery and Richmond were two of 26 players in franchise history to play in 160 games or more with the team and average over 15 field-goals attempted per 36 minutes.

Another post noted that Gilbert Arenas is the best long-range bomber in team history, and that some of the franchise’s better shooters — over various time periods, from everywhere on the court… twos, threes and ones — have been Brent Price, Mike Miller, Scott Skiles, Chris Whitney, Tracy Murray, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

Shooting is more about confidence than any statistic will ever measure. That sometimes is the irony of statistics, in that they measure confidence but they cannot measure levels of one’s ability to enact confidence. The playoffs is where elevated, or decimated, levels of confidence can be measured.

Three-pointers, two-pointers and free-throws. Inside, outside, and on the run. To make all requires some degree of confidence. Being sure that mechanics and touch, practiced over and over again, along with a focused eye, will guide that ball through the net … knowing that bodily trained repetition will do what the mind wants it to do. Except with NBA-tough defense and the game on the line, a playoff game.

Playoff Shooters.

In Washington Wizards franchise playoff history, extending to Baltimore and Chicago, as the Zephyrs, Packers and Bullets, 79 different players have played at least a game’s worth of minutes, 48, while averaging 12 or more minutes per game. 1

“True shooting percentage (TS%) is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws.” -Basketball-Reference.com

Of the 79 players, those whose playoff TS% increased the most from their career regular season TS% with the franchise goes as follows:

  1. Tracy Murray  +18.7% (1997)
  2. Chris Webber +16.5% (1997)
  3. Michael Ruffin +14.8% (2005-07)
  4. Wali Jones +7.6% (1965)
  5. Brendan Haywood +5.6% (2005-08)
  6. Dudley Bradley +5.1% (1985-86)
  7. Don Ohl +4.6% (1965-66)
  8. Wayne Hightower +4.5% (1965)
  9. Jared Jeffries +4.4% (2005-06)
  10. Nick Weatherspoon +4.4% (1974-76)

Clearly you’re wondering what this means. Michael Ruffin was better at sticking daggers into his own team than scoring, and Jared Jeffries, as a Wizard, used to miss at the rim so badly that the women in his life would make him pee outside.

But when the playoffs counted, over 19 games Ruffin went a solid 9-15 from the field, probably because he was paid attention to by defenders even less. Then again, averaging just 0.79 field-goal attempts per playoff game was probably dumb luck. Still, markedly better than Ruffin going 80-194 from the field over 185 career games with the franchise.

When the Bullets got swept by the Bulls in three games in 1997, it wasn’t because of Tracy Murray. No, it was because of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Still, Murray shot lights out. In 87 total minutes he went 17-30 from the field, 5-10 from three, and 16-17 from the free-throw line.

If we’re going to check the most improved, might as well check those whose TS% dipped the most when the second season was in play:

  1. Red Kerr -27.1% (1966)
  2. Michael Adams -15.8% (1987)
  3. DeShawn Stevenson -9.3% (2007-08)
  4. Don Collins -8.0% (1982-85)
  5. Eddie Miles -7.8% (1970)
  6. John Tresvant -6.8% (1971-73)
  7. Kwame Brown -6.7% (2005)
  8. Mitch Kupchak -6.6% (1977-79)
  9. Darren Daye -6.4% (1984-86)
  10. Johnny Egan -5.4% (1966)

Michael Adams, unbeknownst to some, played 63 games as an NBA soph with the 1986-87 Washington Bullets. This is before he moved on to Denver for four seasons, and before he came back to play with the Bullets for three more seasons from 1991-1994.

Adams come off the bench for that ‘87 Bullets team that finished 42-40 and sixth in the East, netting them a first round match-up with the 52-30, third seed Detroit Pistons. Detroit won the series three games to zero. Adams, who averaged 20.7 minutes per game during the regular season with a TS% of .506 (.519 over his regular season career with the Bullets), saw his average minutes jump to 27.3 over those three playoff games. His playoff TS%, however, dropped off the chart to .361 — he made just 8 of 25 playoff FGAs, going 2-9 from three.

DeShawn Stevenson’s TS% drop doesn’t tell the full story that he had two vastly different playoff series. In 2006-07 when the Wizards were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games, Stevenson went 9-46 from the field and 3-19 from long distance. He even managed to miss four of his seven free-throws attempts to cement a horrendous .244 TS%. The next season, 2007-08 when the Cavs beat the Wizards in the first round 4-2, Stevenson rebounded by going 22-60 from the field (still not great), but 14-36 from three, which raised his TS% to .545 (despite going 8-24 from two-point land). In 21 playoff games with the Dallas Mavericks this past season Stevenson’s TS% was .532.

And where would this post be without mention of Kwame Brown? After the first three games against the Chicago Bulls in the 2005 playoffs, in which Kwame played 60 total minutes, got 15 total rebounds, and went 5-13 from the field, Brown pouted about playing time, went out and got drunk after game three, lied and said he was sick when he missed practice the next day, missed shoot-around and game four with continued lies, and was finally suspended for the rest of the season because of his actions. It was a very fitting way for Kwame to end his era in Washington.

As a final measure, I wanted to narrow down playoff shooters capable of getting buckets from long distances (or at least attempting them).

From the original environment of 79 players (who have played at least a game’s worth of playoff minutes, 48, while averaging 12 or more minutes per game), 17 players had a three-point attempt ratio of at least 0.10 — meaning that at least one out of every 10 field-goal attempts was a three-point shot.

The table below lists some familiar names — displaying playoff years with the Wizards/Bullets franchise, career regular season TS% with the franchise, playoff TS%, the difference, playoffs games played, playoff minutes, playoff FGAs, and the ratio of playoff 3PAs to FGAs.

Player
From
To
Regular Season TS%
Playoff TS%
TS% Difference
G
MP
FGA
3 P Ratio
Tracy Murray
1997
1997
0.547
0.734
18.7%
3
87
30
0.33
Chris Webber
1997
1997
0.536
0.701
16.5%
3
106
30
0.37
Dudley Bradley
1985
1986
0.487
0.538
5.1%
9
123
38
0.39
Jared Jeffries
2005
2006
0.48
0.524
4.4%
16
462
92
0.14
Antonio Daniels
2006
2008
0.556
0.597
4.1%
16
546
121
0.17
Juan Dixon
2005
2005
0.486
0.509
2.3%
10
219
101
0.34
Gus Williams
1985
1986
0.479
0.499
2.0%
9
358
150
0.13
Frank Johnson
1982
1988
0.493
0.491
-0.2%
21
547
189
0.12
Antawn Jamison
2005
2008
0.529
0.518
-1.1%
26
1043
460
0.25
Gilbert Arenas
2005
2008
0.553
0.54
-1.3%
20
828
370
0.36
Caron Butler
2006
2008
0.539
0.52
-1.9%
12
508
188
0.19
Ricky Sobers
1984
1984
0.517
0.497
-2.0%
4
150
57
0.18
Roger Mason
2007
2008
0.544
0.521
-2.3%
10
185
63
0.43
Larry Hughes
2005
2005
0.513
0.482
-3.1%
10
401
181
0.18
Jarvis Hayes
2007
2007
0.478
0.438
-4.0%
4
139
46
0.41
DeShawn Stevenson
2007
2008
0.512
0.419
-9.3%
10
318
106
0.52
Michael Adams
1987
1987
0.519
0.361
-15.8%
3
82
25
0.36

Notably, as well as Murray fared on shooting in the 1997 playoffs, Webber was right there with him. In three games against Chicago Webber went 19-30 from the field, 5-11 from deep, but as the big man who fancied himself a point guard was liable to do, he only went 4-8 from the free-throw line (while again, Murray got to the stripe 17 times, making 16).

Finally, the most glaring statistical product is that the Wizards’ “Big 3” of yore — Arenas, Butler and Jamison — all became worse shooters come playoff time, with various members of their supporting cast – Roger Mason Jr., Larry Hughes, Jarvis Hayes and Stevenson — adding to the futility as well.

It’s a hard lesson learned, for all of us, but especially for Ernie Grunfeld (and former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan), that when it comes to the post-season, when shrinkage amongst shooters is likely to be more prevalent, it’s best to build a team on defense first, not scoring.

Obvious, I know, but with the allure of shooting statistics and scoring so deeply entrenched as a basis for evaluation for so long (and valuation, especially when it’s historically come to contract negotiations), it’s not a surprise.

Just be glad, Wizards fans, that the ship seems to be heading in the right direction. But they still need shooters…


1Source: Basketball-Reference.com


  • http://BDL KD

    Murray just DESTROYED Toni Kukoc in 1997.

  • http://TheCrossoverDribble The Crossover Dribble

    Great analysis. The final list of longer distance shooters that you provided seems to highlight (based on the number of players and FGAs) more than anything just how infrequently the Wizards have made and advanced in the playoffs. I noticed how the players with less attempts and thus less of a sample size tended to have the greater deviations from their regular season percentages while those with the highest number of attempts (e.g. Jamison, Arenas, Butler) only seemed to deviate a little bit from their usual percentage.