Where Are the Wizards Going? Learning from Lineup Data of the Past | Truth About It.net

Where Are the Wizards Going? Learning from Lineup Data of the Past

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Updated: May 2, 2013



[This post, and its lineup data, is just one way to look back at the Washington Wizards 2012-13 season that was. More from TAI to come...]

[From the Metro Bus - K. Weidie]

“Come playoff time, what most coaches do, is they play eight,
they rely on seven, and they only trust five.”

—Reggie Miller, former NBA player, current television analyst

“I’d love to have an eight- or nine-man rotation.
That’s my dream. And I’m playing 12 and 13 every night.
You can’t do that in an NBA game.
You have to develop a [starting] group and a group that comes in.
I’m having a tough time doing that.”

—Randy Wittman, Wizards coach, Nov. 2012, after franchise-worst 0-9 start

The right guys, the right combination, the right unit—coaches are always searching for the lineup that works best. You gotta play five at the same time and which five is important. If early 2000s U.S. losses in men’s Olympic basketball and what is now known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup taught us anything (’02-’06 to be exact), it’s that it is not necessarily the most talented collection of individuals, but it’s the five who work best together (or, in reality, the four-to-five players who work best around two-to-three very, very talented individuals, who also work well together—a team, or more appropriately, a rotation).

Players on the outskirts are well-aware of the struggle—sometimes political but certainly not as much as they think—to be part of the in-crowd. Some understand the working-together part, some don’t.

Forty (40) different 5-man units saw 20 or more minutes of court action together for the Washington Wizards in 2012-13.

The 1,782 total minutes of those 40 units accounted for 40 percent of Wizards all 5-man unit minutes.

Seventeen (17) of the 40 lineups finished in the positive in plus/minus (per 48 minutes); one lineup finished with an even zero; and 22 lineups finished in the plus/minus negative per 48.

The best crew:

  1. John Wall
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Trevor Ariza
  5. Emeka Okafor

27 total minutes (over five games)
Plus-63.1 per 48 minutes

Situational? Nouveau small? Whatever it is, it’s a scary lineup for opponents to guard, and not a bad defensive unit, either—at least no one on this unit is a defensive liability. Okafor might not be the perfect center complement, but I’d wager that he’s one of the top 10 in the NBA in terms of solid, dependable (health-wise included) defense. Okafor was also one of just six NBA centers who averaged a double-double and shot 50 percent or better from the field since the return of John Wall in mid-January.

The worst crew:

  1. Shaun Livingston
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Cartier Martin
  4. Kevin Seraphin
  5. Nene Hilario

21 total minutes (over six games)
Minus-57.7 per 48 minutes

Should be better, on paper, but sadness all around otherwise. Early season woes and psychology probably also a factor. Beal is not a creator off the dribble in general but drastically improved since the start of the year. A major part of this squad’s issue is that neither Livingston nor Martin have a chance of breaking down a defender off the dribble; other considerations would be rebounding inefficiencies with the entire unit.

The most (in time):

  1. John Wall
  2. Garrett Temple
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Nene Hilario
  5. Emeka Okafor

The above 5-man unit saw a team-high 283 minutes together, but those only happened over the course of 21 games, and the five only accounted for 7.1 percent of all minutes on the season.

Plus/Minus: minus-5.6 per 48 minutes.

Garrett Temple is great and all. The team really appreciates his defense and hustle, but his presence here represents an institutional failure in the existence of Jordan Crawford (or, simply, having the appropriately developed guards in the queue).

Speaking of, Crawford to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee about his time in Boston versus Washington:

“I’m around better people. People that, when they see talent, they appreciate it and they try to work you in. They accept real people around here.”

[...]

“Definitely in a great position. It ain’t people that hold you back and hate on you for no reason.”

Maybe Crawford was a brick wall. Clearly he played with headphones on in D.C.—in his own world. He didn’t even recall ever playing for the Wizards a month ago. But maybe the organization didn’t develop enough. Maybe the failure to connect is greatly upon them, shepherds of other presumed grown men (Crawford is 24).

And not to pick on Temple, but replace him with 19-year-old Bradley Beal in the same lineup, the second most-used lineup on the year (142 minutes over 18 games), and that 5-man crew is plus-27.1 per 48 minutes. A 32.7-point difference? Whut.

Thus, the immediate future:

  1. John Wall
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Nene
  5. Emeka Okafor

However, let’s note what’s worth nothing … this lineup:

  1. Jordan Crawford
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Nene Hilario
  5. Emeka Okafor

The above unit saw just 25 minutes of action over two games … and finished plus-5.7 per 48. Point Crawford?

But if you’re keeping track at home, the difference between Wall and Crawford is 21.4 points per 48 minutes in Wall’s favor. Also, the Wall-led unit shot 49.6 percent from the field in their 142 minutes; the Crawford-led five shot 10 percent worse from the field.

Was the issue between Wall and Crawford? Could they not play together? Stats say…

This lineup was afforded 16 total minutes of action over six games, finished minus-2.9 and shot 45.5 percent from the field:

  1. John Wall
  2. Jordan Crawford
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Nene Hilario
  5. Emeka Okafor

Small sample sizes galore. Jordan Crawford is no Bradley Beal. Water is wet. Beal’s shots are Watergate, Crawford’s shots are water-boarding.

The best non-Wall (and non-Crawford) lineup that saw more than 30 minutes together:

  1. A.J. Price
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Trevor Ariza
  4. Chris Singleton
  5. Kevin Seraphin

31 minutes over eight games—and this is that aforementioned even zero lineup.

Two under-30-minute, non-Wall lineups also performed very strongly:

  1. A.J. Price
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Trevor Ariza
  4. Jan Vesely
  5. Emeka Okafor

22 minutes over eight games
Plus-38.6 per 48 minutes

  1. A.J. Price
  2. Martell Webster
  3. Trevor Ariza
  4. Emeka Okafor
  5. Nene Hilario

21 minutes over six games
Plus-32.6 per 48 minutes

Lots can be inferred from lots of data. Good to remember.

Washington’s top three 3-man units (at least 100 minutes played, plus/minuses per 48 minutes):

Plus-20.2 (221 minutes over 14 games)

  1. Bradley Beal
  2. Martell Webster
  3. Nene Hilario

Plus-18.6 (134 minutes over 13 games)

  1. John Wall
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Martell Webster

Plus-18.0 (224 minutes over 14 games)

  1. Bradley Beal
  2. Nene Hilario
  3. Emeka Okafor
And the worst three 3-mans:

Minus-12.0 (112 minutes over 8 games)

  1. John Wall
  2. Garrett Temple
  3. Emeka Okafor

Minus-11.1 (121 minutes over 8 games)

  1. Garrett Temple
  2. Nene Hilario
  3. Emeka Okafor

Minus-8.0 (150 over 10 games)

  1. Garrett Temple
  2. Martell Webster
  3. Emeka Okafor

More to infer…

The Wizards have five (or six) Randy Wittman can trust: Wall, Beal, Webster, Ariza, Nene, and Okafor.

A.J. Price is (could be) a solid part of the main eight, if not No. 8. I can envision the Wizards retaining him and Washington also being the situation in Price’s best interest (he has a foot in the door and likely does not want to be the guy going to his third team in three seasons).

But to take the next step, the Wizards need a No. 7, and this is working under the assumption that they can retain  Webster.

It’s probably safe to say that Kevin Seraphin is No. 9. Otherwise, these unknown entities are under contract: Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker.

The Wizards need a secondary guard, or a wing—someone who can be trusted to handle the ball, defend, and most importantly, score via shooting. If they do lose Webster this summer, the straights are even more dire for Wall’s fourth year in the league.

And guess what: the draft pick isn’t the answer. It is almost certain to be traded, even if it’s just to trade down. …Grunfeld will believe it’s time to do something mildly desperate get desperately needed complementary scoring.

Because even with Wall (since January 12), Washington’s Offensive Rating (OffRtg – points scored per 100 possessions) of 101.3 still ranks 23rd in the NBA (the Wizards ranked dead-last for the entire season). Only Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Orlando, Charlotte, and Phoenix were worse (ranked 24 to 30) during Wall’s 49 games of health.

This lineup data shows where the Wizards have been, but it also shows where they need to go. As with every summer with most team brain trusts, Ernie Grunfeld has his work cut out for him. When you add the need (and likelihood) to sign John Wall to a max extension on top of pressure to improve, the margin for error is little.

Grunfeld, and the Wizards, were lucky to land Wall, so the process of keeping Wall is not so much the factor. It’s the players surrounding Wall (and Beal) who are key for the next step. The lineup data reflects that the Wizards, and Grunfeld (and Ted Leonsis) are off to a decent start, but no one should patting themselves on the back for keeping the electricity running for only half a season. Because in less than three months, a new NBA champion will be crowned, last year’s pixels will fade, and 30 teams will be in a competition to get better. And the pressure will be shifted exclusively to the one year remaining on each of the contracts of one Ernest Grunfeld and one Randy Scott Wittman.

Can they find the right piece to add? Will the Wizards further develop the young players they already have to any degree of success? The uncertainty may only be answered when the coach (and team president) are certain about their lineup… their rotation.

As the data shows, the search continues.

[stats via NBA.com/stats]



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