Wiz Kids Rise Up the Chain of Command: The Article | Truth About It.net

Wiz Kids Rise Up the Chain of Command: The Article

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Updated: April 21, 2014

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Over the weekend, ESPN TrueHoop published a piece about the Wizards, authored by me (@ConorDDirks), that chronicled the half-exciting, half-frustrating journey which has made up this season of Washington basketball. Ostensibly about the precarious triumvirate between expectations, reality and potential, the piece also serves as an at-times uncomfortable reminder of some of the more notorious failures of the last six years—and some of the emotional luggage those failures have wrought, both on the fanbase and the team itself. The team’s relentless focus on simply making the playoffs, and its later confounding insistence on being in the middle, or lower half, of the Eastern Conference playoff pack, despite what some, including this writer, consider a starting five superior to any team in the Eastern Conference outside of Indiana and Miami, was unfairly conservative.

On a surface level, the TrueHoop piece perhaps could be read as a bit discordant with Washington’s subsequent playoff win. But the win is in line with the sentiment: The Wizards were better than their 44 wins. If the team had lived up to its potential in the regular season, you may not have had to suffer through the indignity of seeing a veritable ranch of cattleheads on the predictions board.

Might the Wizards have won more games had Bradley Beal (nine games missed) and Nene (29 games missed total, 21 consecutive games missed due to most recent injury) never been injured? Jeff Stotts, of Nate Silver’s datablog, FiveThirtyEight, purports to debunk that line of thinking, noting that Washington’s record without Nene was slightly better than their record with him:

“A never-absent Nene doesn’t help Washington much, since in reality the Wizards went 12-9 during the 21 games he wasn’t on the court.”

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I’m not wholly convinced that this “data” is significant. It is more interesting to me that the Wizards didn’t win more games at full strength than it is that they managed to keep winning without the services of Nene, their stabilizing force. Per NBA.com/stats, the Wizards were plus-3.7 per 48 minutes in the 1,560 regular season minutes Nene played versus minus-0.3 in the 2,451 minutes he didn’t, which tells a different, more comprehensive, story than simply judging Nene’s impact based on a reductive win/loss formula.

So, without further bluster, go read the piece on ESPN TrueHoop. While the Wizards enjoy their series of deserved moments in the sun, it’s important to remember why they look so goddamn pale at the outset. Those who have been watching this team from the beginning of the season may very well be surprised by the outcome of Game 1, but not because the Wizards seemed incapable of such. On the contrary, this is a good team that has another chance to become a more consistent winner before the curtains close on the 2013-14 season.

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  • Ballzach

    Comparing Wiz record with and without Nene is misleading because he went down in late Feb just as the 28-28 5th place squad added vets Miller and Gooden (and had Harrington return from extended injury). Their woeful bench became a respectable 2nd unit almost overnight, correcting an imbalanced roster that had been carried by the starters in the 1st half of the season. The only proper metric should be games won with and w/o Nene with their current (post-trade deadline) roster. Unfortunately, that’s a really small sample size (with Nene back), so we don’t really know how good these fools are just yet. Good news is, neither do their opponents!

    • Conor Dirks

      Completely agree. Thought it was odd that 538 would run something with so little context.

  • Dude

    The NBA is the only sport in which the media and pundits try to convince the fans that they should root for their team to lose.

    • Conor Dirks

      While that may be true, I hope that wasn’t your takeaway from the article. There are instances where it may be beneficial for a team to lose (see: Sixers), but this is not one of them. Winning provides the Wizards with relevance, an unmatched offseason weapon in the battle for the best free agents. More than that, I want the Wizards to win because I want them to win, and because I picked them to win and feel an insatiable need to be the most correct always.

  • fearitself

    I ‘m starting to suspect that being forced to play a quarter of the season without Nene may be the best thing that could have happened to the Wizards. They were a decent team with him. They got used to being a decent team. Then he went down, and everybody had to get better and work harder just to stay decent. He comes back and they win the last three of the four regular season games he plays, then game one against the Bulls. Maybe adding Nene back into the mix, along with the increase skill and effort the rest of the team had to develop without him, is enough to push them over the line from decent to good (or even…dare I say it?…better than good?).