One Team, Three Stats: Wizards winning despite lineup imbalance
The Washington Wizards aren’t a great offensive team and they’re not a very good defensive team. But they’ve been a terrific home team over the last six weeks. And that why they’re a playoff team as they begin the second half of the season.
The Wizards have won 13 straight games at the Verizon Center. They started the season by winning just seven of their first 20 games over all, but the home winning streak has carried them from 12th place to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
For the Wizards to stay there, they’ll have to figure out how to win on the road, where they’re 4-13, where they’ll play five of their next six games, and where they’ll spend most of March and April.
The Basics – Washington Wizards (22-19)
Pace: 98.9 (15th)
OffRtg: 106.4 (12th)
DefRtg: 105.7 (19th)
NetRtg: +0.6 (11th)
Wizards links: Team stats | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
They have won five straight games at Madison Square Garden, where they’ll play the Knicks on Thursday in the first game of TNT’s double-header (8 p.m. ET).
Here are a few numbers to know about the Wizards …
The Wizards’ two most used lineups have outscored their opponents by 13.9 points per 100 possessions.
Those lineups include John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat, with either Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. at the other forward position. The lineup with Oubre has outscored opponents by 30.0 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.
Neither Morris (31 percent) nor Oubre (30 percent) have been a very good shooter from 3-point range. But those two units have shot 41 percent from deep and scored 112 points per 100 possessions.
The bigger difference between those two units and all other Washington lineups, however, has been on defense, where all the other lineups have allowed 111.0 points per 100 possessions (a rate which would rank last in the league).
League-wide, bench players have a slightly lower DefRtg than starters, because they’re defending other reserves (with lesser talent). But Washington is one of a few teams that has been much worse defensively with reserves on the floor. Washington starters have an aggregate on-court DefRtg of 104.2, while their reserves have an aggregate DefRtg of 109.6. Only the LA Clippers (7.0) and Oklahoma City Thunder (5.6) have a bigger differential in that direction.
The Wizards bench could use Ian Mahinmi, who has only played one game this season and is out until (at least) the end of the month. Mahinmi was the center on last year’s two best defensive lineups and was signed to a four-year, $64 million contract this summer. With Mahinmi unable to play, Jason Smith has been the Wizards’ primary back-up big man, and they’ve allowed 111.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
Overall, the Wizards rank 29th in aggregate bench NetRtg at minus-8.2, ahead of only the Sixers (minus-8.6). That’s why their starting lineup ranks second in total minutes played.
Washington has been the league’s best team, outscoring its opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions, in the first six minutes of the first quarter. But things start going downhill from there. Only the Blazers and Lakers have been worse than the Wizards in the last six minutes of the first.
Of course, the Wizards’ aggregate bench NetRtg is plus-1.3 (13th) at home and minus-21.5 (30th by a wide margin) on the road. If you want to make the case that the difference between home performance and road performance is in the role players, the Wizards would be Exhibit A.
Otto Porter has an effective field goal percentage of 62.8 percent, the sixth best mark among 228 players who have taken at least 200 shots.
The five guys ahead of him are all centers, making Porter the most effective shooter among guards and forwards.
Wall is the Wizards’ All-Star and Beal is their $127-million man. But Porter has become a very good player in his fourth season, setting himself up for a big pay day this summer.
After making six of his eight 3-pointers in Tuesday’s win over Memphis, Porter ranks second in 3-point percentage at 45.0 percent. But he’s also one of 13 players that has shot 70 percent or better on at least 100 shots in the restricted area and one of only three players that has shot 50 percent or better on at least 100 shots from mid-range.
Porter ranks second, behind Kevin Durant, among non-bigs in true shooting percentage, which measures scoring efficiency. He’s behind Durant in that regard because he gets to the free throw line far less often (just 1.2 attempts per game vs. Durant’s 6.6).
If anything though, Porter doesn’t shoot enough. He ranks 36th in the league and second on his team with just 3.9 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game.
Gortat leads the league with 6.9 screen assists per game.
That’s a full screen assist per game more than any other player.
According to SportVU, Gortat has set 26.6 ball screens per game, fourth most in the league, behind Anthony Davis (33.2), Rudy Gobert (29.6) and Cody Zeller (29.4). Davis is the most likely of that group to get the ball on a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, while Gobert is the least likely.
Gortat has only gotten the ball 14 percent of the time after setting a ball screen, a rate which ranks 87th among 106 players who have set at least 200 ball screens this season. But he’s still a willing and effective screener.
Gortat has set 588 ball screens for Wall, a number that trails only Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams (675) among ball-screen combinations. Beal-Gortat ranks 25th at 312, but Beal-Gortat ball-screens have been more effective for the Wizards (1.18 points per possession) than Wall-Gortat ball-screens (1.04).
Not surprisingly, Beal has been the better shooter. According to SportVU, he has an effective field goal percentage of 59.7 percent on 154 shots when coming off a ball screen. Wall: 46.2 percent on 322 shots.
Two ball-handlers are better than one, of course. The Wizards have scored 110.5 points per 100 possessions with both Wall and Beal on the floor, but just 103.2 with one or the other on the bench.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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