The Wizards season ended last night in much the way it began -- a losing streak. In this case, it was of the 6-game variety. Strictly speaking, it was their fourth 6-game losing streak of the season, although to be fair, the first two were part of a 12-game streak and the third was part of an 8-game streak.
With 9th place well out of reach, the Wizards had little to play for last night. To their credit, the undermanned team (Emeka Okafor, Nene Hilario and Bradley Beal were out with injuries) fought hard and at least made the outcome close.
Last night's loss dropped the Wizards record since John Wall returned to 24-25 -- one game below the magic .500 mark. Why do I bring that up? Earlier in the season, team owner Ted Leonsis said he wanted the team to go at least .500 after Wall got back in the lineup. Failing to achieve even that modest goal would likely lead to the firing of a GM with as poor a record as Ernie Grunfeld has had in Washington.
Not in Washington, though.
So, here's an "off the top of my head" list of goals the team failed to reach this season:
Playoffs -- their off-season roster moves were clearly designed as a quick-fix record improvement and to make a run at the postseason.
.500 with John Wall -- With Wall, their record was 24-25 -- one short of .500.
9th Place -- When it was clear the team was out of playoff contention, the Wizards told reporters they were trying to chase down Philadelphia for 9th in the East. They missed by 5 games.
30 Wins -- When 9th place started looking out of reach a week or so ago, players talked about getting to 30. Their 6-game losing streak to end the season left them with 29.
Of course, Leonsis and the Wizards will present the team's near-.500 record with Wall as a positive. And, to be fair, it's a positive in the sense that it was more entertaining to watch a team that had a chance of winning most nights instead of the 4-28 atrocity that took the floor to start the season.
But, as I've pointed out a few times since last off-season, there's more than a little fool's gold in this. The team's starting backcourt looks set for the foreseeable future with Wall and Beal, but the frontcourt is built around two 30+ year old big men, one of whom just had his least productive season in years while battling multiple injuries (Nene), and the other of whom is entering the final year of his contract.
Here are some genuine positives for the Wizards' future:
John Wall -- In February, Wall hit rock bottom. He was playing terrible basketball and was clearly frustrated. He responded by getting to work on his jumper and demonstrating a vastly improved all-around game. In March, he played like a potential MVP candidate. He wasn't quite as effective in April, but he seems to have turned the corner to being among the league's better guards.
Bradley Beal -- Beal started his career by struggling mightily in just about every facet of his game -- a pretty typical beginning for a teen aged rookie guard. After receiving a conference Rookie of the Month award for December (which he did not deserve), Beal abruptly started playing better in January.
Martell Webster -- The one thing Webster showed throughout his career -- even through the injuries and overall bad play -- was that he could shoot the ball. The Wizards picked him up off the scrap heap and Webster stayed healthy enough to play 2200 minutes and shoot .422 from 3pt range. The Wizards would like to re-sign him.
And so ends my list of genuine positives. I thought about putting "defense" on the list, but didn't because the key defenders are Okafor, Nene and Ariza. Okafor and Ariza don't figure to be part of the team's long-term plans. Nene does, but that's primarily because of his sizable contract.
I'm open to expanding the list. Tweet me @broom_kevin with your "genuine positives" list for the Wizards.
Here's the season-end Player Production Average (PPA) update. PPA is an overall rating stat that I developed. It credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that don't (each in proper proportion, of course). PPA is a per minute measure, is adjusted for pace, accounts for defense, and includes a "degree of difficulty" factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. In PPA, 100 = average, higher is better and 45 = replacement level.
Just for kicks, I've added a new "league rank" column, which tells us where each Wizard ranks among the 349 players who had at least 500 total minutes this season.
For those who are curious, here are the players who rated as less productive than Vesely (minimum 500 minutes):
Dahntay Jones, DAL -- 15
Ronnie Price, POR -- 14
Xavier Henry, NOH -- 9
Austin Rivers, NOH -- 0
Add in Darius Miller, and the Hornets had three of the league's 10 least productive players. The Wizards had "just" two -- Singleton was the 11th least productive.
Hmm, the Wizards had only two of the league's 10 least productive players? Maybe that should go on the "genuine positives" list.