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What Does 0-8 Start Mean for the Wizards?

The Wizards new most-productive player, Emeka Okafor. Getty Images

This morning I got curious about other professional basketball teams that have started the season like this year's Washington Wizards. The results of my quick research -- ugly.

Since 1949-50, 27 teams have started the season 0-8. That's approximately one 0-8 start every two and a half seasons.

Craptacular starts were relatively rarer in the olden days of pro hoops. There was one 0-8 start in 1949-50, one in the 60s (Chicago in 67-68 -- the second season of their existence), three in 70s, six in the 80s, five in the 90s, eight in 00s, and three in the past two seasons (the "teens"?).

Only two teams in league history have started consecutive seasons 0-8 -- the Memphis Grizzlies of 2001 and 2002 and the Washington Wizards of the past two seasons. So, the Wizards are making history at least.

Unsurprisingly, teams that start 0-8 usually finish with bad final records. The list includes squads like the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers that went 9-73 -- the worst record in league history, the 11-win Denver Nuggets (1997-98), and the 12-win New Jersey Nets (2009-10).

The cumulative records of all 25 teams that started 0-8 and finished a full season (that would exclude this year's 0-8 starters -- Washington and Detroit) -- 552-1430. That's a .279 winning percentage -- a 23-win team on average.

All hope is not crushed by an 0-8 start, however. Five of the 25 teams rallied to reach the post-season, although two of the five made the playoffs with fewer than 30 wins, three with fewer than 40 wins, and only one with a winning record. All five teams were ousted in the first round.

Here's the list of playoff teams that started the season 0-8:

  • Chicago Bulls, 2004-05 -- 47-35
  • Phoenix Suns, 1996-97 -- 40-42
  • Cleveland Cavaliers, 1984-85 -- 36-46
  • Chicago Bulls,1967-68 -- 29-53
  • Indiana Pacers, 1988-89 -- 28-54
So, what does the 0-8 start mean for the Wizards? Bad things, that's what.

Here's my weekly update on how individual Wizards players are producing. Numbers below are from my own statistical rating system. As always, 100 = average, higher is better, 60 is replacement level.

PLAYER GAMES  MPG  LW  RATING 
Emeka Okafor  8 25.1  105 125 
Trevor Ariza  25.9  131 122 
Jordan Crawford  23.4  122 101 
Martell Webster  21.4 102  90 
A.J. Price  31.4  77  82 
Trevor Booker  24.1  38 77 
Chris Singleton  11.6  127 48 
Bradley Beal  26.8  94 47 
Kevin Seraphin  21.0  14 
Jan Vesely  14.8  35  -3 
Jannero Pargo  14.6  -16  -66 
Earl Barron 8.0  348 272 
Cartier Martin 8.2  319 196 
Shaun Livingston  1 17.0  -- 117 
         
Sample size is still small early in the season, so large fluctuations should be expected. For comparison, the league leader in my rating system typically scores around 250. So far this season, the Wizards have just 5 players who have produced above replacement level -- only three players rate average or better than average.

These numbers bring up a good question: Why is Vesely starting? He's been the team's least productive player (other than Pargo, who they cut) yet Randy Wittman has promoted over Booker -- who hasn't been good, but has at least been better than Vesely.

A few observations from the chart above:

  • Okafor and Ariza continue to be the team's most productive players. Ariza's rating is moderating as the sample size grows. I'd anticipate him being closer to 100 (average) in the next few weeks -- unless he can somehow boost his offensive efficiency. Okafor continues to be what he has been -- a solid center.
  • Expect Crawford's numbers to continue dropping. His "high" rating last week had some aberrant numbers for him -- high rebounds and much better than normal offensive efficiency. I expect the rebounding to decline (he had just 1 rebound against the Jazz), and I anticipate his shooting to revert to the level of his first two seasons. The big question I have with him is whether his assist numbers will remain elevated.
  • Bradley Beal's score fell, but I remain optimistic about his future. With the exception of two-point field goal percentage, the first few games of his career have been similar to Ray Allen's. And it's worth mentioning that Allen entered the NBA two years older and with three years of big-time college basketball. This doesn't mean Beal will be a neo-Ray Allen, just that he's not someone to worry about right now.
The numbers suggest that getting Nene and John Wall back in the lineup should help -- at least some. A healthy Nene would provide the team with a professional-grade PF to pair with Okafor. The Wall from last season was about average, which would be an upgrade from Price. If Wall's jumper is better he'll help even more.

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