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Wizards Slouching Toward Winless Record

Martell Webster is Wizards new least bad player. Getty Images

Consider this: the Washington Wizards have staggered to an 0-12 record while playing against the league's second easiest schedule. This is an astounding fact considering that they're unable to play against themselves.

The Wiz have a reasonable chance of breaking the record for the longest winless streak to start a season -- 18 games (set by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets). Their upcoming schedule gets more challenging. Tonight's matchup with Portland is their most realistic chance of getting a win before game number 18 at New Orleans. If they fall there, they could slide all the way to 0-22 before back-to-back coin-flip road games at Detroit and Orlando.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

As I've previously reported, the Wizards lead the league in moral victories (MV record stands at 10-2). In other words, they've been close. Their scoring differential suggests a team that "should have" won 3 games so far this year -- and they're likely to get a win somewhere along the line before they set a new record.

But that's probability, and probability is not certainty. No matter how we look at this season for the Wizards, the silver lining is wafer thin. This is a bad team. They'll be better if Nene and John Wall can come back healthy, but those are gigantor IFs.

At any rate, here's an update on how individual players have performed this year using my PER-like statistical rating system. My system is built on regressions of individual performance to wins and includes adjustments for a player's defensive contributions. As always, 100 = league average; higher is better; replacement level is 60.

Martell Webster  11  21.8  90  117 
Emeka Okafor  12  22.5  125  110 
Trevor Ariza  12  24.9  122  94 
Trevor Booker  24.1  77  85 
A.J. Price  12  29.9  82  83 
Jordan Crawford  12  23.9  101 73 
Chris Singleton  12  16.1  48  73 
Bradley Beal  12  28.3  47 57 
Kevin Seraphin  11  23.6  14 28 
Jan Vesely  12  13.8  -3 -16 
Jannero Pargo  14.6  -66 -65 
Nene  24.5  --- 205 
Cartier Martin  9.8  196 129 
Earl Barron  11.0  272 116 

The table above is more than a little discouraging. Only two players in the rotation (Webster and Okafor) have performed at an above-average level, and Webster was benched for two games, Okafor is out of the starting lineup, and Okafor's performance slid since I last ran the numbers.

Trevor Ariza's performance has continued to plummet after rating above average earlier in the season. Ditto for Jordan Crawford, who (predictably) is getting closer to the replacement level performance he posted his first couple years.

A few players had modest upticks in performance, but nothing significant. Declines may be more meaningful because players are sliding toward previously established levels. At this point, I caution against assigning much meaning to fluctuations -- sample sizes are still small. I anticipate seeing numbers begin to stabilize as players top 500 total minutes.

A few thoughts:

  • Beal will get better. Virtually everything "wrong" with Beal thus far is related to his low two-point shooting percentage. He's right around league average for a SG in the other categories, and he'd be average in two-point shooting with 8 additional made FGs.
  • Crawford will continue to slide. I saw little evidence early in the season that his shot selection and decision-making were any better -- his above-average overall rating was related to bad shots going in. I didn't think that was sustainable, and it hasn't been. Unless Crawford fundamentally changes the way he plays, he's going to be a net drag on his team.
  • Ariza's shooting has been astonishingly bad, but I don't expect it to continue being this putrid. Never a particularly good shooter, he's never been this bad for a full season.
  • The numbers demonstrate Randy Wittman's playing time conundrum. The guards are terrible. Price has been their most productive backcourt performer, and he rates solidly below average. The big man rotation is muddled as well. Okafor has been the best of a bad lot, but there's a lot of nothing behind him.
  • While sympathizing with Wittman having to choose between bad and worse, it's worth mentioning that he's been choosing "worse."  He made Jan Vesely a starter despite the 2nd year man being among the league's least productive players. He demoted Webster although he's been the team's best SF. Cartier Martin has played little despite being productive when he does play. 
The numbers suggest the team might benefit from trying a shakeup that would involve playing Martin or Webster at SG in place of Crawford and/or Beal. The team would also be more likely to get a win if they'd give fewer minutes to Seraphin and Vesely -- both of whom have been terrible.

These are weak "solutions" though. What I'm talking about above are options that might be marginally less bad than the ones they're currently using.