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Wizards Young Players Offer Little Hope For Future

I thought about writing a piece where I examined positives for the Wizards future — anything that would bode well for the team...really at any point in the foreseeable future. I've given up on that idea because...well...here's the full list:

Bradley Beal and John Wall are young and might get better.

I'm sure that made your pulse start racing.

The Wizards have lots of problems, but the biggest one is this: the team planned to build around its young players, and none of them are productive. They have six players on rookie contracts. Only one — Jordan Crawford — rates average or better. And Crawford has been fluctuating from average to below-average all season.

Of their young "core," four rate below replacement level, according to my Player Production Average — a stat designed to reward players for doing things that help their teams win, and deduct for things that don't contribute to winning. "Replacement level" is set at the level of a hypothetical 10th man for the worst team in the league.

As an aside — that replacement level might be too high. I've been researching the issue, and my preliminary findings seem to indicate that the hypothetical 11th man for the worst team might be more appropriate. However, even using that "bar" would remove only Beal from "below replacement level" category. The other three would fall at or below even a far more liberal "replacement level" cutoff.

As a public service, I thought I would include this little team-building tip for Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards front office: basketball is a game in which its players are required to perform well at BOTH ends of the floor.

I offer this seemingly elementary piece of advice because...well... it seemed to be necessary based on how the team has played. The defense is okay — a little better than average. The offense is train-wreck awful. They're averaging 95.3 points per 100 possessions -- 9.9 points per 100 possessions worse than average, and a whopping 5.8 points per 100 possessions behind the league's second worst offense.

How bad is the offense? The Wizards currently sport the league's 5th worst offense since the NBA implemented the 3pt shot -- in the 1979-80 season.

Only two players on the roster are above the league average in offensive efficiency (individual points produced per that individual's 100 possessions) — Nene Hilario and Martell Webster.

Crawford is the most efficient he's been in his career, yet still is solidly below average in offensive efficiency. The Wizards and an array of analysts point to Wall's absence from the lineup as a cause. However, Wall was inefficient offensively his first two seasons (well below average both years), and he's had a negligible effect on his teammates offensively.

That's not to say Wall won't help — he will because he's a more productive player overall than any of the team's other point guards. But, unless he returns with an improved jumper and fewer turnovers, his offensive impact will be muted.

Anyway, it's time for the numbers. As usual, the number reported is my own per minute statistical rating system, "Player Production Average" (PPA). It rewards players for doing things that contribute to winning and penalizes them for things that contribute to losing -- each in proportion to what causes teams to win and lose. 100 = average, higher is better, and 60 = replacement level (or, if you prefer using the 11th man for replacement level, 45)

PLAYER  GMS  MPG  LW  PPA 
Nene Hilario 18  23.2  153  149 
Emeka Okafor 30  23.4  116 111 
Jordan Crawford 29  29.9  83 103 
Trevor Ariza 15  25.1 101 101 
A.J. Price 17  27.8  84 84 
Trevor Booker 24.1  83 83 
Martell Webster 29  26.3  83 82 
Shelvin Mack 22.6  -- 70 
Cartier Martin 22  17.2  115 61 
Bradley Beal 28  30.1  61 57 
Garrett Temple 28.0  -- 55 
Shaun Livingston 17  18.8  47 38 
Chris Singleton 26  18.4  30  33 
Kevin Seraphin 29  24.9  44 30 
Earl Barron 11  11.1  93 11 
Jan Vesely 23  12.7  -14 -5 
Jannero Pargo 14.6  -63 -64 
         
Not a lot of cause for encouragement. The last three times I've updated the numbers, Crawford's PPA has been 106, 83 and 103.

Beal's PPA has dipped modestly each of the past three updates -- 66 to 61 to 57. Yet somehow, preposterously, he was selected for the NBA's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in December.

Seraphin's PPA has gone from 52 to 44 to 30. Singleton: 44 to 30 to 33.

Through the first 13 games, Martin was giving the Wizards above-average production. But, that production cratered when his playing time increased.

As Stan Van Gundy told Sportstalk 980 Wednesday, this is a bad team with a bad roster and no one to build around. Wall and Beal MIGHT one day be worth building around, but there's no sure thing on the roster.

And, it's worth keeping in mind that as Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld constructed this awful team, they thought they were being clever. They thought they were rebuilding this team the "right" way. They thought they were winning.

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