On the strength of a Bradley Beal one-handed jumper with 0.3 seconds on the clock, the Wizards -- the team with the league's worst record -- defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder -- the team with the league's best record. This is the Washington's second win in a row against OKC, a trend that bodes well for their pending matchup in the NBA Finals.
Since my last stats update, the Wizards released PG Shelvin Mack (again) and guaranteed PG Garrett Temple's contract for the remainder of the season. By now the message to Mack should be clear: They're just not that into you.
As you'll see in the table below, neither guy has been particularly impressive with the Wizards. Mack was better, though. His release makes it the second time this season Washington has cut Mack to keep guys who were less productive.
I've heard fans tell me that it was the right move because of Temple's superior size, athleticism, defense and aggressiveness. And that could end up being the case -- at least to the extent that those factors actually make Temple more productive on the court. So far, Temple rates right at replacement level in his stint with the Wizards. And that's an improvement over his productivity in previous NBA stops.
Regular readers (and friends from the Wizards board at RealGM) know that I thought Temple was a reasonable signing. He was among the more productive PGs in the D-League and he was worth a look. I really don't object to keeping him around.
So why am I still talking about this? Because it's suggestive of an ongoing problem the Wizards have with measuring productivity. Choosing players is a series of "bets." Teams are forced to kinda estimate the odds of how good one guy will be vs. another. In general, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The corollary, of course, is that the best predictor of future basketball productivity is previous basketball productivity.
The fact that the Wizards continue to pick the less productive player indicates to me that they still haven't learned their lesson. They're still judging players based on things like size, athleticism, aggression and perceived fit. This a problem because none of things matter, except in how they affect the player's productivity and the team's.
At any rate, here's the stats update. The measure is Player Production Average (PPA), which is an overall productivity metric that credits players for doing things that contribute to winning in the NBA, and debits them for things that don't. PPA includes defense and adjusts for pace. As usual, average = 100; higher is better; replacement level = 45.
(Note: Regular readers might notice the change in replacement level. I'd been using the hypothetical 10th man for the league's worst team, but as I researched replacement level decided that was too high a bar. The new level sets the replacement level bar at the hypothetical 11th man for the league's worst team.)
Vesely was the biggest improver, going from negative territory to positive. In just three games, he's gone from a PPA of -14 to a PPA of +13. That's reflective of just how dreadful he'd been before these last three.
It'll take a more sustained stretch of good play from Beal to dramatically change his rating because he's played so many more minutes than Vesely. Still, an 8-point jump in just three games is significant. If he continues to play as he has over these past three, he might actually deserve a rookie of the month award for January.
Seraphin continued his production slump. His PPA progression over the past three updates: 44, 30, 27. He has a couple big problems for a 6-10, 270 pound big man -- he rebounds like a SF and he's fallen in love with shooting the long two. The Wizards need to get him back under the basket instead of letting him play like the departed Andray Blatche did. Minus the rebounding.
Back to Temple for a moment -- kinda interesting that he gets his contract guaranteed when his production actually dipped. Worth mention: his on/off stats are quite good. However, on/off numbers from small samples (and 255 total minutes is a tiny sample) are iffy. It takes fewer minutes for box score stats to be more reliable.
Perusing the numbers, I think it's easy to see why the Wizards lead the league in losses. They're now down to just three players rating average or better. Of course, two of those three were missing for that win over OKC. So, it wasn't quite a Finals preview.