Washington Wizards: Analyzing Some Player Tracking Data

The NBA’s new player tracking data, which became available to the public this season, is awesome for writers, bloggers or just the typical NBA fan.  The data provides information that can interpret things about a particular player or a team in general.  Here are a few things that stuck out about the Washington Wizards from the first 19 games:

1.  The Wizards lack a rim protector.

Having a rim protector is one of the most valuable assets in the NBA.  Guys like Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard can instantly make a team a good defensive team.  Their ability to challenge shots at the rim causing players to alter their shots or not even attack the basket makes them so valuable.

The Wizards do not have that guy.

The majority of the Wizards frontcourt minutes go to Marcin Gortat and Nene.  Neither has brought any sort of rim protection so far this season.

Gortat is one of the worst players in the league when defending an opposing player at the rim.  And he is getting challenged at the rim a lot.  Players are shooting 50.3 percent on Gortat at the rim.  He is one of only three players in the entire league getting challenged at the rim more than 10 times a game and the opponents are making more than five of those shots at the rim.   Players are feasting on Gortat at the rim and I would expect that to continue because it is not just random bloggers looking at these numbers; organizations are as well.

The problem for the Wizards is that their other big man, Nene, is even worse at defending around the rim.  Players are shooting 55.3 percent at the rim when Nene is defending the rim.  Thankfully for the Wizards, Nene is only defending the rim on an average of 5.9 attempts per game.

The Wizards have been an average defensive team this year (defensive rating is 12th in the league, according to Basketball-Reference), but the lack of a rim protector has not allowed them to become a really good defensive team.

Dec 6, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard O.J. Mayo (00) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Bucks won 109-105 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2.  John Wall should stop shooting pull-up jumpers ASAP.

He is one of the worst in the league at shooting pull-up jumpers.  According to NBA.com, a pull-up shot is “any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player took one or more dribbles before shooting.”

Wall needs to stop taking these shots.  He takes 10.6 pull-up jumpers per game.  He is making 30.7 percent of those.  No other player is taking that many pull-up jumpers and shooting that poorly.

Pull-up jumpers are one of the toughest shots in the league.  Chris Paul is the only player that is taking more than 10 a game and shooting better than 40 percent.  However, Wall needs to realize this is not his strength and has never been in his career.

Wall is so good in so many other ways, such as setting up teammates and getting to the basket in transition, that he should scale back the pull up jumpers and look to play to his strengths.

Dec 6, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) shoots the ball over Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight (11) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Bucks won 109-105 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

3.  John Wall is good at setting up teammates.

No one is as good at setting up teammates right now as Wall is besides Chris Paul.  Wall has developed into a point guard with some of the best vision in the entire league.  He sets up teammates and puts them in a positions to have success.

Wall’s 9.2 assist per game lead to 22.1 points per game for the Wizards.  Paul is the only player who assists on more points than Wall.  He has been elite in finding open teammates and taking advantage of his ability to get in the paint and make defenses collapse to set up teammates for easy points.  Wall is one of the best players in the league in finding open teammates in the corner for 3-pointers. (I wish I had a stat to back this up, but watch a few Wizards game and you will be astonished by Wall’s ability to find teammates in the opposite corner.)

Nov 29, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) signals to his team during the second quarter of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The catch and shoot data on NBA.com also shows how good Wall is at setting up teammates this season.  The Wizards have some of the best catch-and-shoot players in the entire league and it is no coincidence that Wall is running the show in D.C.

The Wizards have three of only five players in the entire league that shoot more than five catch-and-shoot 3s a game and connect on better than 41.5 percent of those.  Those three players (Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza) owe a big thank you to Wall, who rarely misses an open teammate.  All they have to do is be ready to catch and shoot and they have been.

John Wall is becoming an elite point guard right before our eyes.

Take these numbers with a grain of salt.  I mean, it has only been 19 games this season.  However, I do think they show things that will continue to become more obvious throughout the season.

Side note:  These numbers do not include last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.

Topics: Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, Nene, Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards

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