I’m not a stats geek, but I can appreciate some of the advanced metrics in the NBA. There’s an inherent need in all of us to quantify what an individual contributes to the team and those metrics do a lot to help us out. Sometimes the metrics pump out an ugly truth we don’t want to accept. John Wall of the Washington Wizards is a great example.
Wall’s raw numbers were very good last year, as he ranked fifth in the NBA in total minutes played (2980), second in assists per game (8.8), third in assist percentage (40.5) and sixth in total steals (149). In the interest of objective analysis, he also led the NBA in total turnovers (295).
The picture I’m trying to paint here is we’ve got a talented point guard who scores, distributes and creates turnovers. In fact, only Chris Paul’s numbers stand up next to John’s — and that’s some heady company. So how do some advanced metrics make Wall look downright average? The following metrics were taken from ESPN unless otherwise noted.
THIS MEANS WAR
WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a metric that’s designed to show the estimated amount of team wins attributable to a specific player. It’s a stat that tries to accomplish what we talked about earlier — assigning credit (or blame) to an individual within a team game.
Wall is slated No. 8 in the NBA…amongst point guards. His WAR of 8.30 is behind lesser point guards such as Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard, Ricky Rubio, Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley.
RPM’S RUNNING A BIT LOW
Wall’s RPM (Real Plus-Minus) is a staggeringly-low 2.22. The stat is supposed to show a player’s on-court impact on his team’s performance. It takes into account teammates, opponents and other factors to come up with a number that shows net point differential per 100 possessions. The fact that Wall’s is a positive number is obviously good, but the fact that it places him at No. 18 in the league amongst his peers is not good at all.
A big reason for the poor totals is the apparent lack of defense from Wall. His DRPM (defensive real plus-minus), which is the RPM with offense stripped out, is a ghastly minus-0.44. That puts Wall at No. 26 in the NBA, though it is better than other above-average point guards like Jeff Teague (29th, -0.84) and Ty Lawson (33rd, -1.08) and is just worse than Tony Parker (25th, -0.40).
We know that Wall isn’t the kind of point guard who’s going to lock down the opposing team’s best player. Wall’s fundamentals were never that good to begin with and while he’s improved in the pros, he’s still in the middle of the pack at best on the defensive side of the ball. He’s talented at getting into the passing lanes, but that’s about it.
Opposing point guards put up a respectable 15.8 efficiency rating against Wall a year ago, which is meant to be around the league average.
Despite the fact that Wall’s DRPM was so poor — basically saying he hurt his team defensively — his defense was worse off when Wall was on the bench. With Wall, the Wizards allowed 105.4 points per 48 minutes. Without him, they allowed 108. That’s not to say the metrics are wrong, it’s an indictment of the guy behind Wall on the bench.
Wall passes the eyeball test, for certain. His teammates feed off of him on the offensive end, with Wall’s ability to penetrate and his lightning-quick end-to-end speed. On the defensive end, he’s — gasp — a liability. If the Wizards want to find a way to extend their season deeper into the playoffs in 2014-15, they’re going to need their point guard to get a bit defensive — about his defense.