Could the Wizards in 2011 be the Worst NBA Team of all time?

Posted on 09/12/2010 by


Note: Before we start some basics for new readers . Here a guide to commonly used terms on this blog from Devin at the NBeh? blog . Here’s a Guide to Calculating Wins Produced from Wages of Wins. Bienvenidos a mi blog.

Note 2: Never submit a post at 1:30 am. I’ve heavily proofed this and now it hopefully reads better. Your refunds are in the mail.

Previously, in this space I’ve talked about the worst NBA team of all time (originally noted in this blog as the 1993 Mavs) and the 30 Worst Teams since the merger. That table is here:

I bring this up because as a result of all my postseason analysis, I have a dawning suspicion that this club might gain a new member, the 2011 Washington Wizards. This is because I’ve come to the conclusion that the coming NBA season may be the most competitive of all time from a talent level point of view. 2008 to 2010 was the most stacked three year period in league history. The following graph from a previous piece (Measuring the Quality of Basketball in the NBA take 2) illustrates that:

The league is truly fantastic right now but there is a dark side to this. Stacked periods have their bottom feeders; their patsies . All time Teams can produce the NBA equivalent of the  Washington Generals and all my work (and my gut) was pointing ironically to the Washington Wizards .

Washington Generals not the Wizards

Now before I proceed, let me qualify my statement by saying I like Ted Leonsis. I just feel that he inherited a train wreck.

However, he has a proven track record as an excellent owner. I am a fan of his blog and believe he will turn this team around.   Other than John Wall (who we will talk about at length here), I love what the Wizards did with the draft. He drafted a PG and two upside late 1st round bigs ( Kevin Seraphin at 17 and Trevor Booker at 23). It’s almost a page out  my Build me a winner manifesto. For example, in the manifesto I state:

“Here are some more thoughts on drafting. I’d look for productive/athletic/high skill players who are available even if they are being passed up for some reason (character,size, being a tall white dude).  I would vet the players thoroughly (like the Republicans didn’t do for Palin). For the 2010 draft I love Cousins, Turner,Heyward and Aldrich. I Hate John Wall (too expensive and not polished enough to contribute and all see the previous point on ball handling). I love what the Celts did in drafting Avery Bradley and Luke Haragondy. They’re both chancy picks with a lot of upside. If they don’t work, you at worst lose a min salary. The draft should be treated like a penny poker game, go big or stay home.”

But as I said almost. It’s obvious that I like the athletic, high-upside bigs at the minimum level but it’s even more obvious that I would  have preferred they go another way with the number 1.

Before anyone asks, if I were the GM for the Wizards I would have:

  • Picked Demarcus Cousins number #1. The second best player in the draft according to  PAWS/40 (see here) and the best center. I simply couldn’ t pass up a possible franchise center.
  • Done as the Wizards did for the rest of day (told you I liked the cut of their jib). At the end of the day I would have wound up adding a good bet at franchise Center with Cousins, two cheap lottery tickets for a good PF  in Seraphin and Booker, and a proven and underrated  NBA 1/2 in Kirk Hinrich.
  • The upside of this is that it would have allowed me to try to salvage something out of the Gilbert Arenas albatross around my neck and given me a starting five of Hinrich, Arenas, Josh Howard, one of the rookie power forwards and Cousins with JaVale McGee as my sixth man. While not a world-beater in 2011, this would have been  a competitive team with lots of potential in the frontcourt and trade pieces to follow the OKC team-building thru the draft model.

Since this didn’t happen and my magical pony is still in the mail, I’m left here judging what they did. Let’s start with John Wall.

John Wall at 20

My biggest objections to the  Wall pick are that he’s too young,  not polished enough to contribute enough in the first four years of his rookie contract and not enough of a ball handler (see here for a really long series on what makes a good draft pick , short version: it’s not necessarily the best player, but the best value for the next four years) . Can I prove this? If I go into research mode, I think I can come up with some data to back this premonition. First, a table with the Wins Produced numbers for all NBA rookie Point Guards who were:

  • Less than 21 their rookie season
  • Played more than 1500 at Point Guard their rookie year.

Some great names on this list but if you’re a Wiz fan you have to be asking yourself who does Wall compare the best to? If I pull the available data from Draft Express for all the players drafted from the NCAA on that list we get:

You’ll note that Wall is only first in Possessions per game and Turnovers per Possession not good signs. So we have a high usage (read ball-hogging), turnover prone point guard who is an inefficient scorer. Were these six players available right now in an imaginary draft, based on just their  last year in college, I would have to rate Wall fifth behind Westbrook at four (a fourth pick in 2008 ironically) and ahead of  Flynn at six ( who was, you won’t believe it, a sixth pick in 2009).  I won’t deny the potential for the future is there but I have a hard time with him as the number one overall pick. I’d group him with Westbrook who I think is a great player and with Flynn who’s in Minny so who knows what he is right now. Potential is great but the immediate problem for the Wizard is 2011 and what John Wall can give them in the near term.

Projecting the Wizards

Now we come to the main event, the title question: Could the Wizards in 2011 be the Worst NBA Team of all time? To answer this question, I’m doing a simple projection based on:

  • The players on the roster
  • 2010 performance for non-rookie players (except for Josh Howard)
  • My guess at minute allocation based on the ESPN depth chart and past years’ minutes played
  • A simple projection for the rookies

For the Rookies, I’m doing two scenarios:

The Sunny day scenario has me using Russell Westbrook’s rookie season to project John Wall, assuming both Booker and Seraphin will average out to a .075 WP48 player (better than average) and using Josh Howard’s 2009 numbers for his projection.The Not Cool scenario has me using Jonny Flynn’s rookie season to project John Wall, assuming both Booker and Seraphin will average out to a .025 WP48 player (worse than average) and using Josh Howard’s 2010 numbers for his projection. The projections look like:

So my best case projection has about  a 22 win team in Washington and my worst has them as the all time loser in the NBA. Both projections certainly put them on the 30 Worst Team list since the merger. Definitely, not good times for basketball fans in DC.

I initially had Strasburg here, but yeah...

Regardless of the coming catastrophe , Washington fans have cause for hope in in the long term. They have the seed of a good organization, I just feel like inexperience trapped them in an untenable position.  Public expectations and all the experts said Wall was the can’t miss number one pick and when faced with the tide of public opinion, the Wizards front office blinked. They  made, not the best basketball choice for their franchise, but the one they felt was the best Public Relations choice for their them in the face of their fans.  We have to hope that this current Wizards regime can do better than the last Wizards front office with adversity. Why? Because the answer to the titular question of this post is yes, they really could be the worst NBA team of all time in 2011.

And click here for part 2

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