Washington's Woeful 2013: Defense, 404s, and Heartbreak

washington woe

Coming off my 370-part player capsule series, I'm taking on a significantly less incredible task -- a 30-part frame examining the evolution of the individual teams in the NBA's 2013 season. Some in medias res, others as the season ends. Somewhat freeform, with a designated goal to bring you a few observations of note about the team's season, a view into the team's ups and downs, and a rough map of what to expect going forward. Today, we cover a team I recently deemed one of the league's biggest surprises, although certainly not in a good way -- we're covering the sordid, unhappy tales of the 2013 Washington Wizards.

Not exactly the most grandiose of a start I could've hoped for, but you can't win them all. Today, to start this new series outlining the stories and evolutions of each team in the NBA, I'm starting with a team most people can't bear to watch: your 2013 Washington Wizards. A bit of backstory. In the preseason, I notched the Wizards for 35 wins -- short of the playoffs, but only 5 or 6 games back. I was a bit surprised to find the Wizards I had in my head -- a scrappy (though well below average) defensive unit with a roughly average offense -- apparently didn't exist anywhere outside my head. As they stand, the Wizards are among the slowest teams in the league, and currently hold the dubious distinction of sporting the 10th worst offense in the history of the NBA. Some of that's bound to improve when John Wall comes back. How much of it? Let's find out.

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A few comments on the format of the statbox. EFF DIFF indicates the average margin of victory per 100 possessions. OPP SRS indicates the opponent's strength using Basketball Reference's "Simple Rating System" -- high numbers indicate a hard stretch of schedule, low numbers indicate an easy one. W/L and H/A are straightforward, and ORTG/DRTG/POSS are calculated using the Basketball Reference formula. For more on the metrics in the bottom panel, see their page on Dean Oliver's four factors. Savvy?


A few metrics and observations of note in this split:

  • BEST STRETCH: From 11/27 to 12/10, the Wizards faced their toughest opposition of the season to date. They went 2-3 (almost 0.500!) against that moderately tough schedule, didn't completely embarrass themselves by the margins, and looked semi-competent. For a short time, of course.

  • WORST STRETCH: From 12/11 to 12/24, the Wizards were -- on average -- blown out by over 12 points a night over 8 games, even though they won one of them. They scored 90 points per 100 possessions in the stretch. I watched 5 of those 8 games, and let me tell you -- it looked just as bad as it sounds. "Your search for entertainment returned an error: 404, not found."

Despite the fact that the Wizards are the 11th best defense in the league, in not one of these stretches have the Wizards shot better than the team they're defending. Little has changed, even with Nene back -- this is a team that loses big to bad teams and has a nasty habit of losing just about every close game they could possibly lose to the good ones. Last night's brilliant performance excepted.

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As a team profile, I'm trying to answer most of the questions I can about the Wizards. Give some insight into what they're doing, why they're doing it, what's the point of it all, et cetera. That's the goal, anyway. But I also want to be honest about the things that mystify me. And for the Wizards, there's one thing I really can't even pretend to understand.

How in God's name do they defend so well?

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