Why the Wizards Lose

Now that the Wizards have two wins on the season, I guess we have a large enough sample size to look at what the Wizards have done to win both of those games and what they have done to lose the other 15. For the purpose of this post, I will only look at the statistical reasons behind the lack of Wizards success and not the more obvious reason:God hates Wizards fans.

If you’ve watched the games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the Wizards are doing to lose most of their games. A lot of it has to do with not being able to score enough points. The Wizards have played surprisingly average defense. Their defensive rating, points allowed per 100 possessions, of 105.7 is right around the league average of 105.1. The Miami Heat, typically regarded as a top defensive team, allow more points per game and per possession than the lowly Washington Wizards.

The problem is the dreaded first quarter where the Wizards are being outscored by 78 points. That’s 4.5 points per game. Washington has only been ahead at the end of the first quarter in three of their first seventeen games. In every other quarter, the Wizards are only being outscored by one or fewer points on average. On offense, the Wizards are consistently bad in every quarter, but the defense is noticeably worse in the first quarter than the rest of the game. The Wizards are ranked 27 in first quarter points allowed, 18 in second quarter, 7 in third quarter and 8 in fourth quarter. If you break it down by half, they go from ranked 23 in first half scoring defense to 7 in the second half.

In their two wins this season, the Wizards didn’t defend any better in the first quarter. They gave up 27 points to Portland in the first quarter and 25 to Miami. In those games, it was the offense who rose to the occasion, scoring 23 first quarter points against Portland (not impressive, but still above their average) and 30 against Miami. In fact, the Wizards scored 30 points in the first and second quarter against Miami. They have only scored 30 points in a quarter four other times this season and only once in the first half of a game.

It seems pretty obvious that the Wizards play their worst basketball in the first quarter. Maybe the Wizards are behind at the beginning of almost every game because they aren’t starting the right players. Prepare to have your mind blown.

The Wizards are the number one bench scoring team in the NBA.

The Wizards’ starting lineup is the lowest scoring in the NBA.

The bench is outscoring the starting lineup by 3.7 points per game. Not coincidentally, the Wizards, the team with the worst record in the NBA, are the only team in the NBA whose bench outscores their starters.

So, we know what the issue is. The Wizards have a terrible starting lineup. In reality, the bench probably isn’t a whole lot more talented. The difference with most teams and the Wizards is that the Wizards aren’t necessarily downgrading when they bring in their bench players. If this is the case, then why has Emeka Okafor, with averages of 5.2 rebounds and 6.6 points per game on 43% shooting, started 15 games, but Kevin Seraphin, 5.8 rebounds and 12.4 points on 49% shooting, has started five? Not to mention that Seraphin is averaging five minutes more per game than Okafor. If you’re willing to play Seraphin more minutes than Okafor, why not play Seraphin more minutes at the beginning of the game, which is where the Wizards are losing most of their games?

The same goes for Bradley Beal who averages 27.9 minutes per game, which is the most on the team, and has started 15 of 17 games. Bradley Beal didn’t start against the Utah Jazz and finished with 13 minutes in a game where both teams shot poorly and the Wizards lost by 7. He also did not start against Indiana on November 19. He played 29 minutes in a game where the entire Wizards back court shot poorly and the Wizards lost again by 7. Beal played 16 minutes in both of the Wizards’ wins as a starter. Jordan Crawford was very efficient in those two games and he really cut into Beal’s minutes. Beal has not played well enough to warrant 15 starts for a team that plays as bad as it does in the first quarter.

The problems are plentiful and the answers aren’t quite as clear. In the Wizards’ two wins they attempted an average of seven fewer three point shots than in their 15 losses and 4 more free throws. They were clearly more aggressive in their victories and passive in their losses. In my opinion, there are two players that should be starting every game. Kevin Seraphin is one of those players. The other hasn’t suited up yet this season: John Wall. If you aren’t one of those players and you are in the starting lineup, you better come out with some fire or you will find yourself coming off the bench the next night. The fact that only four players have double-digit starts and three of those players shoot below 40% from the field is disturbing. The fourth player is Emeka Okafor and his 42% shooting is ranked 69 among NBA centers. Why reward players who continue to shoot poorly by constantly starting them?

Maybe try switching up the lineup every once in a while Randy, eh?

The Wizards go on the road to New Orleans tonight to play the 5-14 Hornets with number one pick Anthony Davis back in the line up. The Wizards will look for their third win of the season and their first on the road while facing their worst nightmare, Ryan Anderson. Tip-off is at 8 PM ET.

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