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What will the Wizards do this season?

By Kevin Broom

Take a Google tour through “expert” predictions for the Wizards’ season and you’ll find a mixed bag running from “the Wizards are going to suck even worse than last year” to “they’ll suck, but not as much as last year.”

The Vegas experts forecast 32.5 wins (the over/under line for betting). Arturo Galletti, who uses Wins Produced, a statistical formula created by sports economist and author of Wages of Wins David Berri, forecasts that the Wizards will end the season with between 9 and 21 wins. His average projection based on modeling different levels of rookie performance has the Wizards at 13.3 wins.

My friends Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle at Basketball Prospectus each use different statistical formulations and simulations to reach differing, but similar conclusions. Pelton uses his statistical projection system called SCHOENE, which compares players to their historical similars and then forecasts their performance for the upcoming season. Using these numbers, Pelton simulated the upcoming season 1,000 times. Pelton’s simulations say the Wizards will win 23.1 games and finish with the league’s worst record. In these simulations, the Wizards and Clippers are the only teams not to make the playoffs at least once.

Doolittle applied his own statistical system, and simulated the season 10,000 times. On average, the Wizards finished with 30.0 wins and the league’s 28th best record.  According to Doolittle, the Wizards have a 1.0% chance of finishing .500, a 4.8% chance of making the playoffs, and no chance of making the Finals.

Neil Paine, who blogs at Basketball-Reference.com, used three different statistical tools (Win Shares, Statistical Plus/Minus, and B-R’s Simple Rating System) plus several thousand simulations to predict the season. Win Shares says 21.3 wins, Statistical Plus/Minus says 26.3, and SRS says 31.9.

If you’re looking for hope, turn to the historical improvement of teams that land the number one pick in the draft. That team, on average, improves by about 12 wins the following season. Use that method crudely (just adding it to last year’s total) and it suggests the Wizards might win 38 games. Acknowledge that the Wizards played like a 23-win team after the trades, and maybe the Wizards are more likely to win 35.

But what do these so-called experts know? They’re using the old McGee, not the new-and-improved preseason version. They’re using Blatche’s full season, not just the 32 games he started. And how can these statistical projections accurately forecast how good John Wall will be? So let’s turn to a cross-section of knowledgeable Wizards fans — my pals at RealGM.com. As of about 1 p.m. on October 27, 74 RealGM posters had taken a stab at predicting the team’s win total this season. The highest prediction was for 50 wins; the lowest for 23. The message board’s average: 36.6.

I find myself closer to the low-end predictions. I want to be optimistic because of Wall. I hope that McGee becomes great and Arenas can become an offensive force again. I hope the team can find a small forward and that Andray Blatche can continue improving. But that’s the fan in me talking.

When I turn on the analyst brain and study the roster, here’s what I forecast:

  • The Wizards will struggle to compete on the defensive glass, but will grab a high number of offensive rebounds.
  • The Wizards will be inefficient on offense, ranking 20th or worse on the offensive end.
  • The Wizards will be close to average defensively, likely ranking in the teens,

My prediction: 27 wins, no playoffs. But, I think they’ll get better as the season goes on and that they’ll actually have a few pieces to build on for the future. There is hope — even if the payoff looks to be a season or two into the future.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 27, 2010; 3:10 PM ET
Categories:  Kevin Broom, Wizards  | Tags:  Kevin Broom, Wizards  
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Comments

Nice post Kevin! Thank you for this synthesis. I'm really enjoying your more statistical approach to the game.

Josh Howard, Gilbert Arenas and Josh Wall forms a potentially playoff caliber perimeter. Obviously, huge question marks on all three, as well as with Mcgee and AB. However, with all those sources of uncertainty, Pelton's method is obviously flawed. I disagree with his win total forecast, but I really disagree with Pelton's worse than 1 in 1000 odds for playoffs in the East; I would definitely take those odds for any team. Likewise, I would take the Clippers. Heck, Cleveland without Mo Williams beat Boston. New Jersey finished brilliantly last night. What we don't know on opening night about these teams is a lot!

At the end of the day, the distributions of these players' performances have much fatter tails than they acknowledge (plus, individuals' performances are correlated with each other). As for Berri's absurdly low win projection, how does a team that will be better at every position (by December) than they finished with last year(through additions and improvements to the players themselves) finish with 13 wins?

Guardedly optimistic,
Audacitea

Posted by: audacitea | October 28, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I'd like to see them win 20 games and get a high lottery pick again, than fall into that 40 win range where you wind up out of the playoffs but still have a low position in the draft.

But i'm in the camp that is drinking the KoolAid. I think Gil is going to be amazing. I think Wall is going to be amazing, when he has a scorer like Gil on the floor.

Our defense has improved, if you can believe what we've seen in preseason. If this is the case, and it really has improved, Flip deserves coach of the year. I mean, this team has been defensively challenged for years. Course, maybe it was all Brenda's fault after all. LOL!

The one area where we will struggle is rebounding. The only possible answers I see to that problem on the roster are Yi and Booker.

Posted by: Matte | October 28, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the kind words Audacitea. I'll be interested to see which of these experts comes closest. I will be circling back to this post later in the season.

Matte: Having tracked the Wizards defense for the better part of 3 seasons, I can assure you that their defensive woes were not Haywood's fault. He's solid defensively. Not as good the past couple years as he had been previously, but still good.

I understand the sentiment of losing big again this year and getting another high pick. But, I don't want to slog through another terrible season. I want these guys to "get it" all at once and be competitive. I don't think it's going to happen, but that's what I want. :)

Posted by: KevinBroom | October 28, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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