John Wall told Sports Illustrated that the Washington Wizards “could’ve easily been a 55-win team.” That would be a 10-game swing from their regular season record of 44-38. Impossible? No. “Easily” achievable? Not according to the stats.
In his book “Basketball On Paper” Darren Oliver identified what he called the “Four Factors of Basketball Success,” with the approximate weight he assigned to each factor:
- Shooting, measured by Effective field goal percentage (40%)
- Turnovers, measured by Turnover percentage (25%)
- Rebounding, as measured by Offensive rebounding percentage (20%)
- Free Throw rate (15%)
These factors are applied to both a team’s offense and defense, giving us a total of eight factors. Here is how the 2013-14 Wizards squad stacks up against the teams who have won 55 or more games over the past five seasons:
|55+ win teams since 2009-10||58||0.517||13.4||25.8||0.233||0.481||13.5||25.4||0.207|
To start, Washington’s effective field goal percentage – which gives 50 percent more credit for made three-pointers – is lower and, as you can see in the shot chart below, is mostly average (yellow areas) with the exception of the three-point area above the break (right-side center).
Compare that to a team like Indiana, who won 56 games this season and is average or better all across the hardwood:
The Wizards also had trouble getting to the foul line while their opponents did not. This is different than “making foul shots.” According to Oliver:
Teams that get to the line more are more effective than teams that make a higher percentage of their free throws. Game-by-game exceptions can definitely exist – there are plenty of games that are lost by a team missing its foul shots – but over the long haul, just getting to the line frequently wins a lot more games than missing a few freebies will lose.
Free throw rate is calculated by dividing free throws by field-goal attempts. The Wizards free throw rate on offense was 1,253 / 6,920 = 0.181, and on defense it was 1,462 / 6,632 = 0.220. The 55-win teams had free throw rates of 0.233 and 0.207, respectively.
The Wizards are on a heck of a run this season but were not quite close to a 55-win team. At least not yet.