Are the Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal the best back court in NBA?


(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

If you asked me who were the best bloggers in the blogosphere, I’d say Dan Steinberg and me. When Washington Wizards guard John Wall was asked about the best back court in basketball, he responded in a similar fashion.

I think Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would have a problem with that. No pair with a minimum of 2,000 minutes played together had a higher amount of net points per 100 possessions than Curry and Thompson (plus-10.7)  during the regular season. The Wizards scored a net plus-2.3 points per 100 possessions with Wall and Beal on the hardwood.

Wall is correct. The Warriors had a regular season effective field goal percentage — which adjusts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth one more point than a two-point field goal — of 54.5 percent with Curry and Thompson on the court. The Wizards, on the other hand, had an effective field goal percentage of 51.4 percent with Wall and Beal.

Here is the thing: Shooting the basketball is important. According to Dean Oliver, who identified what he called the “Four Factors of Basketball Success in his book “Basketball on Paper,” it is the most important:

The first factor, shooting the ball, is the most important. The game of basketball was set up that way more than one hundred years ago, where the objective of that first game in Massachusetts with two peach baskets was nothing more than getting the ball into those baskets. In that essence, the game hasn’t changed. Whether it’s 3-foot shots or 3-point shots, shooting the ball from the field remains the dominant means of scoring points before giving it back to opponents.

Oliver would go as far as to assign a 40 percent weight to the shooting factor, with the other 60 percent split between rebounding (25 percent), turnovers (20 percent) and getting to the free throw line (15 percent). And no, Beal is not “right with them” in terms of shooting.

Nor are Wall and Beal better than Curry and Thompson in the other three factors during the regular season. We have already shown that the Warriors’ tandem are better shooters. They also get to the line more often (FTA rate) and grab a higher percentage of available offensive rebounds (OREB%).

eFG% FTA Rate TmTOV% OREB%
Beal/Wall 51.4% 0.216 14.6% 24.5%
Curry/Thompson 54.5% 0.238 14.6% 25.7%

There is even an argument that Wall and Beal weren’t even the Wizards’ best back court during the regular season.

eFG% FTA Rate TmTOV% OREB% Net Points per 100
Ariza & Wall 46.3% 0.301 14.0% 29.0% 4.9
Beal & Wall 47.6% 0.299 13.9% 27.7% 2.3

This isn’t to say Wall and Beal won’t become the NBA’s best back court; they just aren’t there yet.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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