Most Startling Statistics of Washington Wizards' Season so Far
As the Washington Wizards can attest to, the early portion of the NBA season is rife with wacky data. When a handful of games is the only sample size available, you'll sometimes see things like Rasual Butler shooting 56.3 percent from deep, or Marcin Gortat finishing 84.6 percent of his shots at the rim.
What's tricky is figuring out which statistics are small sample size flukes, and which could be genuinely meaningful moving forward.
Butler definitely isn't hitting 56 percent for the rest of the season. But it's not entirely unreasonable to think that playing alongside John Wall could turn him into an above-average three-point shooter. Even outliers can contain a kernel of truth.
Let's take a look at some of the more shocking statistics the Wizards have compiled this year and try to determine what might be indicative of real improvement, and what might just be a mirage.
Garrett Temple's Outside Shooting
Garrett Temple is shooting 37.5 percent from three this season. He is a career 31.7 percent shooter who hit 20.7 percent from deep last year. Being startled seems like an appropriate reaction.
You could make a case that no player in the league has overhauled his offensive game quite like Temple has this season. The Wizards are 7-3 despite being without Bradley Beal for nine games, and Temple's offensive emergence is a big reason why.
Over 57 percent of his shots this season have been three-pointers, up from 20.6 percent last year. Half of those threes are coming from the corners, and he's shooting a whopping 47.6 percent on those shots.
The Wizards needed someone to step into Trevor Ariza's corner specialist role, and for the most part, Temple has done a fantastic job.
Can he shoot like this for the rest of the season? Probably not.
Temple's just 1-of-13 in the Wizards' last five games, and with Beal back, he's going to see far fewer minutes alongside John Wall. Still, he's been terrific on both ends in the early goings of the season. He deserves as much credit as anyone for the Wizards' success.
DeJuan Blair's Minutes
The Wizards have a cluttered frontcourt, but even so, DeJuan Blair seeing just 11 total minutes through the first 10 games is a shocker.
Blair obviously has his issues. He's a poor defender, and his size (6'7”) tends to cause weird positional mismatches that hurt as often as help. He's a productive player though, and the fact that he hasn't even played situational minutes is downright strange.
Those lineups have been around neutral this season—not at all bad for the bench—but they've also been murdered on the boards. Blair is a dynamite rebounder on both ends, and he deserves at least a few minutes on the strength of that alone.
Moving forward, it'll be surprising if Blair doesn't start getting some looks. His rebounding fits a clear need, and as he proved in last year's playoffs, his quirky offensive game can be a nightmare for certain opponents.
Otto Porter's Efficiency
The Wizards were banking on Otto Porter growing into a rotation-caliber player this season. Thus far, he's been that and a whole lot more.
Porter is averaging 8.3 points per game on 61.5 percent true shooting, making him arguably the most efficient scorer on the Wizards roster (Rasual Butler is technically more efficient, but he's taken far fewer shots).
Porter's catch-and-shoot game meshes well with John Wall's play, and when the two are on the court together, the Wizards are scoring at the second-best rate of any team in the league. That's obviously a good sign, but it remains to be seen whether Porter can keep up this kind of efficiency for long.
Unlike most catch-and-shoot specialists, Porter takes very few threes—he's averaging just one per game.
The vast majority of his shots have instead come from between 16 feet and the three-point line, the least efficient area on the court. Porter's shot very well from that distance, but it's hard to imagine him being a truly efficient scorer unless he turns some of those deep twos into three-pointers.
The other issue is free throws. Despite rarely getting into the paint, Porter's gotten to the line at one of the highest rates on the team. He's getting fouled on a fluky amount of jumpers, and that's simply not going to hold up over time.
This isn't an indictment of Porter. He's been awesome this year, and from the looks of things, he'll be deadly off of screens and spotting up from deep someday. But given the types of shots he's taking, his efficiency this season has been borderline unbelievable.
Starters' Defensive Rating
Washington's starters have been mostly disappointing offensively, but they've been incredible defensively.
The Wizards' starting five is allowing just 86.2 points per 100 possessions, the best mark of any lineup that's logged at least 100 minutes this season. To put that into perspective, the Indiana Pacers' top-ranked defense allowed 96.7 points per 100 possessions last year.
Washington's starters have sealed off the paint to the extent that it's basically impossible to score on them from inside the arc.
Teams are hitting just 41 percent on two-point shots against the starters, and they almost never get to the foul line. Packing the paint comes with a price—the group is allowing 40.3 percent shooting from outside—but its benefits have easily outweighed that.
Ball-handlers are finding nothing but Wizards defenders when they slash into the paint, and as a result, they're turning the ball over on nearly 20 percent of possessions. That's an insane rate that's led to tons of fast-break points, one of the few sources of reliable offense for the starters.
If that wasn't enough, Washington's also cleaning up the defensive glass. The starters are collecting 81.6 percent of opponents' misses, the second-best rate of any big-minute lineup. Rebounding is an underrated—but critical—aspect of defense, and the Wizards are doing it as well as anyone.
Bradley Beal will obviously be replacing Garrett Temple in the starting lineup soon, ending this group's run. But given their success, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the rotation staggered so that the five still get some minutes together. They certainly deserve it.
Paul Pierce's Drives
Paul Pierce has given the Wizards some solid defense, but he simply hasn't been himself on the offensive end.
Pierce is averaging 12.3 points per game, but he's doing it on just 51 percent true shooting, including 29.7 percent from beyond the arc. His shooting isn't a concern—it should come around eventually—but the type of offense he's playing is a bit alarming.
Pierce's offensive game has become totally jumper-oriented. He's taken more deep twos than shots at the rim, and he's driving to the basket just over two times per game—nearly half of what he did with the Brooklyn Nets last season.
He's historically shot fairly well from mid-range and beyond, but he's never had to lean on those shots to quite this extent.
A big part of what made Trevor Ariza's departure palatable was Pierce's ability to create his own offense. Unfortunately, he's doing that in a less-than-efficient way right now, and that could come back to haunt Washington unless it changes.
The good news is that Bradley Beal's return could mean a resurgence for Pierce.
As well as Garrett Temple has been playing, Washington's spacing has been less than ideal with him in the game. Defenses don't respect any non-Pierce starter from deep, and it's left very few open lanes for him when he tries to create for himself.
Beal's return should give Pierce a lot more space to work with, resulting in more forays into the paint.
Pierce's lack of off-the-bounce attacking has been surprising. That should soon change, but it's still worth monitoring moving forward. There's a chance, however slim, that time has simply caught up with Pierce.