Washington Wizards “Stumbling on Stupidity”

Last night the Washington Wizards lost by 29 points to the Orlando Magic, and looked like a CBA team in the process.  A bad CBA team.

 How did it happen?  Well, let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that Ted Leonsis purportedly read and endorsed David Berri’s book “Stumbling on Wins” last spring and then signed off last summer on the formation of a roster that could be subtitled team “Team Anti-Stumbling on Wins”.  (That is the worst rebounding team I have ever seen).  Puzzling.  But leave that aside.  There’s a much simpler way to explain last night’s national cable television debacle.

Lets look for a moment at simple shot selection.  It tells a lot of the tale. 

In the NBA game, there are three “high value” ways to use a scoring possession: (1) at the rim; (2) behind the three point arc; and (3) at the foul line.  Those three methods of usage promise the greatest return on the investment of your possessions.  Thus, if a team wants to be successful over the long term, it wants to maximize those types of use.  Incidentally, the NBA average “High Value” Scoring Possession Percentage used is 62.5%

Using rough numbers, the Orlando Magic’s “High Value” scoring possession percentage last night was 64.8%.  That’s above average and the sign of a smart, disciplined team.  Sure, they missed an unGODLY amount of foul shots, but over time that shouldn’t happen.  The Magic will be successful if they put themselves in an above average number of high value situations as they did last night.  (Its like playing dice.  If you calculate the odds properly, and bet accordingly, you’re much more likely to succeed.  Not guaranteed, but likely.)

The Wizards, on the other hand, did not play the odds properly.  They did not play a smart, disciplined basketball game.  Their “High Value” scoring possession percentage was a measly 52.1%.   You cannot win consistently playing that recklessly (or carelessly, or however you want to describe it).  Maybe you’ll get lucky on a couple of occasions, but not often.

Now let’s look at the inverse, what I call the “Shit Shot” percentage — the team’s percentage of shots taken from 16 to 23 feet away from the hoop.  These are the absolute lowest value shots and should be avoided.  Besides being stupid, they are also a sign of (a) weakness — you lack the strength to go to the hoop, or (b) laziness — you are settling for an available “bad” shot instead of working to get a good shot.  Shit shots are available all night long.  That’s because they don’t return very well on the investment.

The NBA team average “Shit Shot” percentage is 20%.  One of five possessions.  Last night the Magic’s “Shit Shot” percentage was 10.6% — well below the NBA average, and the sign of a hardworking, intelligent team. 

The Wizards, led by John Wall’s 10 “Shit Shots” (of which he made two), had an overall “Shit Shot” percentage of a staggering 33.3%. 

As Singletary would say, “Can’t win with em… can’t do it”.  Those numbers are the recipe for a blowout, and that’s what happened last night.

10 Responses to “Washington Wizards “Stumbling on Stupidity””

  1. Chicago Tim Says:

    Where do you find these statistics? I would love to keep track of the Bulls’ high and low value shot percentages.

  2. The High Value Scoring Percentage and the Sh*t Shot Percentage? | The Wages of Wins Journal Says:

    […] Washington Wizards “Stumbling on Stupidity”, Ty introduces (with data from Hoopdata) “High Value” Scoring Possession Percentage and the […]

  3. arturogalletti Says:

    Great post. I watched both the Wizards game and the Bulls game. You captured my feelings exactly. You’re awesome. 🙂

  4. Evanz Says:


  5. Ty Ahmad-Taylor Says:

    Ty (yes, that is my name too),

    You have also uncovered something that I recall when looking at the Spurs defense: they absolutely, positively, are set up to defend and stop threes and shots close to the rim.

    Simply put: they actively encourage shit shots by being tight in the places it matters, and inducing the worse shots possible.

    Popovich gleaned your insights about 10 years ago, either instinctively or based on data, and that has been part of their success.

    I am, unfortunately, a Warriors fan, and they don’t read your blog.

    Great piece.

    Kind regards, Ty

  6. Around the WOW week 1 « Arturo's Silly Little Stats Says:

    […] Washington Wizards “Stumbling on Stupidity” This piece is worth it just for the Sh*t Shot comment […]

  7. JOSH Says:

    Is there any where that has statistics breakdown on the high value shots vs shit shots for every team?

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