The Washington Wizards guard goes through the statistical double machine.
The Doppelgänger Machine feels like it’s seen this show. You’ll see why, but the first new readers might ask: What the hell is a doppelgänger?
So glad you asked. Every year — generally on the dog days of the NBA offseason, when teams are busy chasing young players for two-way contracts and training camp deals — I dig into my bag of spreadsheet tricks and run a hand-crafted algorithm that tells me which players in NBA history had seasons “most similar” to players on the Wizards roster.
My approach factors in age and a number of tempo-neutral statistical factors such as minutes played, usage, preferred shot types, offensive and defensive rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, fouls, scoring and an overall measure of player production relative to era.
Interestingly—at least to me—is that although I do not include variables for size, position, or athleticism, individuals care to get “doppelgangers” who are relatively close in each of the categories. Not always, but often enough to intrigue. Or maybe I’m just easily impressed.
I thought we’d kick off this annual offseason tradition with one of the newcomers. The problem? It is a new name with a similar game. I am of course referring to Tyus Jones, who the team acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
Jones is a diminutive 27-year-old guard in the final year of his contract who is best known as a high-quality backup to Ja Morant. He is a PG who makes shots, sets up teammates and avoids turnovers. I feel like I’ve written these exact words before.
Anyway, let’s look at his doppelgangers:
- Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2018-19 — Yes, that’s the same Monte Morris who played for the Wizards last season. The same one they shopped for Detroit Pistons for a second round of selection. The doppelgänger believes that Washington basically traded away Monte Morris to replace him with a slightly shorter version of Monte Morris. Maybe a little better? Maybe?
- AJ Price, Washington Wizards, 2012-13 — Price was nothing great or even great, and this below-average season was the best of his career. Still, he was an acceptable backup and spot starter behind John Wall, and he would have been happy to come back at least in the league. Of course, Ernie Grunfeld and the team’s smarts at the time were too smart for that. Instead, they bought Eric Maynor – a guy who “just knows how to play.”
- Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2021-22 — Again. You will see his name again. Small PG who makes shots, sets up teammates and avoids turnovers.
- Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers, 1993-94 — You may remember Barros from such places as the Monte Morris doppelganger article I wrote last year. This was Barros’ age 26 season. He posted a 130 PPA (in PPA – my all-around production metric – average is 100 and higher is better), which was the best mark of his career to that point. The next season, he broke out to his career high of 172. While that kind of jump from Jones would be great for the Wizards, his 126 PPA last season was actually a downfall for him — he hit 147 in 2021-22. Still, the overall style of play (and level) was similar between the two for those seasons from Barros and Jones.
- Jason Williams, Memphis Grizzlies, 2004-05 — Interesting comp My memory says Williams drove more often than Jones does, though I could think of a younger version of white chocolate. Unfortunately, this was the pre-tracking era, so I can’t look it up. In any case, this was the 29-year-old Williams falling off a bit from the previous few years, which were his best. That offseason, a five-team trade landed him with the Miami Heat, where he was a starting guard on their 2006 championship team.
- Dana Barros, Boston Celtics1998-99 — Barros was 31 and it would be the last season of his above-average career.
- Monte Morris, Washington Wizards, 2022-23 — The Morris of last season and the Jones of last season were pretty similar. Shooting, rebounds, assists, turnovers, scoring were about the same. Jones shot a little more often and produced more steals while shooting less. If Morris got on your nerves by not driving, you’ll probably get rattled again. Last season Morris drove 7.0 times per 36 minutes. Jones: 7.8.
- Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors2018-19 — This was VanVleet’s age-24 season (his second in the league), and it was just before he made the jump to being the above-average starter he’s been the past four years.
- Monte MorrisDenver Nuggets, 2019-20 — Him again.
- Monte MorrisDenver Nuggets, 2020-21 — A fitting end to the doppelgänger list.
I’ll mention a few more, in part because we’re offseasons from Monte Morris. (I think, Yes technically he was playing in a second season – he got 25 total minutes his rookie year, but functionally five seasons on the “most similar” list spent the rest of his career so far.)
- Jordan Farmer New Jersey Nets, 2010-11 — Similar style of production, but Jones is better than Farmar was.
- Patty Mills, san antonio tracks, 2016-17 — Similar style (though will be less similar than the list above). Once again, Jones is simply better than Mills was.
- Brent Price, Washington Bullets, 1995-96 — This was Price’s good year, which the Price family honestly owed the fans. That was the year Washington sent a first-round pick (which became Vitaly Potapenko) to Cleveland Cavaliers for Brent’s brother Mark. Mark had been a star player in his day — four-time All-NBA — but arrived in Washington with a foot injury that limited him to seven games and 127 total minutes. Into the void of the game stepped Brent, and he shot 46.2% on threes, made 10.4 assists per game. 100 possessions and generally looked like a good NBA player. It was the only average or better season of his career.
Scrolling down the list yields more of the same — small guards who are decent playmakers, avoid turnovers and shoot reasonably well, including Jose Calderon, Cameron Payne, Steve Blake, Anthony Peeler, Craig Hodges and (of course) Washington immortal Chris Whitney.
Kind of makes me wonder if maybe the Wizards could have used Porzingis to trade for something else instead of getting Morris 2.0 and the second rounder they got when they dumped Morris.
Who’s next through the Doppelgänger Machine? Vote below…