Through 10 games, the 2018-19 Washington Wizards have the exact statistical contrast that you do not want in today’s NBA. They haven’t been making their threes and they are giving up far too many.
Following their Tuesday night smackdown by the Mavs, the Wizards rank 21st in threes made (10.6/g) and 26th in percentage (31.3). On defense, they are allowing 12.6 threes per game, which ranks 18th in the NBA, and opponents are shooting 39 percent. Only the Mavericks are allowing teams to shoot better from the perimeter.
That 39 percent is higher than the career marks for long range legends like Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Larry Bird. Against Washington, entire teams are basically turning into Bradley Beal, who has a 39.1 career clip from three.
Yeah, it’s bad. But a closer look at the numbers tells a story that is much more complicated. For one, part of it may be luck.
That may seem strange to read following a game in which this happened…
Wes Matthews was 3-for-3 from three, yet he got this wide open. pic.twitter.com/VqAXXll9Tt
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) November 7, 2018
… but wide open threes like that haven’t occurred against the Wizards as often as most would guess.
NBA.com’s advanced stats consider ‘wide open’ looks to be when defenders are six feet or further away. The Wizards so far this season are giving up 16.0 wide open three attempts per game.
Believe it or not, that’s relatively average, as it ranks 13th-most in the NBA. The problem for Washington is that their opponents are cashing in at a ridiculously high rate.
Teams are hitting on 45.6 percent of those attempts, the second-highest clip in the league. As a result, the Wizards are giving up the second-most wide open threes made per game, at 7.3.
There is reason to believe those numbers will even out. Last season, for instance, opponents hit 37.4 percent of their wide open three attempts against the Wizards. That was the fifth-lowest mark in the NBA and represents a difference of over eight percent from where it is now.
But there is no guarantee it will balance out that much. The Wizards in 2016-17 saw opponents hit 40.9 percent of their wide open threes, the highest rate in the NBA. Some years, opponents make you pay more than others.
These discrepancies suggest the Wizards were either better last season at preventing good shooters from getting wide open looks, or they were just plain luckier. As head coach Scott Brooks likes to say, good defense is about forcing teams to miss, not hoping they will miss. You never want to leave it up to luck.
Though the Wizards may be victims of some tough luck on wide open threes, there are reasons to believe they can be much better at controlling the results. As a team, they are 14th in contested threes per game and that is with Beal tied for eighth in the league (4.1/g) in the category.
Beal is annually one of the best in basketball at closing out on three-point attempts. Some of his teammates are not. Though John Wall, (2.9/g), Otto Porter Jr. (2.2/g) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (3.1/g) are all contesting more than they did last season, they are not on Beal’s level.
As for their own threes, the law of averages suggests those numbers will improve as well. Brooks has directed his team to shoot a lot more triples and so far that strategy has not been successful because, unlike their opponents, the Wizards are not making the open ones.
While the Wizards are sixth in the NBA in creating wide open three opportunities (17.9/g), their 32.4 percent success rate ranks 27th. Last season, they made 40.3 percent of those looks, which placed seventh in the league.
The drop-off for a lot of players has been steep. Oubre is shooting just 22.2 percent on 2.7 wide open three attempts per game. Last year, he made 37.6 percent of them.
Markieff Morris is down to 32 percent on 2.8 attempts per game after making 38.8 percent in 2017-18. And Porter, one of the game’s best three-point marksmen, is only making 33.3 percent of his wide open looks after shooting 42.5 percent last year.
The Wizards are moving the ball enough to get wide open looks from three. They just aren’t making them. Meanwhile, their opponents are capitalizing on an unusually high rate of their own wide open threes.
That’s a bad combination and it’s killing the 2-8 Wizards so far this season.
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