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Wizards Continued ‘Live-and-Die’ by the Three is Killing Their Season

Raj Mehta/ USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards continue to live and die — mostly die — by the three. Ahead of the season, shooting more threes was one of head coach Scott Brooks’ goals for the Wizards. Analytics speak to it in today’s NBA, however, the Wizards continue to prove they may need to be exempt from the theory.

Washington has failed to shoot the three with a consistent success rate, and on the flip side they cannot defend the three.

Wizards Are Now the Second-Worst Three-Point Shooting Team in NBA

Entering Wednesday’s contest against the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards were 27th in three-point percentage (33 percent) despite having the seventh-most attempts per game (32.9) in the NBA. Against, Detroit, the Wizards shot 9-of-33 or 27.3 percent from three-point range.

Those numbers would look far worse if not for a hot hand from Trevor Ariza in the second half, as he shot 5-of-10 from downtown for the game. Bradley Beal was 1-of-7 from three and John Wall 2-of-7.

Following Wednesday’s 106-95 loss, the Wizards are now 29th out of 30 teams in three-point shooting. Only Oklahoma City is worst.

Beal’s struggles can be written off somewhat to him having a bad night, but Wall’s game is not shooting threes. Then there is Markieff Morris who missed five of six three attempts.

Otto Porter Inflated Last Year’s Numbers, now the Wizards are a Below-Average Three-Point Team

Last season, the Wizards were a top-4 team in three-point shooting but that came with inflation. Otto Porter shot a career-high 44.1 percent from three, which ranked third in the NBA.

This season Porter has struggled — when healthy — shooting 36.8 percent from three. And he has missed 10 games. Even Beal has struggled shooting a career-low 33.9 percent.

Then there is Wall. His three-point shooting has regressed in his ninth year in the league, even for his standards. He is taking a career-high 5.3 attempts from behind the arc this season, while making 30.2 percent of them. That’s his worst percentage since 2014-15.

The irony for Wall is he is shooting a career-best 50.7 percent on two-point field goals while shooting his lowest rate of attempts at 12 per game. Beal also is shooting a career-best in two-point shots (55.3 percent), although he is shooting the most attempts per game (11.7) of his career.

Examining the entire Wizards roster, no one shoots better than 36.8 percent that attempts three of more threes per game. Not even Ariza, who improved his season mark to 25.8 percent. The departed Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers, who both were traded to Phoenix for Ariza, each shot 31.1 percent from three

Meanwhile, Tomas Satoransky is making 39.1 percent of his threes. Unfortunately, he is attempting just 1.4 per game, and that’s not anything game plan-wise. Satoransky has just a knack for passing up three-point looks for other three-point looks.

Wizards Cannot Defend the Three Either

On the flip side, the Wizards cannot defend the three either. Washington allows 12.3 made three-pointers per game. That’s the third-most of any team in the league. Wednesday, the Pistons made 14-of-37 for 37.8 percent. Detroit came into the game making 11.1 per game, and shooting the third-worst percentage in the league at 32.9.

FYI, the Thunder, who shoot the worst three-point percentage in the league, is fourth in defensive three-point percentage. The Wizards are 26th in the same category.

Washington just cannot defend the three-point line. Often times the defense is broken down with dribble penetration, leading to kick outs for three. When Washington does do a good job defending the initial shot, they get pounded on the glass, the defense collapses to help out, leaving wide open threes on second-chance shots.

On this sequence, Markieff Morris just does not recognize the situation, and leaves too much spacing against Blake Griffin to take and make the three off the cross.

Griffin made 4-of-9 threes in the game. In hindsight, maybe Ariza should have switched?

Switch Defense Contributes to Inability to Defend Three

Washington’s woeful perimeter defense is also contributed by their woeful switching. The Wizards struggle at switching 1 through 5. All the good teams in the league are good at it. The Wizards were respectable two seasons ago, when they won 49 games. Now, it’s just a concept they cannot grasp.

Often times the guards switch too heavily, leaving the dinosaur-era type bigs Washington has to fend for themselves on the perimeter leaving too much spacing for threes.

Against the Pistons, Wall allowed 1-of-4 (25%) from three on defense. Beal was even better 2-of-9 (22.2%). In contrast, center Thomas Bryant allowed 2-of-3 threes (66.7 %) and Markieff Morris 4-of-12 (33.3%).

Another way to look at it, Wall and Beal allowed 3-of-13 (23.1%) threes. The rest of the Wizards allowed 11-of-24 (45.8%). Hard numbers sometimes don’t have context, but in the Wizards’ case, it speaks of possibly another underlining issue — switch defense.

Team Identity Needs to Change

The game of basketball has evolved and the Wizards are struggling mightily adapting to evolution. They cannot shoot the three, they cannot defend the three, and they cannot switch defense. And that’s a huge byproduct of their now 13-22 record.

Something has to give at some point. There’s no hidden gem three-point specialist walking on the court for the Wizards this season, not without a complete tear down. And that’s not happening either. Brooks and the coaching staff needs to go back to the drawing board.

The Wizards were built with dinosaur thinking, trying to adapt somewhat to modern basketball. However, they’ve failed at it. They cannot chock up 33 threes a game, they’re not that good. Last season’s numbers were inflated by Porter’s incredible shooting, something they don’t have from him or anyone else this season.

As long as the Wizards continue to live and die approach to the three, they will continue to kill their season.

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