20 Days, 20 Questions: Perimeter shooting

With the first day of Wizards training camp coming, Bullets Forever is asking 20 questions about key issues with the team in 2010/11.    

I've talked about this subject before, so I'll spare you all the drawn-out introduction and get right to the question.

As athletic as the Wizards are, do they have enough perimeter shooting to run a good half-court offense?

Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Wizards' starting lineup will likely be John Wall, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Howard, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. If Howard is hurt, then you can plug Al Thornton in instead. Of those six players, only Arenas has a career three-point percentage over 35 percent. Kirk Hinrich and Nick Young are good three-point shooters, but most of their minutes will likely come at Arenas' expense. In today's NBA, this is somewhat problematic.

How important is three-point shooting to a good offense? Here are the three-point percentage rankings of the top 10 offensive teams in the NBA last season:

  • Phoenix: 1st
  • Atlanta: 9th
  • Denver: 10th
  • Orlando: T3rd
  • Toronto: 6th
  • Cleveland: 2nd
  • Portland: 13th
  • Utah: 7th
  • San Antonio: 11th
  • Dallas: 5th
Based on that, it's pretty easy to conclude that you have to be a good three-point shooting team to have a good offense. There are many reasons for this.  For one, the three-point shot is an extremely efficient shot, because you get an extra point for it and you're not shooting it from that much further away than a mid-range jumper. For another, having good three-point shooters opens up the floor for your guards to drive and your post players to work against single coverage.  The Wizards have two such guards and one such post player in their starting lineup.  Without good three-point shooters, it'll be much more difficult for Wall, Arenas and Blatche to do the kinds of things they're capable of doing to carry this team.

Now, the thing to keep in mind is that Flip Saunders' teams haven't been big-time three-point shooting clubs. If anyone can bust the trend above, it's him. His Pistons and Timberwolves teams succeeded with strong play-calling, limiting turnovers and hitting mid-range jump shots at a good enough clip to make up for the shot's inefficiency. The Wizards have some decent mid-range shooters on the roster, and that may be enough for Saunders to work with. 

Otherwise, maybe the Wizards need to think about finding better fits alongside their core. 
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