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The Wizards STILL need to shoot more threes

The Wizards remain a bit too-selective with their three-point shot selection this season. That could make a difference in a crowded Eastern Conference.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Wittman has received plenty of criticism in his four years as head coach of the Washington Wizards.

Though he turned the Wizards into a top-tier defensive squad (until this season) and led them to consecutive second round playoff appearances, Wittman has often been accused of having an old-school offensive mindset. Most notably, his teams eschewed threes in favor of long twos.

At the time, Wittman defended himself by arguing that they simply did not have the personnel to take more threes. Regardless of whose fault it was, the Wizards came back this season determined to be a modern pace-and-space team.

They brought in Jared Dudley to be their new stretch four, wings Gary Neal and Alan Anderson and drafted 3-and-D prospect Kelly Oubre. Kris Humphries, a previously midrange-J and board-crashing specialist began firing away from behind the arc. Bradley Beal preached better shot selection for himself.

And after all of these changes, the offense still isn't good. It's bad. Very bad.

In fact, the Wizards are 18th in the league in their team offensive rating. That's because despite bringing in all of these shooters -- who are all shooting well -- the Wizards' shot selection still hasn't changed very much.

The Wizards STILL don't take many of the most efficient shots in basketball

The Wizards are the red dot

Despite being one of the most efficient three-point shooting teams in the league (fifth), they are well in the middle of the pack on three-point attempts per game.

Many of the Wizards' latest additions are making threes at high rates but still aren't taking as many threes as they probably should. Dudley is currently one of the league leaders in three-point percentage but takes just 2.9 three-point shots per game. Neal is hitting 46.2 percent of his threes but only attempts 2.8 a game.

Even Humphries, who has seen his playing time fluctuate dramatically and has just emerged from a long shooting slump is hitting 36 percent of his threes but attempts just 2.5 a game.

To be fair, Beal did his part to take more threes before he got injured (again). He attempted 5.6 per game and made a respectable 39 percent of them. Last season, Beal only attempted 4.1 threes a game though he made 40.9 percent of them.

And John Wall, whose greatest weakness is arguably his shooting, is hitting 35 percent from deep while attempting 4.2 threes a game, all well above his 2014-15 averages. Even though Beal and Wall are taking more threes, it's still not enough to make up for the lack of threes from other players on the roster, including their new additions.

Of course, the three pointer isn't the only efficient shot in basketball. Shots in the paint and free throws are just as coveted.

But the Wizards aren't taking many of those either. Take a look at these graphs below and you'll see what I mean.

The Wizards like their threes to be WIDE OPEN

There are some confounding variables here. The most notable is the injury bug.

Anderson has yet to play a game as a Wizard. Neal, Beal, and Humphries have all missed time. Oubre has only just started to receive substantial playing time.

To better understand how the three point shot functions in the Wizards offense, we need to look at when the Wizards shoot threes. Lucky for us, the NBA now offers a wealth of statistical information, including the distance of the closest defender (measured from torso, not fingertips) to a shooter.

Below is a graph showing three point attempts that are "open" (closest defender 4-6 feet) and "wide open" (closest defender 6+ feet away).

The good news is that the Wizards are generating a lot of "wide open" looks from three (11.9 per game), behind only the Atlanta Hawks. But things get a little more interesting when you look at regular "open" shots, with the nearest defender 4-6 feet away. The Wizards are 17th in the league in number of attempts, taking 9.7 per game.

The Wizards' shooting percentages don't justify the decrease in attempts: They make 38.3 percent of their wide open three point attempts (13th in the league) and 36.1 percent on their open attempts (8th in the league.)

In case you were wondering: Houston and Golden State lead the league in regular "open" three point attempts, with 12.8 and 12.6 attempts per game, respectively.

"But what about the Spurs?" and other concluding notes

Many have remarked upon the Spurs taking very few threes this year (currently 26th most in the league).

In spite of this, their offensive rating is third in the league. The Spurs use unparalleled ball movement to get a large number of "wide open" twos (second most in the league).

Combined with the fact that they are efficient from most areas on the floor and boast the best defense in the league, the Spurs don't need the three.

That's because the three ball isn't popular just because. It's popular because it's an efficient shot, and efficiency wins games.

The Wizards need a more efficient offense. For them, being less selective about their three point attempts will help.

Taking more "open" threes won't vault the Wizards into the Eastern Conference elite. There are more issues with the offense than three point attempts, and the defense is arguably an even bigger problem right now.

But small differences matter over the course of an 82 game season. Generating more looks from three -- even ones that are merely open, rather than wide open -- could be a key part of a third consecutive playoff appearance in a crowded Eastern Conference.

All data from and current as of December 29, 2015.