Throughout this series, we'll be checking in with how the Wizards have performed up until the All Star break. But for Drew Gooden, this also serves as a chance to evaluate his performance now that he's logged almost a full regular season with the Wizards. Wednesday was his 78th regular season game in Washington.
When Drew Gooden arrived, he wasn't expected to do much, but he found his shooting touch in Washington and quickly became a valuable player off the bench, because he was the only big man who could consistently knock down midrange jumpers. And by consistently, we mean at the best rate in the NBA last year among players who attempted at least 60 midrange shots.
You can draw a lot of parallels between Drew Gooden's first two months as a Wizard and Rasual Butler's first two months of this season. Both players were hitting shots at an absurd rate. Whether it was because their legs were fresh from avoiding NBA action for an extended amount of time, or because it takes two months for scouting reports to catch up with on court performance, both of them were feasting on outside shots.
But unlike Rasual Butler, who has been slowly floating back down to earth on a hang-glider, Drew Gooden's fall has been a little more concerning, even with his slight uptick over the last two games with Kris Humphries out:
It's one thing when Bradley Beal shoots in the thirties from the midrange area, as he still tries to figure out where he's best at taking shots. But it's a much bigger issue when Gooden, who is taking those shots off someone else's penetration is shooting that poorly. Unlike Beal, these are the shots Gooden should be taking, and he hasn't done it very well this year.
So what's the issue? Well there's two things that are factoring into Drew Gooden's struggles, besides just plain ol' regression.
Drew Gooden is playing with Bradley Beal less
You were expecting us to say Gooden is suffering from the Wall effect, right? Not exactly the case. Believe it or not, John Wall was not a big part of Drew Gooden's success last season. He only assisted on nine of Gooden's 50 assisted field goal attempts. The player that helped out Gooden the most last season was Andre Miller, who set him up 17 times. Surprisingly, second-highest on that list was Bradley Beal, who helped out 13 times.
Gooden and Beal shared the court for almost 300 minutes in the final two months of last season, and worked surprisingly well together. When that tandem was on the court, the Wizards managed to outscore opponents. On the season as a whole, the Wizards were outscored by five points per 100 possessions when Gooden was on the court, so that should tell you something about how well the two worked together.
Most of the plays worked similar to this one. Gooden sets a high pick to let Beal get to the lane:
As Beal comes around, he gives his classic shoulder dip, hesitation move which sucks in Chris Andersen and gives Gooden an extra second to clear out and get to an open spot on the wing.
As Beal revs back up and forces Birdman to backpedal, he opens up a window to pass it back to Gooden.
When Gooden gets the ball, he's got all the space he needs to fire away.
It was a simple, but useful play the Wizards were able to utilize to free up driving lanes for Beal and shots for Gooden. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to share the court enough this season to trot the play back out. Beal and Gooden have only shared the court for 59 minutes this season, and Beal hasn't assisted on a single shot for him this season.
He's missing Martell Webster and Al Harrington
Look at the spacing in those pictures. While Webster and Harrington weren't incredible from the beyond the arc last year, they got more respect from defenses last season than playing alongside Otto Porter and Kevin Seraphin. For a guy like Drew Gooden to succeed at his age, he needs all the spacing he can get to have enough time to release his shot without a hand in his face.
Note how the lineup Gooden is playing with most this season is doing compared with the one he played with most last season:
|Lineup||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net|
|2014-15 (Miller, Butler, Porter, Gooden, Seraphin)||98.5||107.7||-9.3|
|2013-14 (Miller, Beal, Webster, Gooden, Harrington)||116.0||104.8||+11.2|
Realistically, I don't think many people expected Drew Gooden to have another year like he did last season, including Wizards' management. If they did, they wouldn't have gone out and acquired noted midrange marksman Kris Humphries.
But over the past two games with Kris Humprhies out, Gooden has shown he can still be a useful player alongside other players who give him the room he needs to operate. Problem is, once Humphries comes back, the Wizards will still have the same issue. While Gooden has been good alongside better players, Humphries still makes more sense in almost any situation if you have to pick between the two.
While there's not a lot to be encouraged about moving forward with Drew Gooden, there is a silver lining to his decline this season. As he's spent more time on the bench, he's developed into the role he was born to fulfill: The bench hype man.
Over the years, we've seen how guys like Ronny Turiaf and Kent Bazemore can create a better team environment through their celebrations on the bench. This season, Drew Gooden has taken the bench celebration game to an art form. We, and the Wizards, are better this.