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Drew Gooden's spacing helps the Wizards more than his shooting

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It's not a coincidence that the Wizards have performed better on offense as of late with Drew Gooden on the floor, but the Wizards' improvement has less to do with his performance and more to do with his presence.

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If we want to have a serious discussion about Drew Gooden's recent performance and how it correlates to the Wizards' success, we need to get a couple things clear:

  1. Most of Drew Gooden's success as of late has come against teams that aren't very good (Hornets, 76ers, Nets) or haven't been playing their best as of late (Grizzlies).
  2. A healthy Drew Gooden shouldn't start over a healthy Nene. Sure, maybe Nene isn't the prototypical power forward for the future, but right now, he's still the Wizards' best option at that spot. His contributions on defense, where he's still top ten in Defensive RPM at Power Forward and top 30 overall, easily outweigh his offensive deficiencies.

That all said, Gooden has played an important role in helping the Wizards hit their stride on offense recently. If you don't believe me, check out Ben Standig's excellent breakdown of how Gooden has helped the Wizards when he's been in the lineup:

Additional data supports the notion his spread-the-floor game boosts the team that otherwise has labored from beyond the 3-point arc during the downturn.

The Wizards are:

  • 13-4 when Gooden attempts two or more 3-pointers
  • 16-14 when Gooden plays and attempts less than two
  • 12-3 when Gooden makes a 3-pointer
  • 4-1 when Gooden starts

When Drew Gooden is hot beyond the arc, the Wizards are almost impossible to defend, especially when Gooden is playing with the rest of the starting unit. He's shooting 40.4 percent from three, the second best percentage on the team behind Bradley Beal, But unlike Beal, Gooden can't force the issue on creating three point attempts. He's not going to get open waddling off a screen, and no one's falling for his jab step. As a result, Gooden only averages 1.2 three point attempts per game, and 2.6 three point attempts per 36 minutes.

But even though Gooden isn't actually hurting teams from deep, just the simple threat of having him on the floor has made the Wizards better, particularly John Wall and Marcin Gortat. Below is a look at how Wall and Gortat's effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage improve with Drew Gooden on the floor, via NBAwowy.

NAME eFG TS
John Wall +3.0 +5.6
Marcin Gortat +4.1 +4.2

The reason for the uptick isn't rocket science: It's easier to run a pick and roll when the 4 that's not in the play is in the corner instead of drifting around the elbow.

The Wizards also benefit when Gooden is on the floor simply because they don't waste possessions trying to post Gooden up like they do with Nene. The Wizards have posted Nene up on 255 possessions this season, the 22nd most in the NBA according to Synergy, even though Nene is in the 30th percentile in post-up scoring efficiency. Yes, that doesn't account for the efficiency of the assists he generates while posting up, but still, more possessions are wasted than used beneficially form that setup. Simply turning those Nene post-ups into anything other than a Nene post-up makes the offense better.

Again, we don't want you to go away from reading this article thinking Drew Gooden should be starting or that Nene should be chained to the bench. It should go to show if the Wizards can improve this much from having someone who can make a couple of long balls per game, that a true stretch big would take the Wizards to another level. The Wizards need to think long and hard about how to space the offense better through the power forward position. Whether the Wizards force Nene to watch Larry Bird videos all summer long or bring in stretch big off the bench who is less of a negative on the defensive end than Gooden, the team needs to figure out how to maximize their spacing next season.