Prior to the season, I was worried that the Wizards would rank towards the bottom of the league in three-point shooting. The Wizards let Jared Dudley, their best three-point shooter from last season, walk in free agency. Bradley Beal was the only knock down three-point shooter on the roster. The team would have to step up their three-point shooting as a whole if they were going to be in the ballpark of where they were last year; 8.6 makes per game on 35.8 percent shooting. And boy, have they.
Washington currently ranks as the 10th best three-point shooting team in the NBA, at 36.8 percent. The only team to shoot a better percentage from three-point range on fewer attempts is the San Antonio Spurs. This month, the Wizards are on pace to shoot over 3 percentage points better than they have during any month this season and are firing away more often this month, averaging 10.1 threes per game through eight January games. So where’d the spike come from?
Throw him in hypothetical trade rumors and say what you want about the guy, but he’s finally playing like a max player. Since flipping the calendar to 2017, Beal is having by far his best shooting month (both from the floor and from three) as he’s knocking down 3.6 threes per game on 48.3 percent shooting. He’s made 29 three-pointers this month, second only to Isaiah Thomas (33) and Steph Curry (30) but is shooting at a more effective rate than both of those guys.
Kudos to Beal and Drew Hanlen for all of the work they put in this offseason. It’s finally paying dividends.
This came as a bit of a surprise. The Wizards acquired Morris last season to get that elusive stretch-4. Through the end of last year and beginning of this season, Morris showed that he’s more than capable of shooting the threes, he just wasn’t knocking them down with consistency.
Morris has finally shown more consistency this month, knocking down 40 percent of his three-point attempts, by far his best month since joining the team last season. He was perfect from downtown against the Bulls (3-3) and the 76ers (2-2). Take out an outlier game against Boston where he shot just 1-6 from distance and Morris would be shooting 53 percent for the month of January on just 2.1 attempts per game.
This is the type of player the Wizards were looking for when they acquired him. Not a volume guy, but someone capable of knocking them down with consistency when he gets the opportunities.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Outside of a nice stretch to start December, Kelly Oubre’s scoring and shooting have been wildly inconsistent this season. After that brief spurt in December, Oubre only hit three three-pointers in the final nine games of December before the New Year. However, things have gotten better since a quick trip to the YMCA in his hometown of Dallas at the start of the month.
He’s knocking down 41.7 percent of his attempts this month. He’s been sticking to catch and shoot threes this month where he’s most effective. There was a time (and sometimes still is) where Oubre tries to create his own shot off the dribble, and that’s just not his strength. Oubre is at his best when all he has to do is line up and shoot the ball. The proof is in the pudding as ALL 28 of his made three-pointers this season have been assisted on, aka, of the catch-and-shoot variety.
If Oubre continues to play to his strengths and understands his game, he could eventually turn into the fourth best scoring option on this team and separate himself as the best contributor off the bench.
The John Wall Effect is in play here as this roster has the best three-point shooters surrounding him since the ‘13-’14 season, the year the Wizards took down the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. In similar fashion, Wall was the facilitator and either found Beal in transition for three or would come off of a screen and whip the ball to one of the corners for Trevor Ariza (40.7 percent) or Martell Webster (39.2 percent) to knock down the three-pointer as the team shot 38 percent from range that season.
The team’s three-point shooting dipped to 36 percent the very next season with Paul Pierce in town. Rasual Butler had that hot stretch where it was all but a given that he’d knock down his first shot off the bench but later cooled off as the season progressed leaving Wall with just Pierce and Beal as reliable three-point shooters. Then last season Wizards had one of the best three-point shooters in franchise history in Jared Dudley, but shot worse from long range as a team than they did the year before.
The Wizards don’t let the three-ball fly like other teams in the league. They only attempt 22.9 threes per game, which ranks 26th in the NBA. This keeps with Washington’s pattern under John Wall of being a great low-volume, high-efficiency team from deep. However, if either Morris or Oubre can continue to improve and establish themselves as consistent three-point shooters, watch out; as that could be the key factor which helps the Wizards make the jump into the top tier of the Eastern Conference.