As the Washington Wizards’ 2020-21 season inches to the inevitable conclusion of playoff-less basketball, instead of viewing games with wins and losses in mind, we must now spectate through a prospective lens. Put simply: it’s time to unleash the young guys and see what they can do and become for the team going forward.
It seems that the team has pivoted to this modus operandi: Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura, the Wizard's precocious pair of top-ten draft picks, are now in the starting lineup. Focusing on the older of the two neophytes, Rui Hachimura, there’s only one thing I want to see going forward: Feed the man.
Of the first ten selections from the 2019 NBA Draft, only three sophomores have seen their shot attempts decline: Jarrett Culver, Jaxson Hayes, and Hachimura. After hoisting 11.4 attempts as a rookie, Hachimura’s currently averaging 11.0.
In my opinion, he has the size and skillset to become a 20 ppg scorer. To do that he needs shots. Last night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets was just the eighth game this season where Hachimura hoisted 15 or more shots.
The first suspect in causing Hachimura’s decline in attempts is Russell Westbrook, right? The evidence points elsewhere, though. This year Wizards, who rank first in pace, are averaging 89.2 shots per game, just 1.7 shots fewer than the 90.9 shots per game they averaged last season.
The second suspected perp is Hachimura’s confidence, right? He passes up open three-point attempts, electing to either drive the ball into the teeth of the defense or swing it to one of the guards. This reluctance to let shots fly might explain why his average has dipped. But it isn’t that convincing.
What I suggest for an answer is that Hachimura’s stagnation is due to not getting many opportunities to isolate himself in his ideal spot: the paint. Although he possesses a wicked turnaround middy, the crux of his attempts thus far in his career has come in the teeth of the lane, as depicted in the shot maps below:
With his hotspot defined, the question begged is how to get Hachimura into the spots where he’s most confident to fire? Post-ups, perhaps? Let him bring the ball up so he plays downhill? Or some Bertans-esque sets that get Hachimura a three-point attempt from the wing, where he shoots above average? It’s above my station, so I’ll leave it for Scott Brooks and company to work out. But with Chandler Hutchison now in the fold to spell Hachimura as a primary defender, I’m hoping Hachimura gets more shots so he can showcase his full offensive bag.