This is Part 2 of a three-part series where we will take a look at different parts of the Wizards roster and identify one thing every player should focus on for the upcoming season. Today, we will be taking a look at the big three (Porzingis, Kuzma, and Beal). Without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Bradley Beal (G)- Three Point Shooting
I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but Beal really needs to work on getting his three point shot back. Last year, he shot a paltry 30% from behind the long line. This is 5.5 % worse than the league average! Beal’s three point percentage has steadily declined since the 2018-19 season. This is extremely puzzling, because Beal came into the league as a knockdown three point shooter (similar to a Ray Allen type player). As a matter of fact, in 3 out of his first 5 seasons in the league, Beal shot above 40% from the long line.
It’s true that Beal has an enormous workload on him now and it’s also true that he has drastically changed from the player he used to be 5 years ago. It’s fair to expect that as he starts taking more shots and takes on more responsibility on offense, perhaps his efficiency from the three point line goes down. However, going down by more than 10% is unprecedented. Players similar to Beal have been able to shoot at a decent if not higher than average clip from deep.
Zach Lavine shot 39% from three last year. Booker shot 38% from three last year. One could argue Booker has an even heavier burden on offense than Beal, yet he is still shooting above average. So we know that it’s possible for someone with the offensive burden that Beal has to shoot well from deep. So then what’s the problem?
Short answer: His shot profile. In the first couple of years in the league, Beal didn’t have to be the number one option, and was able to play more off ball. This was where he was able to really thrive. As a matter of fact, in his first couple of years in the league, only 27% of his three point shots were pull up shots. This year, that number was 49%! The reason for that? Well, now Beal is the number one option on the team. In the past, he was the second option, and could rely on one of the best playmakers in the league, John Wall, to find him open. He doesn’t have that luxury anymore. As the number one option, he has to create for himself, which is what has led to the increase in pull up shots. The reason why this is bad for Beal’s three point shooting percentage is that he is significantly worse at pull up threes than catch and shoot threes. So as he takes more, it’s no surprise that his overall three point percentage goes down. So what’s the solution?
Well, the solution is a bit complicated, but it certainly couldn’t hurt if he worked on picking and choosing his spots on the floor. If we look at Beal’s shot chart, it’s abundantly clear that he’s shooting much better from the left side of the floor compared to anywhere else on the three point line. I’m not saying he shouldn’t shoot at all from the right side of the floor. He should shoot when he’s open or when he has a good shot. He should look to get to the spots where he shoots better from. If he can’t get there, he can pass instead of forcing it like he has in the past. All 5 people on the starting lineup can shoot and score at a high level which is a luxury that Beal hasn’t had in the past. Hopefully, this can help alleviate some of the burden on Beal, and he will be more of a passer and trust his teammates to pick up some of the scoring on offense, and in doing so, lowers the amount of bad shots that he takes.
Their current PG Monte Morris is no John Wall, but he has a reputation for being a very solid playmaker. He played alongside one of the best playmakers in the league, Nikola Jokic, so we couldn’t see all that he could do, but in the limited time that he had to be the primary playmaker, he was a very mature decision maker, always made the right passes, and constantly found his teammates open. Hopefully, Monte can look for Beal, and find him when he’s open. On top of this, Beal obviously has to do his part by working on his craft, which I have faith he’ll do, given his history of how hard he works over the summer to improve.
Kristaps Porzingis (C)- Go to the High Post more
There is no question that KP is special. Being 7’3, and being able to do what he does is just unprecedented. Obviously, part of what makes him special is being able to shoot at his size. Since his jump shot is so far off the ground, basically no one can guard it. He needs to use that to his advantage more.
What I saw a lot last year from Porzingis was that he would do a lot of Pick and Pop. As a matter of fact, the three point line was where the plurality of his shots came from. Now he did shoot 36.7% from there while he was on the Wizards, but I think he should also go to another zone where he shoots exceedingly well from: the high post. He shoots at 46% from 16 feet and beyond, which is far above league average. Even though this was the zone where he shot the highest percentage (with the exception of the restricted area), this was the zone where he took the least shots from.
Since KP has been able to deliver at a high level from this zone, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be going to it more. Many centers have trouble guarding people this far out from the basket, and obviously forwards can’t guard KP due to the height difference. It will stress defenses enormously, and can perhaps even create opportunities for his other teammates, as the defense will literally have to cover every zone on the floor rather than just having to guard the three point line, which is what happens in a Pick and Pop with KP.
Going to the High Post more would keep defenses on their toes, and would keep them always guessing and respecting KP’s drive too, which could give him a much better shot. Another benefit of this is going to the high post when his shot isn’t falling can help him establish a rhythm and gain confidence. There are a lot of games where KP is ice cold from three. Rather than continuing to shoot from deep and missing, he could take a couple steps in and knock a couple shots down and get his rhythm back and then move back out.
Kyle Kuzma (F)- Work on being a more efficient shot maker
Kyle Kuzma was as advertised for the Wizards last year, and perhaps even better. Towards the end of the year, Beal was out, so he became the primary option. He showed what he could do and averaged close to 20-8 for the last three months of the season. While that’s great, the problem for Kuz this year is not only will he not be the primary option, he won’t be the secondary option either, so it could be tough replicating that. He’s going to be the third option behind Beal and KP. This year, Kuzma took 936 shots. This will be drastically lower this year. We know this for sure, because we actually have a place we can look to when Kuzma was a third option before: when he was on the Lakers playing third fiddle to AD and Lebron. In 2019-2020, as a third option, he took 668 shots. As the third option, he averaged 12.8 points a game, and averaged 4.5 rebounds per game. That’s a far cry from his 17.1 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game this season. Unlike the Lakers, this Wizards team isn’t as deep as they were, and don’t have the proficient scorers they had. Therefore, they’re going to need Kuz to really produce as much as he can on the offensive end. What he did in 2019-2020 just won’t be enough on this Wizards team.
It’s not impossible for Kuzma to put up the same numbers this season as the third option, he just needs to be far more efficient . Kuzma is notoriously inefficient. Last season, out of the 12 "zones", Kuzma was below average from 10 out of 12 of the zones. If he keeps up the same level of inefficiency, there is no chance that Kuzma can improve from last year, because he won’t be getting the same amount of opportunities this year. If he can become an improved three point shooter and start hitting around 37-38% of his shots from behind the long line, and stop taking long twos and attack the rim more often (which is far more efficient), he could easily reach that 17 point per game mark again. He needs to take more efficient shots, but he also needs to be far more efficient as a shot maker this year if he wants to improve. He certainly needs to show that he got better, and can operate as a third option as this is a contract year for Kuz. I have hope in Kuz though, as he proved his doubters last year after coming over from LA and being called "washed" by many LA fans. I have faith that Kuz can surprise me and do perhaps even better this year than last year.